Photoshop: Pick up the color with the eyedropper outside the Photoshop window

Photoshop tips and tricks

Today seems to be my Photoshop Tip Day. I discovered another very practical thing that makes life in Photoshop easier: You can also use the pipette to pick up colors from websites and media from other programs.

Previously, when I wanted to determine an RGB color code for a color on a web page, I used “cmd + SHIFT + 4” to take a screenshot of the area, then opened it in Photoshop and used the eyedropper (“i” key) to select the color added. This is of course quite cumbersome, but until now I didn't know that there was a much easier way. And now I would like to introduce this to you...

Photoshop can also be used to directly determine color codes from websites and other windows of open programs.
With the Photoshop pipette, color codes can be determined directly from websites and other windows of open programs.

Photoshop pipette reloaded

But now for the instructions: If you also want to use the pipette outside of the Photoshop window, you only have to click on any point in the open file with the pipette and then move the mouse with the mouse pointer pressed out of the window to the desired position on the website or in Finder pull.

Instructions in short form

  • Open Photoshop window
  • Select the eyedropper tool
  • Click on any area of ​​the image and hold down the mouse button and drag the eyedropper out of the Photoshop window.

Of course, this only works if you make the Photoshop window so small that it does not cover the area with the desired color in the background.

The trick also works if you have Youtube, Netflix or similar open and want to poke a color code from a film.

The Apple solution for determining colors is called "Digital Color Meter" and can be found in the Utilities folder.
Apple's solution for determining colors is called "Digital Color Meter" and can be found in the Utilities folder.

The alternative for non-Photoshop users

If you don't have Photoshop, but would like to get a color out, you can use Apple's own utility for this purpose. It can be found under Programs> Utilities> Digital Color Meter. If you open the small Mac app, you get a pipette with which you can determine the colors from all areas of the desktop. Different color spaces can be set as options and the size of the area used to determine the color can be defined.


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5 Responses to "Photoshop: Pick up color with the eyedropper outside the Photoshop window"

  1. The Photoshop trick described is not really new and - I'm sure - it worked reliably for me in the past. However, under my current configuration (MacOS El Capitan & Photoshop CS5) I just can't do it anymore ... As soon as I drag the eyedropper measuring point (or the tool tip) over the edge of the current image window - as usual while holding down the mouse button - it changes the displayed recorded color at the bottom of the toolbar becomes black. Any additional keys such as command, shift, alt or control make no difference. Unfortunately, I can't remember exactly when it stopped working ...

    The tip with the Apple Digital Color Meter, however, was great - I had actually never noticed that despite decades of Mac use ...

    1. Do you see! I was familiar with Apple's Digital Color Meter, but not the Photoshop trick. :) With with the pipette works with Photoshop without complaint: Adobe Photoshop CC 2018 on the Mac. Adobe wants to cook you with such little quirks so that you can finally take out the subscription. : D

      1. Exactly - I guess that's the plan ... But with these little (and ultimately easy to work around) quirks, they won't make it!

        Adobe's apparent steadfast refusal to offer not only photographers, but graphic designers as well, a smaller and more affordable bundle (perhaps with Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign and Acrobat Pro) instead of forcing them through their subscription payments from "power users" and especially larger agencies , who may use the entire CC offer, still disappoints me as a long-time CS user so much that I use my old versions as long as possible and at the same time serious competitors like Affinity/Serif by buying and using them their software support...

  2. Hallo,
    capturing a color outside of the Photoshop window should actually work for me (I have a subscription to Ps, so it's always up to date).
    There was a hint in a version maybe 6 months ago that this is now easy to do.
    Unfortunately...I closed a pop-up window too quickly...this window asked whether I wanted to use this feature (i.e. capture color from any area outside of Photoshop) or not. My hasty look away has meant that this function is no longer there for me.
    And I'm looking in vain for the place where I can activate this again.

    I would appreciate your support!


    1. Hello Werner! Yes, I can help. You need to go to System Preferences → Privacy & Security → Privacy (top bar) → Screen Capture (left bar) → check Adobe Photoshop.
      Then you have to close Photoshop completely and restart it. Then it should work!

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