February 29, 2008
Make Photoshop sample colors outside the app
Thanks for all the feedback and suggestions about improving Photoshop’s color-picking tools. I’ll reply to many of the comments once I get a few free cycles.
In the meantime, I notice that many people are asking for Photoshop to gain the ability to sample colors from outside the application. That capability is there already: grab the Eyedropper Tool, then simply click and hold on a document, then drag elsewhere on the screen. Notice that the foreground color on the toolbar keeps updating as you move your mouse. When you let go, the sampled color will be your foreground color (or background color, if you were holding Opt/Alt when you clicked). I’ve confirmed that this behavior works on the Mac, and I believe it’s the same on Windows, but I don’t have a machine handy on which to check.
Clearly this behavior isn’t very discoverable, but I’m not sure what would make it easier to find. Some commenters noted that the color picker in Flash and other former Macromedia apps makes it easier to sample colors from outside the app: when you mouse away from the preset color swatches, it keeps sampling colors under the mouse. That’s true, though I’ve often found that behavior annoying (i.e. I end up sampling things I didn’t intend to sample).
I’m glad the topic has come up, and I’ll bounce some ideas around with the UI and engineering folks. Hopefully there’s a way to get the best of both worlds.
What color-picking tools do you like?
The Color palette in Photoshop (see screenshot) is, to be charitable, a bit long in the tooth. In particular, the little color ramp at the bottom is awfully small (occupying just 0.00072% of the screen real estate on at 30" monitor; yes, I did the math).
We certainly won’t break what’s working or force you to use a larger color picker than what’s there today. Having said that, there’s clearly room for some innovation.
What kind of color-picking tools would you like to see in Photoshop? Are there good examples you can share? We’ve already batted around the idea of revealing kuler-like functionality in Photoshop (see very rough mockup). What else would be cool/useful/powerful?