#CreativeFriday – Photoshop and working with the Heads Up Colour Picker

Photoshop has a colour panel (available under Window/Colour), but when working quickly and in context a faster and more immediate way is useful. This colour picker is available by holding the CMD+ALT+CTRL (Mac) or SHIFT+ALT+Right Mouse Click on Windows. This keyboard combination will show the following colour palette.

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This colour picker can also be changed, by selecting Preferences / General.

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The option for the HUD Colour Picker (marked Red) can be changed from Hue Strip to Hue Wheel (as well as the desired size for your working conditions).

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The Hue Wheel Medium is represented as the following (the size will depend on what has been chosen).

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Using the Hue strip or Colour wheel is preferential to a lot of people, as it’s more in context of the artwork, but also faster and available when working quickly.

But what do the different dials mean.

Firstly you can select and choose the foreground and background colour by selecting the eye dropper tool (marked Blue),then by clicking on the image (without any modifier keys selected), will set the foreground colour, if the ALT key is held during the click, the background colour will be set.  If the “show sample ring” is turned on (marked in Yellow), then the sample ring will be shown (marked Red). The sample ring is showing two colours, the top half represents the colour at the eye dropper position and the lower half is the last colour used. This is a great way to compare the new colour with the previous colour, it’s particularly useful in many disciplines including digital painting techniques, for colour blending.

You may need to set up the eye dropper tool by modifying the how the colours are selected using :-

  • the sample size (marked in Pink), will choose the size of the sample area.
  • the sample selector (marked in Green), which will determine which layers the colours are sampled from


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Once the foreground is set the Heads up colour picker when invoked will use this as a starting point, which will make selection of similar and matching colours much faster.

Once the Hue Strip is shown (screen shot below), the :-

  • area marked in green is the same as the sample ring, although the top half of the ring does not change when moving around the pallet.
  • middle area marked in pink defines the whole range of hue’s available
  • left and right of the middle area marked in pink is the selected tone (shade and tint), relative for each hue in this strip based on the location of the sample ring on the pallet.
  • small area marked in yellow is the current selected hue
  • moving the eye dropper over the area marked in Yellow will change the colour range of the large square (also marked in Yellow). When moving back and forth between the hue selector and the large square (to select the tone or shade), the small hue selector (small Yellow box) might move, holding the space bar will lock it in position as you move to the larger colour picker.
  • When moving the sample ring in the larger Yellow square, the foreground colour of Photoshop will change dynamically, but the sample ring won’t show the current colour tone that it is positioned over, this will make it easy to compare the colour from the original eye dropper tool and the colour that is under the sample ring. Letting go of the keyboard / pen will commit the colour of the foreground.

Within the bigger yellow box, the :-

  • area at the bottom is the amount of black in the colour (controls the shade)
  • area at the top left is the amount of white in the colour (controls the tint)
  • range of white to black from top to bottom on the left is the grey scale value
  • range of white to full saturation from left to right on the top of the square is the amount of white in the colour which controls the tint.
  • moving down the left hand side of the square will increase the amount of grey that will be introduced into the colour,until black is reached, this will affect the tones (shade and tint) of the final colour.


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Some creatives prefer to use the colour wheel, as it spreads out the hue’s.

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One Response to #CreativeFriday – Photoshop and working with the Heads Up Colour Picker

  1. Manohar says:

    Thanks for this useful post…