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How to Grab Color from the Swatches Panel in Photoshop CS6

To define a foreground or background color in Adobe Photoshop Creative Suite 6, click a color in the Swatches panel. Choose Window→Swatches to bring up the panel.

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You can have any tool active when you use the Swatches panel to define a color because as soon as you move the tool over the Swatches panel, it temporarily changes to an Eyedropper icon that samples the color.

Besides being a way to select your foreground and background colors, the Swatches panel acts like a traditional artist’s paint palette in digital form by letting you store as many colors as you want in the panel for later use.

To change the background color, either select the background swatch icon in the Color panel or simply Ctrl-click (Command-click on the Mac) a swatch in the Swatches panel.

Here are some of the things you can do with the Swatches panel:

  • Customize the Swatches panel’s display. You can choose how to display the Swatches panel by selecting Small or Large Thumbnail (swatch thumbnails) or Small or Large List (swatch thumbnails along with a name) from the Swatches panel pop-up menu. (Click the down-pointing triangle in the upper-right portion of the panel to open the menu.)

  • Use preset colors. To load a particular preset swatch library, select it from the list on the Swatches panel pop-up menu. Click Append to add the library to the existing swatches or OK to replace the existing swatches. You can find libraries specific for web graphics and for implementing spot colors, such as those created by Pantone, Toyo, and Focoltone.

    You can also select Load Swatches from the Swatches panel pop-up menu. In the Load dialog box, navigate to the Color Swatches folder by following this path: Adobe\Adobe Photoshop CS6\Presets\Color Swatches (Applications,\Adobe Photoshop CS6\Presets\Color Swatches on the Mac); then, select your desired library.

    You can also work with swatches by using the Preset Manager.

  • Customize your own Swatches panel. To add a color to the Swatches panel, do one of the following:

    • Click the New Swatch icon at the bottom of the Swatches panel.

    • Select New Swatch from the Swatches panel pop-up menu. Name your swatch and click OK.

    • Click an empty spot in the Swatches panel. (Your cursor changes to a paint bucket icon.) Name your swatch and click OK. Or Alt-click (Option-click on the Mac) on an empty spot to add the color and bypass the Name dialog box. Note that the color that’s added depends on whether your foreground or background swatch is selected.

  • Delete swatches that you don’t want anymore. To delete a swatch, drag it to the trash can icon at the bottom of the Swatches panel.

  • Create your own library of swatches. To save a set of swatches as a library, select Save Swatches from the Swatches panel pop-up menu. Name your swatch library (leave the file extension as .aco) in the Save dialog box. Click Save.

  • Save swatches to share with other Adobe Creative Suite applications. Select Save Swatches for Exchange from the Swatches panel pop-up menu, and your color panel is saved in a format (with an .ase extension) that you can then load into sister applications, such as Illustrator and InDesign.

    You should use the libraries in a subfolder of the Presets folder. Follow this path: Adobe\Adobe Photoshop CS6\Presets\Color Swatches (Applications,\Adobe Photoshop CS6\Presets\Color Swatches on the Mac); then, create your own folder, name the file, and click Save.

  • Restore your default swatch libraries. To return to the default library of swatches, select Reset Swatches from the Swatches panel pop-up menu. You can choose to either replace or append to the current library.

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