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How to Mix Color with the Color Panel in Photoshop CS6

To open the Color panel in Adobe Photoshop Creative Suite 6, choose Window→Color. A couple of swatches may look familiar. That’s because they represent the foreground and background colors — just like the swatches in the Tools panel. And the infamous Color Picker appears if you click the swatches in the Color panel. But forget the Color Picker; you don’t need it. Everything you need is in this tiny panel.

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Before you use the Color panel to define your colors, you should know which color model you want to use.

When you want to define a color according to a color model, the Color panel is the way to go. Here’s how:

  1. Open the Color panel by choosing Window→Color.

  2. Make sure the color swatch you want to define, Foreground or Background, is selected on the left side of the Color panel.

    An outline appears around the selected swatch.

  3. Select your desired color model from the Color panel pop-up menu by clicking the down-pointing arrow in the upper-right corner.

    You’ll probably be using RGB or CMYK the majority of the time.

    If you want to use the RGB color model but also want to ensure that any color you choose is printable, select CMYK Spectrum from the Color panel options menu. By default, all the colors in the ramp are printable. Just be sure to choose your colors by clicking in the ramp.

  4. In the Color panel, move the sliders for each component of the color model or enter numeric values.

    You can also select a color by clicking inside the color ramp at the bottom of the Color panel. Click the small swatches at the far-right end of the color ramp to change your color to black or white.

  5. To make sure your desired color works with the color mode you’ve selected, keep an eye open for an alert icon.

    Here are a few more tips to keep in mind when working with the Color panel:

    • If you’re working in RGB or CMYK, this alert icon is known as the gamut alarm and looks like the triangular warning. Its appearance is Photoshop’s way of saying, “Hey, you! That color you mixed won’t print the way you think it will because it’s out of gamut.” Remember, gamut is the range of colors a device can either display or print.

    • Because the RGB color model has a much wider gamut than the CMYK color model, some of the colors can be viewed only onscreen and not reproduced on paper.

    • If a color is out of gamut, Photoshop offers you a substitution. Inside a little square to the right of the gamut alarm icon, the closest printable color to the one you chose appears.

    • If you’re working in web Colors, look out for a small cube icon. Click either the icon or the square to use the closest web-safe color. The cube indicates that the color you mixed isn’t a web-safe color. Clicking the cube tells Photoshop that you’d rather use its web-safe alternative. A web-safe color ensures that the color won’t dither when displayed in the browser on an older monitor.

  6. Click either the icon or the square if you want to use the closest printable color, rather than your original choice.

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