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Understanding the Color Swatch Palette in Photoshop

The Color Swatch palette in Photoshop is something many digital illustrators use on a daily basis. Many times people use only the default color swatches, without realizing that they have choices – from the range of colors themselves, to the way they are displayed.

Photoshop Color Palette

The typical color swatch setup is displayed as small thumbnail squares. By default there are only a few rows of colors that are visible. If you click on the small black triangle on the upper righthand side of the color swatch panel, you’ll see that you have several types of swatch combinations to choose from.

Screen shot 2009-11-01 at 5.55.20 PM

Below is the FOCOLTONE Color swatch. I like using it because it gives me a solid range of colors to choose from, for the type of illustration work I do. I select the color from the swatches palette to give me a rough idea of the color I am shooting for.

Screen shot 2009-11-01 at 5.57.35 PM

After I have selected my “rough” color, I use the Hue / Saturation dialog box (Control-U / Command-U) to dial in the specific color I am looking for.

Screen shot 2009-11-01 at 6.10.16 PM

You can interactively add additional color swatches to your list by appending one of the many color swatch collections shown on the 2nd figure above, or by hovering over the color swatch palette. Moving the mouse over the color swatch palette turns the cursor to an eye dropper tool, and clicking will place the foreground color (from the Toolbox) into your color swatch palette.

You can display your colors as small thumbnails, large thumbnails, small lists, or large lists. Here is an example of the Small List view:

Photoshop Color Palette

I prefer the thumbnail view because there’s less scrolling involved. The list view can be immensely helpful in precise color matching, because the name of the color is provided next to its swatch.

You can save, load, rename and even delete custom swatches as well.

I hope that this quick guide has expanded your idea on the hidden power of the Color Swatch palette. Now go forth and color!

-Krishna