Eyedropper Photoshop

How to pick a colour outside of Photoshop using the Eyedropper tool

The Eyedropper tool in Photoshop samples color to designate a new foreground or background color. You can sample from the active image which you have open in Photoshop or from any other part of the interface. But did you know that you can sample a colour outside the Photoshop application interface? Well my friends, you can!

If you want to grab a colour you’ve seen on a website or a book you’re reading on your computer, or in fact anything that’s displaying on your computer screen, you can do that with the eyedropper. This tip will save you time taking screengrabs and bringing them into Photoshop to find out colour values.

So here’s how to do it:

1. You’ll need to have a document open in Photoshop.
2. Arrange your windows so that Photoshop is not filling your whole screen. Have Photoshop on one side and the browser window or acrobat or whatever you want to sample from, open on the other side of your screen. Something like this:

Eyedropper Photoshop

2. Select the eyedropper tool (shortcut I).
Eyedropper Tool Photoshop

3. Click and hold down eyedropper on the Photoshop document then drag it outside of Photoshop to where you want to sample the colour. The eyedropper icon will appear the entire time you have the mouse button or pen held down.

4. As you drag the eyedropper around, the foreground colour in the Photoshop toolbar will change.

*NOTE: In Photoshop CC on the mac, I have noticed that it is the background colour which is changing! But it is still sampling the colour from outside of the application.

And that’s it! Easy and a big timesaver.

If you found this tip useful, I would be super grateful if you would share it. Thank you! 🙂


  1. Jon says:

    Sweet little trick right here. Been using PS for many many years, and thought, “hmm, how do I…?” and there was the answer. Thank you!

  2. sweety says:


    iam new to photoshop.i need some help.i need to get the color from photoshop,that color will apply on my css file..

    please help me anyone know….

  3. Susanne says:


    This seems like an awesome tip! However, I can’t figure out how to get from Photoshop/Illustrator (after I have activated the Eyedropper Tool and try to drag out) – how do I enter into the programme (in this case Pinterest) from where I want to select the color with the Eyedropper Tool with?

  4. Hi Suzanne
    You need to have Photoshop and Pinterest open side by side, so that you can see both of them at the same time. You can do this by resizing your browser and resizing Photoshop.

    If you’re on a mac, you can do that by pressing the green circle up the top left of each application, or if you’re on windows click on the icon with the two boxes inbetween the – symbol and the X symbol.

    Once you can see them side by side you can drag out your eyedropper tool.

    Hope that helps 🙂

  5. M says:

    It used to work that way. However, with the latest CC version and Windows 10, as of 06/06/16, it does not. Nothing seems to have an impact. The only sampling that can be done is within the Photoshop window. There must be some secret procedure that Adobe doesn’t want you to know about. Can’t find any help on this failure anywhere. Adobe help is worse than useless.

  6. Hi M
    I just tested it and it is still working in Adobe CC on the mac. The weird thing is though, that the eyedropper is picking up the colour successfully outside of Photoshop, but it is putting it into the background swatch, rather than the foreground colour on the toolbar. I’ll try it out on windows later and see if I can figure it out.

  7. MK says:

    I am not on CC but on CS5 (old I know) and this used to work for both PS and AI. But now it only works on PS (color on foreground) and not AI with Windows 10. Too bad when they break a good thing.

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