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Pick a New Picker

November 07, 2005 by
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Put some spice into your Photoshop life and pick an alternate color picker!

Did you know you could do that? What a nice way to further customize the way you work in Photoshop. Installing a new color picker is surprisingly easy and there are some great options available, both freeware and shareware, that make choosing beautiful, complementary color palettes a breeze. First I'm going to show you where to find these little critters, and then I'll show you how to install my favorite one.

Hunting color pickers

If you're of the enlightened folk and using a Mac, the end-all-be-all software resource has long been VersionTracker.com. Though, now it sports a "platform" option at the top right where you may choose Windows. Type a keyword or software name into the search box at the top left and you'll be presented with a neat list of options. A search for "color picker" yields all a nice-sized list which includes Painter's Picker. In my humble opinion it is superior, therefore that's the one we'll install today.

In the Windows world, you might also want to visit Shareware.com. Results are split into categories of sponsored links and download sites. You can also search for Mac software, though personally I'd be inclined to stick with VersionTracker.com for that.

Why Painter's Picker rocks

I love this color picker because it uses a color wheel instead of swatches or a big, square blob of color. How hard is it to find colors that truly work together that way? For me, next to impossible (and apparently for lots of folks creating web sites, it's impossible for them too!). I tend to grab my battered color wheel left over from art school when choosing color schemes, though with Painter's Picker, it's like having a virtual color theory teacher by my side. This proves rather handy.

Painter's Picker allows you to quickly find and select any color's complementary color, and notes which colors you should stay away from, like those that clash. Choose from five kinds of analogous schemes, five kinds of tetradic schemes, two kinds of triads, four complex complementary schemes, schemes to show colors that are warmer, cooler, lighter, or darker than any given color. You can also save color schemes for use later.

Wow! This may very well surpass your color theory teacher's skill level.

Making it work in Photoshop CS2

Since I'm a Mac chick, I'm going to show you how to install it into Photoshop CS2 under OS X Tiger.

Step 1: Download Painter's Picker.

Step 2: You will see a hard drive icon appear on your Desktop (or wherever you have chosen to send downloads), and a window will pop open containing a Read Me file and the color picker itself, which I've highlighted below.

Step 3: Pop open a Finder window and navigate to your Home folder > Library > ColorPickers. Drag the paintersPicker.colorPicker file into this folder, as shown below. If you don't have a ColorPickers folder in your Home Library, never fear: simply create one by pressing Command + Shift + N.

Step 4: Launch Photoshop, and choose Photoshop > Preferences > General. From the Color picker pop-up menu, choose Apple, and click OK.

Step 5: Open a document or create a new one (unless you already have something open), and click on a color chip in the Toolbox. When Apple's color picker opens, click on the Painter's Picker wheel at the top right, circled in red below.

That's all there is to it! From now on, or until you change it again, you'll have a truly powerful color picking tool at your fingertips. Just grab the little handle circled below to spin the wheel and choose colors. Click the scheme pop-up menu to choose complementary, split complementary, or triadic, etc. Hover over any of those options for a quick explanation of what they mean (this is a very nice touch). Play with the brightness and saturation sliders to get just the right shade.

Below I've chosen a blue tetradic scheme (four evenly spaced colors):

I hope this opens your eyes to the other color picker possibilities out there, and allows you to customize your Photoshop to your hearts content.

Until next week, happy color picking!