Lightroom Tip: The Color Sampler Tool

You’ll notice a few tools in Lightroom that have a Color Picker built right inside of them. One place is in the Split Toning panel in the Develop module. Also, the Graduated Filter, Adjustment Brush and Radial filter all have them so you can paint or target a specific part of the photo to have a color tint added to it. Here’s an example of the color picker (circled below).

colorpicker2

As you’d expect, when you click to see the color picker you can just click to sample any color from it that you want. But there’s actually a secret little tip that let’s you sample from a color in the photo if you wanted to match the same tones as your photo has. See, if you simply just click on your photo to try to sample the color, Lightroom will close the color picker box (rather than setting the color you want). So here’s the trick. Click inside the color picker first. Don’t let go of your mouse button yet though. Then just drag (while still clicked) outside of the picker and over your photo to force Lightroom to sample the color that your cursor is over.

Pretty cool huh? It’s definitely not one of those little things you’d ever stumble on, but if you ever need to match the color in your photo (without just guessing), now you’ve got a tool to do it. See ya!

Author: Matt Kloskowski

Matt is the Vice President of Photography for onOne Software and a Tampa-based photographer. He's a best selling author of over 20 books and teaches Lightroom and Photoshop at seminars and conferences around the world.

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25 Comments

  1. This doesn’t seem to work anymore in Lightroom CC 2015. Any ideas?

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    • Paul .. I’m having the same issue .. Lightoom CC 2015 .. and I can’t get the color picker tool to do as he describes ..

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  2. I can’t tell you how long I’ve been playing around in Lightroom, trying to figure out how to pull a color from my image. Wish I found you sooner! Thanks so much…awesome tip! :)

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  3. Thanks Matt, I’ve been looking for this for a several days now. Not intuitive, but easy to do now that I know.

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  4. I think, however, the use of the color dropper in the Spit Tone section works differently. If you hover the dropper over the color pallette and then drag onto the Preview area (as Matt said to do), the entire photo changes to the color over which the mouse hovers in the photo. As well, the color palette refelcts the color currently coloring the entire photo. (or…did I miss something?)

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  5. Thanks! I tried this with printing borders and it works as well! I wondered how to do this!

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  6. Matt thanks for sharing this color picker technic! Big help for me I must say. I bookmarked your website. Lots of great LR presets! Greetings from Poland :)

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  7. I must have missed something as I cannot sample Black in my picture. The color chart does not have black. When the eye dropper points to the picture at black, it does not do anything.

    Is it the way it is? LR 5

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    • Yep. No black available. Just out of curiosity, when/why would you use black?
      Thanks.

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      • On portrait with black black ground . Because lighting was not even , the black was uneven. I even out the black in ps. I thought I could do this in LR without going into ps. Thanks for the tips anyway.

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  8. Hi Matt,

    Update on ACR Color Picker. John Wheeler from NAPP help desk had an idea to use the color picker in PS-CC and record the H S B numbers. Then using the Camera Raw filter go into ACR and use the H and S number in the Color picker window to get the color match. Also, make sure you use 11×11 pixel setting for PS color picker. I try this and it works! It’s not as perfect or as functional as LR, but if you have to use ACR for some reason, it will get you by. You do have to use the sliders in the adj brush to get the correct results, but that’s not a big deal.

    Take care,

    Dennis

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    • Thanks Dennis. You question is the reason I wrote this post :)
      As for the ACR thing… Just another reason to use LR ;-)

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      • Cool! Thanks Matt. Yep! LR is the best and easiest way to go! Have a Great weekend!

        Dennis

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  9. Hey Matt,

    Thanks for covering this little secret trick! :-) I asked you about it on you blog, but didn’t get an answer. However, I stumbled upon it myself just messing around. I use this trick all the time now … especially with some of my autumn photos. Some info for you and our blog friends … this trick does not work with ACR! Rob Sylvan and I had a discussion on this today. He doesn’t know how to get ACR to do it either. Funny that both ACR and LR have the same engine, but slightly different functionality in this area. Thanks again! Great tip!

    Dennis

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  10. This is the same thing you can do in Photoshop with its eye dropper.

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  11. Typo – I recall hearing . . .

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  12. I recall here about this trick and couldn’t find it anywhere. Thanks for sharing. Now, my issue is that why doesn’t black or shades of gray appear in the color picker options?

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  13. Thank you Matt for that one, I didn’t know it but was wondering for quite a while that this colorpicker was developed so poorly. So, I should have experimented a bit more.
    Rgds
    Rolf

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  14. Thanks Matt. That was a trick that was still “secret” to me.

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  15. I’ve known about this technique for a while but it baffles me why it’s still ‘secret’ and not part of standard Lightroom instructions?

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  16. Once you’ve dragged the eyedropper outside of the colour sampler box, you need not stop at the borders of your image. If you’re using LR in a window, you can move the eyedropper tool over any point on your screen – even onto another program window and take a sample from there.

    Mike.

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    • Yeah, I just found that out, Mike: somehow, I ended up taking a sample of my kitchen floor. I mean, there’s such a thing as going outside the borders, but that’s just plain overkill!!

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    • Awesome tip can’t wait to get to Lightroom and try it

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    • Does the eye dropper tool in Lightroom have options to set it to 3×3? If it doesn’t, and I haven’t found it myself yet, what is it set to? Point Sample? 3X3? 6C6? What?

      Post a Reply

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