Lightroom Tips

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).


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!



  1. Marco 25 August, 2019 at 12:28 Reply

    Thank you! I’ve been wanting to do this for a while and didn’t know how. This will help me not g into photoshop when I need to split tone complimentary colors. Thanks!!!!

  2. Rodney Robbins 21 February, 2019 at 14:48 Reply

    I seem to have lost my color palette and picker after a recent update on my disk version of lightroom 6. Any ideas ? Should I reinstall lightroom ?

    • Rob Sylvan 21 February, 2019 at 15:21 Reply

      Hard to know what you may have done, or be doing to give you that idea. Can you say more? Have you updated to Lightroom 6.14? Reinstalling Lightroom doesn’t tend to solve anything, but you can do it without causing any problems. Just uninstall, then download/install 6.14.

  3. Wick Smith 3 February, 2018 at 13:38 Reply

    Has anyone at Adobe addressed the shortcomings of the ACR color picker? Would love to sample from the image or the screen,but the workaround is just too painful.

    • Jae 27 June, 2015 at 20:24 Reply

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

      • Daniel 29 August, 2015 at 11:26 Reply

        This is working for me. I’m using CC (2015) Version [1032027] on a Mac. I select the gradient or brush tool, then I click in the color picker and with the mouse still depressed drag it to the color I want in the background before trying to use the gradient or brush tool. Then once the color has been selected I use the tool.

        Thanks Matt for the “Killer Tip!”

        • Sherry 29 December, 2015 at 17:27 Reply

          This is totally awesome…thank you so much. So, there is a second distracting compositional item that I would lie to correct within the same image. I cannot seem to get the adjustment brush to release its ‘hold’ on the second attempt to use another background sample. I tried many things even making a virtual copy, but I cannot seem to establish ‘new’ for the second sample…any advice?

      • Barry 10 December, 2015 at 14:37 Reply

        Better late than never? I got this to work after disabling GPU acceleration in preferences. In fact I did that first and still couldn’t work out how to sample outside the palette, until I saw this tip which I appreciate!

  4. Caroline 8 December, 2014 at 14:31 Reply

    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! 🙂

  5. Doug Hadley 5 December, 2014 at 12:47 Reply

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

  6. Keith R. Starkey 30 January, 2014 at 16:25 Reply

    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?)

  7. Peter Yeung 12 November, 2013 at 21:43 Reply

    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

      • Peter yeung 13 November, 2013 at 09:45 Reply

        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.

  8. Dennis Zito 7 November, 2013 at 12:36 Reply

    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,


  9. Dennis Zito 6 November, 2013 at 22:56 Reply

    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!


  10. Gary Iverson 5 November, 2013 at 18:42 Reply

    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?

  11. Rolf Berg 5 November, 2013 at 18:02 Reply

    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.

  12. John Tannock 5 November, 2013 at 06:37 Reply

    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?

      • Joel 22 December, 2015 at 11:37 Reply

        When I use the color picker to sample a color in my image to use as a border in lightroom the printed border color does not match the photos selected color. Same if I manually enter color numbers. How do I get the border to be the very same color?

  13. Mike Nelson Pedde 5 November, 2013 at 01:23 Reply

    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.


    • Keith R. Starkey 29 January, 2014 at 22:38 Reply

      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!!

    • Mark Gilvey 23 November, 2014 at 18:40 Reply

      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?

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