Digital Color Meter – a Built-in Color Picker for the Mac

If you are a designer and your Mac is the tool you use for your design work the Digital Color Meter is something that could be of great assistance to you. Digital Color Meter is a tiny little tool that allows you to get the exact RGB values for any pixel on your screen. This is particularly useful for web designer for times when they find a photo or another web page that has just the right shade of a color they have been trying to hone in on.

Digital Color Meter ships with MacOS so you don’t need to worry about installing anything. To launch it go to your Mac’s Applications folder, then navigate to the Utilities folder inside, and double click on the Digital Color Meter icon. You should see a window like in the image above pop up. Now run your mouse cursor around your screen and watch Digital Color Meter give you a live reading of what color you are hovering over and the zoomed in screenshot of it.

There’s a drop down menu on the main window where you can switch between RGB percentages, absolute values or Hex readouts. Here you can pick the format that you are comfortable working with.

Once you are done customizing the settings of Digital Color Meter, move the mouse cursor over to the section of your screen where you find a color you want to copy. Use the Aperture Size slider to change the size of the area sampled if you need. Here are some shortcuts you should consider learning if you want to use this tool efficiently.

Cmd+X : Lock Horizontal Position
Cmd+Y : Lock Vertical Position
Cmd+L : Lock Position
Cmd+Shift+H : Hold Color

The shortcuts shown above will help you home lock down the color you want to pick up form your screen. Once you have successfully locked the color you want to pick up you have a few options as to how you want to copy the color. You can either copy an image of the color or you can copy the RGB value of the color as text so you can paste it into your code. Here are the shortcuts you will need to do this.

Cmd-C : Copy the Image in large box on the left
Cmd+Shift+C : Copy the RGB values as text
Cmd+Option+C : Copy the solid color as an image

All in all Digital Color Meter is a simple tool targeted at a select audience – designers. And if you are a designer this tool can prove to be quite helpful and a huge time saver. Considering that it comes at no cost and does not even require a download or an installation I’ll say it’s a pretty sweet deal.

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Comments [4]

  1. Dave M. says:

    This is a great tool for web designers and such, but for developers, it's not all that useful. In Cocoa, colors are set with floating point numbers. 0.5 being 50%, 0.333 being 33%, etc…

    It's kind of odd really since it's a tool from Apple. I'm really surprised that there isn't an option to get the color values in floating point.

    Still, makes me want to write a little utility myself to do the trick.

    • Darla says:

      help!!! I have a new MAC and I have an Epson Stylus Photo 1400 printer. I can’t get the colors on my photos to come out correctly and I am getting vertical lines also in the processing I am not a computer guru! I have printed out pictures on my Epson in the past that were too saturated. Can you tell me what I need to set in the MAC to get the most correct photo printing accomplished. I am so frustrated!

  2. Leon Gunther says:

    Is there a way to read directly into CYMK values?

    If not, is there a digital color meter to read CMYK values on a MAC monitor?

  3. Neil R says:

    I think it's an ideal tool – especially from Apple, as the fundamental core of their users are web designers or graphic designers.

    You should really be using Pantone colour guides or another colour tint book for reference for CMYK colours though. There's no way you can tell what colour is going to come back from a printer if you have created a CMYK value from an RGB reading. And all monitors are calibrated differently.

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