Identify Any Color on the Screen of Your Mac [u]

Posted on by Larry

[ Updated Feb. 10, 2020, with answers to two questions from readers.]

Hidden deep inside the Utilities folder is a very cool Mac program that allows you identify any color on your screen, copy its values or color, and copy them into another app — EXCEPT the Mac Color Picker, which makes no sense for a tool this useful.

It’s called the Digital Color Meter. You’ll find it in your Utilities folder

…and it looks like this. It’s tricky to screen shot because as soon as you move the mouse, the colors it displays change. (There’s a workaround, which I’ll explain in a minute.)

(Image courtesy of Apple.)

What this allows you to do is find the value of any color displayed anywhere on any computer monitor connected to your system.

You can display the color your mouse is hovering over in a variety of different color spaces.

You can copy these color values as text or an image, but, in a missed opportunity, you can’t paste these into the Mac Color Picker.

NOTE TO APPLE: It would be GREAT to have the Digital Color Meter talk to the Mac Color Picker, allowing us to sample a color, then paste those values into the Color Picker.

It would also be good to allow the Color Picker to be opened from within the Digital Color Meter.


If you want to lock the position of the mouse into the Digital Color Meter so that the colors don’t change when you move the mouse, type Cmd + L. (You can lock horizontal or vertical position as well, by typing Cmd + X or Cmd + Y.)

You can also adjust the size of the color sample under the mouse by dragging the Aperture Size slider to the right. By default, this samples a single pixel.

UPDATE [ Feb. 10, 2020 ]

Bryce sent me a note: “Just thought I let you know about a better version, which has a number of features from older versions and more. It’s called “Classic Color Meter”, and is available from the Mac App Store for $2.99. I’ve been using it for years.”

Richard asked: “Does the color meter information it displays depend on the monitor celebration or does it reflect the numbers that describe the color shown?”

Larry replies: I just checked and the Digital Color Meter shows the values of the pixel in the digital file. Monitor settings do not affect its readings.

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