Make Swatches From Photos In Photoshop

Jennifer Farley

SwatchPalette Picking the perfect hues for your design projects, on or offline, can be a tricky business. Using the swatches palette in Photoshop you can grab a full color palette from any photograph or image and save the swatches. Here’s how it works.

1. Open your image in Photoshop. It’s always a good idea to work on duplicates of your original files, just in case of accidents. To make a copy choose Image > Duplicate.


Image Credit: Jennifer Farley

2. To reduce the number of colors in the image down to 256, choose Image > Mode > Indexed. If your image is in CMYK mode, you’ll need to convert it to RGB and then Indexed. A dialog box opens up with options for converting your image to Indexed Color. Choose Local (Perceptual) in the Palette drop down box.


3. Still in the Indexed Color dialog box, set the number of colors to 256, set Forced to None and Dither to None. Click OK. (Note: If you want only a few key colors from the image, set the number of colors to 20)


4. Now you will be able to see a color table created when you converted to Indexed Color. Choose Image > Mode > Color Table to view it and the colors selected from your image.


5. Now you can save the table, otherwise you’ll lose the new palette you’ve created. Hit the Save button on the Color Table dialog box and then save it into Photoshop > Presets > Color Swatches folder.

6. You may find that your photograph is not looking so hot since you converted it to Index Color. You’ve stripped out potentially millions of colors and reduced it down to 256. Just close the image without saving.

7. To load up your palette with your new swatches, open the Swatches palette and from the drop down menu in the top right corner choose Load Swatches. Browse to the folder where you saved your color table and open up the new palette. Palettes can be saved as .ASE, .ACT or .ACO so make sure you are searching for the file format that you saved you swatches in.


And there you have it! You now have a set of colors that will NOT clash if you use them in a design with your original image.