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Adobe Digital Imaging How-Tos: Using the HUD Color Pickers

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Dan Moughamian describes Photoshop CS5's two new HUD (or Heads Up Display) color pickers that enable you to choose colors on the fly, rather than having to visually target and click on the small color wells in the Tools panel.
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Hue Strip

The Hue Strip looks and works much like the standard Color Picker dialog box, but without the various text fields. There is a strip along the right side for choosing the hue, and a square color ramp at left that allows you to choose a specific shade or tint for that hue.

  1. To invoke the new color picker (Photoshop uses the Hue Strip setting by default), select one of the brush-based tools like the Clone Stamp, Dodge tool, or Mixer Brush and move the cursor over your document.
  2. For Mac OS, press and hold Command-Alt-Control and click the document canvas; for Windows, press Shift-Alt-right-click on the canvas, and the new color picker appears over your cursor (Figure 57a).
    Figure 57a

    Figure 57a The new Hue Strip color picker in Photoshop CS5 provides the ability to accurately select specific shades or tints of a given hue, directly over the cursor.

  3. Release the keyboard shortcuts but keep the mouse down; the HUD will stay in place so that you can move your cursor around the color ramp to choose a specific shade or tint of the active hue (Figure 57b).
    Figure 57b

    Figure 57b The Hue Strip allows you to change the hue range before picking a particular tint or shade of color based on that hue.

  4. To change the hue value, mouse over to the hue strip, move the slider (for example, to change from red hues to orange hues), then move back to the ramp to choose the related color tint or shade (Figure 57c).
    Figure 57c

    Figure 57c After setting your hue range, move the picker back to the ramp side of the HUD and choose the variation before releasing the mouse and continuing with your edits.

  5. Release the mouse button (or pick up the stylus) to begin working.

Hue Wheel

The new HUD feature also provides access to a Hue Wheel color-picking method. Although it uses the same shortcuts and process as the Hue Strip, the Hue Wheel can make it easier to choose a precise hue because it expands the color spectrum over a larger area. Essentially, it provides a more subtle gradient as it moves from one hue to the next.

To use the Hue Wheel instead of a strip, open Photoshop's preferences by pressing Command-K (Mac OS) or Control-K (Windows). Under the HUD Color Picker, choose from the three sizes of Hue Wheel. Medium usually works well for most purposes unless you have a very small screen. The Hue Wheel (Medium) is shown in Figure 57d. It works the same way the strip does; the only difference is that the hues are distributed differently.

Figure 57d

Figure 57d The Hue Wheel can be a more accurate way of selecting hues, though it also will cover more of your document.

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