This week, we are focusing on the Color Swatches in the Photoshop Elements toolbox.

Tomorrow, we’ll have a list of the top 10 things you can do with the color swatches in PSE!

Let’s start by finding the color swatches – they’re at the bottom of your toolbar.

These swatches control the colors of any graphic features that you apply to your photo.

  • Foreground Color:  this is the color applied anytime you use the brush, pencil, paint can, text tool or shape tool, among others.
  • Background Color:  you’ll see this when you use the eraser tool on your background layer.  But we never use the eraser tool, right?  (We use layer masks instead.)  The background color is also a color option when creating a new blank file in PSE.

The Foreground and Background colors  work together when you use the gradient tool, or the gradient or gradient map adjustment layers.

The Default Black and White button is handy, especially if you’re working on a layer mask.  I find it easier to type the shortcut D, however.  Same with the double headed arrow that switches the foreground color with the back – I just type X instead.

How do you change the colors on these color swatches?

  1. Use the Eyedropper tool to click on any color in your photo to make it your foreground color OR
  2. To select a new background color, alt/option click with the Eyedropper tool OR
  3. Double click on either the foreground or background color swatch to open the Color Picker window.

What do all those numbers in the color picker box mean?

You can change the color in this window in several ways.  The rainbow-looking bar in the middle lets you choose your color family.  If you want to choose a shade of blue, click in the blue area of the rainbow and then click on the exact shade in the large box on the left half of the window.

That’s the easy part, but those letters and numbers on the side – eeek.  HSB, RGB, and the hexadecimal # are all ways to identify a color for Photoshop Elements.  If you happen to know the RGB number or the hexadecimal code for the color you want, you can enter it in the appropriate place.

RGB stands for Red, Green, Blue, by the way.  Each color is presented on a scale of 0 to 255.  So, in the orange shade in my color box above, the Red channel is high and the Blue is low.

White, by the way, is RGB 255/255/255 and black is 0/0/0.

HSB stands for Hue, Saturation and Brightness.  Changing the Hue changes the color family on the rainbow bar.

Increasing the Saturation number moves the selected color to the right in the large color box and increases the saturation.  Increasing the Brightness moves the selected color up, away from the darks.  You could use these fields if you like a given color but want it to be more or less saturated, or brighter or darker.

And that last box, with the # sign in front of it?  That’s the hexadecimal code.  It’s another way of identifying the colors for Elements.  Internet colors are often given in hex code, so you bloggers might find this one useful.

So that’s it for our introductory tour of the Color Swatches in Photoshop Elements.  Check back in tomorrow for my top 10 ways to use these swatches!