Whether you are using your iPhone to add graphics to a document, edit a photo, or sketch an idea, color is an important part of making your work look great. Apple’s iOS 14 update introduces a system-wide color picker that lets you pick the exact color you want, save it in your favorite colors, and use it in a variety of apps to add that extra touch to your work.
System-wide color pickers have long been part of desktop operating systems, and iOS 14 gives the iPhone a real one. Before iOS 12, you could only choose from a few limited colors in markup system-wide, but then we have a decent color picker that has 120 hues, shades, and hues to choose from in a grid. We still have those 1
With the iOS 14 color picker, you can use various tools to select exactly the color you want, whether it’s a color from a palette, one from an existing image, or using RGB / Hex color values. You can even choose colors from a spectral plot instead of a grid and change the opacity of any color. After you’ve chosen your color, you can save it in a list of favorites that you can use for your apps.
Third-party developers can incorporate the ColorPicker structure into their own apps if they don’t want to create their own user interface. So if you paint in a non-Apple app, you might see the same color picker that you see in markup.
Get to know the new color picker
The color editor in iOS 14 has four main sections that we will cover:
Feature 1: color deepening and swatches
The large square in the lower left is the swatch that shows your currently selected color. Next to the color shaft are your color fields with which you can switch between black, the four main tones (blue, green, red, yellow) and your saved colors. You can save as many colors as you want and swipe horizontally to switch between pages.
In the swatches list, tap the plus sign (+) to add the color from the swatch to your swatches. If you have ten or more swatches in portrait orientation or eight or more swatches in landscape orientation, the “+” button is on the last page.
To delete a swatch, press and hold it. After a moment, the “Delete” button will appear. Tap it to remove the swatch from the list. While iOS automatically lists black and the four main tones as color fields, they can still be deleted if desired.
Feature 2: opacity slider
The opacity slider changes the opacity of the currently selected color. You can move the slider from 0% to 100%, with zero being completely transparent and 100 being completely opaque. If you’re having trouble getting an accurate opacity, you can tap the percentage and enter it using your keyboard.
As you move the slider, the color updates nicely, showing how your selected color will look on both black and white backgrounds. It’s a nice touch so that you always know how the transparency is going to end.
Note that third-party developers can remove the Opacity slider from their apps when using the ColorPicker structure. So if you don’t see the slider, that’s probably why.
Feature 3: pipette
Use the eyedropper to pick an exact color from an image on the screen. This can be useful when you want to match a color in the current document or a color from another file. It’s also handy when you see a color you like and want to save it for later.
First, tap (or press and hold) the pipette icon in the upper left corner of the color picker. The color editor is minimized and the pipette is displayed. It looks like a circle with a square grid. The image below is enlarged so that you can choose a color precisely, even if it is barely visible in the file.
Drag the circle onto the color on the screen that you want to select. When you drag the eyedropper, the outer ring updates with the color in the center of the grid that’s currently the focus. As soon as you lift your finger, the color editor will move back up and the color well will update with your color.
If you want to pick a color from an app that doesn’t have a color picker, take a screenshot and tap it to bring up markup. The color picker is in the markup tools so you can pick colors from anywhere on your iPhone.
Feature 4: color picker
The color editor has three different layouts for choosing colors. Using the controls above the color pickers, you can switch between grid, spectrum and sliders. Each selector has advantages and disadvantages and a different trade-off between ease of use and precision.
- Grid: This picker is the easiest to use because different colors are arranged in a grid. It’s the one that’s been around since iOS 12. The downside is that you can’t choose a color that isn’t in the 120-color grid, which limits accuracy.
- Spectrum: This picker is similar to Grid but is more precise so you are not limited to just 120 hues, shades, and hues. Colors blend together and you can drag your finger over them to refine the color you want. The downside of Spectrum is that, while precise, it cannot pick an exact color or grayscale at all.
- Slider: This picker is the opposite of Grid in terms of ease of use. The downside, however, is that you can choose the exact color you are looking for. You can select specific RGB color values either by using the sliders or by entering the values. Or you can enter hex values both in the display P3 and in the sRGB color space. To switch between color spaces, tap the blue text “Hex Color #” next to the Hex value to open a menu where you can choose one or the other.
While each color picker is useful in its own way, using it together opens up even more possibilities. Each picker is always updated to reflect the hue. For example, you can select a color in the grid and then switch to Spectrum to tweak it. When you select a color with the eyedropper, the sliders are updated with their RGB and Hex values so that you can use that color on other devices.
Color pickers can be a powerful but intimidating tool. However, if you take the time to familiarize yourself with the updated tool, you can use colors like a pro on iOS 14.
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