Swatch: A Sleek, Stylish Mac Colour Picker

Are you a designer, developer, photographer, or just a colour lover in general? Have you ever wished there was an easy way to save any colour of your screen, and then copy that colours hex or rgb colour code? If you answered yes to any of those questions, then you’re in luck, because that’s exactly what Swatch does.

Swatch is a lightweight colour picker that sits as a paint-brush icon in your Mac’s menu-bar. So what makes Swatch better than all the other colour pickers? Read on to discover how Swatch can work for you, and also find out about a few similar utilities available for OS X!

Getting Started

To get started with Fuel Collective’s Swatch, head on over the the app’s Swatch website. You can either download the 14 day free trial, or purchase the app for just $9.95 (about £6).

Once downloaded, open the DMG file, and drag the application into your application’s folder (Swatch isn’t available in the Mac App Store just yet). Now you can open the application, and you will see it in your menu bar. So now, let’s begin using this app!

Design & Interface

As you can see from looking at the screenshot, Swatch’s interface is very sleek and sexy. On the top left, we see a colour’s hex code, and on the top right, we see a colour’s RGB code. Underneath that, we have our colour picker, our choice of a colour wheel, CMYK slider, Grayscale, HSB slider and RGB slider, and then Swatch’s preferences button.

The Swatch Interface

The Swatch Interface

In the middle of the interface, we have the colour wheel and the slider to make the colour darker or lighter, and toward the bottom we have the current colour selected.

Using Swatch

Using Swatch is really easy. When you come across a colour on your screen that you would like to save, just click on the paint brush icon, or press a hot key, and it will open up Swatch’s main interface. To choose a colour, click on the icon on the top left, and it will now show a magnifying glass.

Using the magnifying glass, just click on any colour on your screen, and it’ll open in Swatch and show you the colour’s hex and rgb code, as well as allowing you to save this colour.

The Colour Picker

The Colour Picker

If you see a colour that you’d like to use in Photoshop, or any other application or document, you can click on the colour’s hex code or rgb code to copy the colour’s code to your clipboard.

Since Swatch is a lightweight menu-bar application, it doesn’t use too much RAM or CPU, and it almost goes unnoticed until you need to use it. Picking colours is snappy, and the process works smoothly.


If you click on the little gear icon, it will open up the preferences menu. This allows you to tweak various settings, and customise the application to your own needs. You can record a keyboard shortcut to launch Swatch, choose the type of colour picker you’d like to use, select how colours are copied, and decide whether or not to use lowercase letters:



This is the perfect level of customisation. Enough that you can change those few settings that need to be adjusted, but not so many options that you become overwhelmed.

Colour Picking Alternatives

Although Swatch is certainly one of my favourite colour-picking applications for the Mac, a handful of alternatives are available. You may also like to take a look at:

  • Hex Colour Picker – Hex Colour Picker puts an extra tab in the system-wide colour panel. Instantly see the hex colour code for any colour, and edit it just the same with a number of shorthands.
  • ColoaColour – CocoaColour is a colour finder for Mac and CSS web development. It integrates with the colour picker on Macs, but provides a much more robust interface for colour picking.
  • ColourSchemer Studio 2 – ColourSchemer Studio 2 is a professional colour-matching application for your Mac that will help you build beautiful colour schemes quickly and easily. It’s a pricy option at $49.99, but definitely the most powerful app available in this genre.

Also worth noting is that OS X has a completely free colour picker built-in. There are various ways to access this piece of software, but this handy tip is particularly useful if you’d like to turn the colour picker into a standalone application.


Fuel Collective has done an amazing job with Swatch. It’s sleek, fast, easy to use and very affordable. I love being able to save colours for later use, and the ability to copy CSS3 rgba colour codes is awesome. The app is perfect in my opinion, and there’s not much to improve; everything is already great. So if you’re someone who works with colours on a daily basis, I’d really recommend checking out Swatch.

A Swatch license will set you back $9.95, but like I stated earlier, there is a 14 day free trial available so you can see if you like Swatch before purchasing it. I definitely think you will love Swatch, and it’s definitely worth the $9.95 price tag.


A menu-bar colour picking application for Mac, with plenty of power for those looking for it. A really great, well-priced solution for selecting colours on your Mac.



Add Yours
  • What app/setting are you using to display the time as Mon, twenty past… ?

  • I think it’s odd that you recommend a $10 third party app without even mentioning the DigitalColor Meter app that’s included with OS X.

    • Hi Tony,

      the main point of Swatch is to create collections of colors for further use – naming the colors, organizing them into collections, copying them in various formats (in hex format, CSS3 format, ObjC /Mac or iOS/ formats, etc.), and so on.

      Sure, DigitalColor Meter is a fine app for just getting a color value, but if you need to save the color, then it’s becoming an issue that Swatch is trying to solve.


    • thanks for the tip. I didn’t even know there was a free version that came with the mac.

  • “Spot Color” is a free app in the Mac App Store right now. Add the free Hex Color Picker you linked to and you have almost all of the same functionality, missing only the CSS alpha part (and you have to launch it).

  • No way would I ever pay $10 for color picker..

    I wonder how many sales those goons actually get :)

    • Hi David,

      as mentioned above in another post, this isn’t just a color picker, but more of a color-storing app, where you can organize your colors, name them, etc.

      You might actually try it out, before calling someone a goon.


    • I bought it and it’s a life saver for me. Just set a keyboard short cuts, get rgb or hex values instantly, I have groups of swatches set up for various project also.

  • I’m using this FREE color picker that is reaaally good: Colors

    Also, there’s an addon for the OS X color picker called: Developer Color Picker by the people of Panic.

    • Yes, “Colors” is definitely the best one I’ve found, when used together with some additional color picker add-ons.

  • Just FYI, your link to their website is missing the .com section of the domain name (and isn’t working as a result). Awesome app though! :)

  • The link to MacTricksandTips should be the one you have linked to gives a 404 error.

    • Thanks – Sorted!

      • The second link, “swatch website”, is missing the “.com” part. Thought I’d let you know.

        Thanks for the article!!!

  • I like Apple’s built in OSX color picker, however it has two limitations:

    1) It is not a standalone app.
    2) It does not have hexadecimal values (useful for web developers)

    Hexpicker ( adds hexadecimal values to Apple’s built in OSX color picker.

    And Spot ( allows you to use the standard Mac OS X color picker as a stand-alone app.

    I can now launch spot to get hexadecimal values in any app!

  • To grab a color from screen I prefer making a screenshot and paste it into photoshop. It’s open most of the times anyway. For color picking I go online to:

    • @John, do you find that photoshop sometimes changes the color values, making the colors from a screen shot slightly *off*?

      I find this happens a lot, when I compare hex values to what I have taken a screen shot of and the value that Photoshop gives it, I get very frustrated! Just wondering if anyone else has had this occur, and if an app like this would alleviate that problem…

  • I don’t see any screen shots of how you organize the colors you have saved. That’s the only think I need this for. With the built in MAC color picker you have a small grid with a bunch of colors all lumped together. I’m looking for the organizational, labeling section of this product.


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