ColorSnapper: A Slick, Simple Color Picker for the Mac

If you’re a web or graphic designer, you know how useful a desktop color picking application can be. There’s nothing more ridiculous than loading up Photoshop just to identify a particular color value. Although OS X does have a native app for this in the form of DigitalColor Meter (in Applications/Utilities), it’s a fairly simple app.

ColorSnapper bills itself as the missing color picker for Mac OS X. Although this is a little bit of an overstatement (OS X does have one, after all), this doesn’t change the fact that it’s a pretty neat app.

I know a color picker is something that I use on a regular basis, so let’s see whether ColorSnapper really can offer an advantage over DigitalColor Meter…


DigitalColor Meter is OS X's built-in color picker

DigitalColor Meter is OS X's built-in color picker

Let’s clarify a couple things first. For many people, it probably isn’t completely clear exactly what a color picker is – or why anyone would ever have the need for such an application.

A color picker’s main goal is to be able to look at a color on your computer and tell you what the color is. I’m not talking about “blue” or “red” necessarily, I’m talking about the color in either hexidecimal (#FFFFFF) or RGB (255,255,255) format.

Now this information may seem pointless to a lot of people, but it can be extremely helpful for graphic designers, web designers, developers, and other visual design professionals such as photographers. The software used by folks in those professions (and I’m sure I’m missing many others) almost always uses HEX or RGB to denote colors. And it goes one step further – the Web (HTML/CSS) speaks that color language as well.

Design professionals often look to the Web for inspiration for their projects. Color is often an important aspect of a design so being able to quickly grab colors while browsing is a very welcome feature.

ColorSnapper – as a locally installed application – can be used to grab colors from anything on your machine. I only say this because there are some Web browser add-ons that have similar functionality with the exception being that they only work within the Web.

In that situation you wouldn’t be able to pick a color from a photo in your iPhoto library for example. A utility like ColorSnapper is really the best way to go as you can pick colors from anything your Mac is displaying.

Pick a Color

ColorSnapper will default to running as an icon on the menu bar. Clicking on the icon will bring up the option to pick a color. If you’d prefer, the menu bar icon can be turned off, and the picker can be activated by way of a keyboard shortcut.

ColorSnapper menubar icon

ColorSnapper menubar icon

Once the color picker has been activated, your cursor will turn into a magnifying glass allowing you to see that portion of your display at the pixel level. You’ll also see the RGB or HEX value (depending what you have set to display) of the color you’re currently hovering over.

This is a genius feature. By being able to see the colors at the pixel level you’re able to pick the exact color you’re looking for.

ColorSnapper - picking a color

ColorSnapper - picking a color

A frustration I’ve had with other color pickers is that it can be difficult to click in the exact spot for the color you’re trying to grab. The magnification (which is adjustable within the application preferences) takes that completely out of the picture and makes it much easier to be more specific with your color selection.

ColorSnapper - magnifying glass preferences

ColorSnapper - magnifying glass preferences

Once you see the color you’d like to record, select it, and the value of that color will be stored within ColorSnapper. The application remembers the last five colors you have selected and stores them for use.

ColorSnapper menu

ColorSnapper menu

It would be nice to be able to store more than five colors at a time, but I wouldn’t call it a big issue. In my experience, more often than not you’ll grab a color you need and either use it immediately in a project or document it somewhere for future use.

With that in mind, storing the last five color picks should be completely sufficient. After all, this is a color picker application – not a color management application.

Using a Color

Selecting the color is only half the purpose of ColorSnapper. It will also enable you to copy a particular format of the selected color for use elsewhere. If you’re a Web developer working on some CSS code you be able to grab the HEX value or the RGB value (could be helpful for some HTML5 work). If you’re a photographer or graphic designer you could grab the color and copy it into the Photoshop color tool.

By simply selecting the color you’re looking to use from the ColorSnapper menu the set format will be copied to the clipboard and ready for use. If you’re looking to grab a HEX value for your CSS code, click on the color you need, hope back to your text editor and paste in the value. It’s that simple.

The format of the colors can be changed very easily within the preferences of the application. Here you’re also able to select an alternative color along with the global shortcut key combination for launching the picker.

ColorSnapper - available formats

ColorSnapper - available formats


Although OS X’s built-in color picker works fine, there’s no doubt that ColorSnapper offers a few more useful features (and a slicker implementation). It feels more like a tool that can be left open all the time in your menu bar, rather than the very modal operation of DigitalColor Meter.

The one thing I felt would have been a nice addition would have been a bit more on the color storage and management side. I know I said the application isn’t built for that, but a little expansion in that area would be welcomed. Besides that I couldn’t find anything I wanted ColorSnapper to do that it couldn’t.

At $4.99 ColorSnapper is priced at the higher end of the color picker utilities that I’ve seen. Whether it offers enough style and functionality to draw you away from OS X’s built-in app will be very much your decision!


ColorSnapper is a full-featured color picker with an interface that feels natural to you. It can sit in the menu bar, activated only when you need it.