1. Design & Illustration
  2. Halloween

Quick Tip: Using the Eyedropper Tool in Adobe InDesign

Final product image
What You'll Be Creating

The Eyedropper Tool is a multi-functional tool which you can use to speed up your workflow in Adobe InDesign. 

The main functions we’ll cover here are the tool’s ability to lift colors from a placed image for applying to text and other elements in your document, and also its use as a tool for applying the formatting attributes of one element to another element in no time at all.

Let’s explore how to use the tool and what you can do with it.

1. Activate the Eyedropper Tool

Step 1

Open InDesign.

Navigate to the Tools panel. If it's not open by default, go to Window > Tools, or select Reset Essentials from the Workspace drop-down menu at the top-right of the screen.

Step 2

Towards the bottom of the Tools panel, in the fourth section down, you’ll spot the Eyedropper Tool, which is symbolised by a pipette icon. Click on the icon to activate the tool. You can also activate the tool by hitting I on the keyboard.

eyedropper tool

2. Use the Tool to Create a Color Palette 

The Eyedropper Tool allows you to lift colors from a placed image. This is a really useful technique for creating a color palette of complementary shades to use in your InDesign document.

Step 1

After creating your New Document (set the Intent to Print in the New Document window), create a frame using the Rectangle (F), Ellipse or Polygon Frame Tool. Go to File > Place and select an image. A photo with strong colors, or an illustration with a detailed, varied color palette will work best, and will allow you to extract more colors.

Here, I placed Alvaro Guzman’s pumpkin illustration in a Polygon Frame, and set it within a set of six Polygon Shapes made using the Polygon Tool.

pumpkin image

Step 2

Select the Eyedropper Tool (I) from the Tools panel. Hover over a part of the image with a strong color.

eyedropper orange

Click once and the eyedropper cursor appears filled. 

eyedropper full

You will notice at the bottom of the Tools panel that the color picked up by the Eyedropper Tool has now appeared in one of the square icons.

tools panel

You can edit the color from here, but an easier way to do it is to open the Swatches panel (Window > Color > Swatches [F3]) and select New Color Swatch... from the drop-down menu (accessible from the top-right corner of the panel). 

new color swatch

If your image is a CMYK image, the Eyedropper will pick up a CMYK Swatch. If it's an RGB image it will pick up an RGB Swatch. The image I've used here is RGB, but I want to change it to a print-friendly CMYK color.

RGB swatch

To do this, simply select CMYK from the Color Mode drop-down menu. The swatch will convert to the closest CMYK match for that color. Click Add and then Done.

CMYK swatch

Step 3

Repeat the process from Step 2, hovering the Eyedropper Tool (I) over different areas of your image to pick up a range of colors. Convert to CMYK if needed, and add to the Swatches panel.

red color swatch
swatches panel

You can apply your new swatches to elements in your document, such as text, shapes, and frames. From a single image you can extract a huge range of different colors, all of which will complement the image and your InDesign layout as a whole.

color palette

3. Use the Tool to Copy Formatting

The Eyedropper Tool doesn't just pick up colors; it can also be used to pick up and apply formatting characteristics. This is a quick and simple alternative to setting up and applying Styles. 

Step 1

In your InDesign document you may have applied some formatting (Font, Weight, Size, Leading, Color, etc.) to a section of text. Here, I set the subtitle to an article in Zombie Holocaust, Regular, Size to 19 pt, and Font Color to C=74 M=37 Y=100 K=27.

text layout

Step 2

I want to apply the same formatting to a quote pulled out from the main body of the text. In order to do this, highlight the text you want to apply the formatting to, using the Type Tool (T). 

 quote in text

Select the Eyedropper Tool (I) from the Tools panel and hover over the text you want to pick up the formatting characteristics from. Click once.

eyedropper picking up text attributes

The formatting will be applied to your highlighted text. Easy!

applying text attributes
the finished layout

Step 3

You can also copy formatting from shapes and frames, as well as text. In this example, I created a shape using the Rectangle Tool (M), and applied a Fill and Stroke Color, and a Stroke Type, Dashed (3 and 2). 

shapes with formatting

I created a second shape using the Ellipse Tool (L) and selected it with the Selection Tool (V, Escape).

Then I selected the Eyedropper Tool (I) from the Tools panel and hovered over the rectangle shape. I clicked once and the formatting was applied to the circle shape. The shape doesn't change to a rectangle, but all the formatting characteristics, such as Color and Stroke Weight, are transferred to the second shape.

applying formatting to a shape using eyedropper tool


The Eyedropper Tool is an often neglected tool which can really help you to speed up your workflow when creating a document in InDesign. Next time you want to create a unique color palette or apply a text style quickly to another section of text, give the Eyedropper Tool an outing!

Looking for something to help kick start your next project?
Envato Market has a range of items for sale to help get you started.