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Quick Tip: Using the Eyedropper Tool in Adobe InDesign

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Read Time: 6 mins
Final product imageFinal product imageFinal 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 this tutorial, you'll learn how to use the Eyedropper Tool in InDesign.

This tool, also known as the InDesign pipette, has a few useful functions. We’ll cover 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 Eyedropper Tool in InDesign and what you can do with it.

What You'll Learn in This Eyedropper Tool InDesign Tutorial

  • Where is the Eyedropper in InDesign?
  • How to make a color palette in InDesign
  • How to use the InDesign pipette to copy formatting

1. Where Is the Eyedropper in InDesign?

Step 1

First things first, we'll see where the eyedropper is in InDesign. 

Once you launch the software, 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 tooleyedropper tooleyedropper tool

2. How to Make a Color Palette in InDesign

The Adobe InDesign 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. You can easily learn how to make a color palette in InDesign this way.

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 imagepumpkin imagepumpkin image

Step 2

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

eyedropper orangeeyedropper orangeeyedropper orange

Click once, and the eyedropper cursor appears filled. 

eyedropper fulleyedropper fulleyedropper 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 paneltools paneltools 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 swatchnew color swatchnew 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 swatchRGB swatchRGB 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 swatchCMYK swatchCMYK 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 it to CMYK if needed, and add it to the Swatches panel.

red color swatchred color swatchred color swatch
swatches panelswatches panelswatches 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 palettecolor palettecolor palette

3. How to Use the InDesign Pipette 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 an InDesign Eyedropper Tool text style function. It's 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 of an article in Zombie Holocaust, Regular, Size to 19 pt, and Font Color to C=74 M=37 Y=100 K=27.

text layouttext layouttext 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 textquote in textquote 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 attributeseyedropper picking up text attributeseyedropper picking up text attributes

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

applying text attributesapplying text attributesapplying text attributes
the finished layoutthe finished layoutthe 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 formattingshapes with formattingshapes 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 toolapplying formatting to a shape using eyedropper toolapplying formatting to a shape using eyedropper tool

Experiment With the Adobe InDesign Eyedropper Tool Today!

The Adobe InDesign Eyedropper Tool is an often neglected tool which can really help you to speed up your workflow when creating a document in InDesign. Now you know how to use the Eyedropper Tool in InDesign and some tips, like how to make a color palette in InDesign with it.

Next time you want to create a unique color palette or use the InDesign Eyedropper Tool for text styles, give the Eyedropper Tool an outing!

Looking for more InDesign tutorials and resources? We've got a nice selection for you. And don't forget you can visit the Envato Tuts+ YouTube channel, where you can find top video tutorials like this one: 

Editorial Note: This post has been updated with contributions from Maria Villanueva. Maria is a staff writer with Envato Tuts+.

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