Eyedropper Changes Secondary Color Swatch – Photoshop Solution

Sometimes in Photoshop (CS5 in my case), inexplicably, every time you use the eyedropper to get a color, it will change the secondary or background color swatch and not the primary color swatch. It can be truly maddening trying to figure this out, since the solution is far from easy to find. Googling it won’t do you much good unless you happen to read the right thread full of people not understanding the problem until the very end. Here is the solution.

How to make the eyedropper change primary color swatch:

1. Β In Photoshop, we need to make sure the color palette is visible. Go to “Window” at the top and make sure “Color” is checked. In Cs5 (and possibly others), f6 will toggle the color palette as well.

The color palette in Photoshop CS5 showing the proper configuration for the eyedropper to pick the color of the primary swatch.

The color palette in Photoshop CS5 showing the proper configuration for the eyedropper to pick the color of the primary swatch. The wrong way, and the correct way.

2. Β In the color palette which we just enabled, you will see your two active color swatches. One is the primary, and one is the secondary. Their will be a faint black box around the one that is selected. For your eyedropper to choose the color for the PRIMARY color, the top-left box must have the black square around it. All you need to do is click the box and it will switch. If this brings up a color window, it is probably already selected, and either your problem is gone or something else is causing it. See the attached image to see which way you should have it set up.

To be honest, I’m not really sure why you would ever want the eyedropper to select only your secondary color, but I guess in some weird situation where you would need that, it’s probably nice to have the feature available to you. Hopefully this helps some people, I know it drove me completely crazy for the longest time, and I have no idea how it ever got changed.

27 Comments on “Eyedropper Changes Secondary Color Swatch – Photoshop Solution”

  1. Wow, it’s 2023 and with Photoshop 2024 ver. 25.1.0 and I encounter this problem for the first time after 15 years of using Photoshop. And your fix still works like a charm. I agree with you that I’ve never needed this “feature”, but now I know about it, I guess I can finally call it a feature and not a bug. Thank you

  2. Maddening is an understatement – and for such a SIMPLE REASON! I was about to give up on my old Photoshop program thinking it was a bug. Thanks you so very much!

  3. I’ve been living with this for 2 weeks now till I finally decided to search for an answer. It took a while, but I finally got one here – you gave a very clear description. Thank you very very much, my sanity is restored.

  4. THANK YOU SO MUCH! Seriously, this was incredibly hard to find, but I’m glad that you posted this.

    1. Glad I could help! And yes, I agree it’s hard to find! It took me a lot of Googling before I finally got the answer, so I decided to share it so that hopefully I can help others!

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