Finding the RGB or Hexadecimal value of any pixel on your Mac screen

By , May 23, 2016

Find RGB Values on Mac With Digital Color Meter

RGB, otherwise known as red/green/blue, is a color identification method used by digital computer monitors. Every color gets its own RGB value, and this is because a mixture of those three colors makes up the color you’re looking at.

RGB values may be used for a variety of reasons, but mostly for those that do a lot of photo editing, or who may be tinkering with graphics or web design.

A little known feature of your Mac is that its operating system comes with a meter that can identify the RGB color of any single pixel on your screen, and in this tutorial, we’ll show you just how that’s done.

Identifying the RGB value of any pixel on your screen

Whether you’re trying to make a photo look just right with some after effects in Adobe Photoshop or Pixelmator, or you are trying to make a nifty little graphic, knowing the RGB values of a pixel in an existing environment can be very helpful in getting the color effects you’re looking for.

Your Mac comes equipped with a utility called Digital Color Meter, and it can be found under Applications > Utilities from your Dock.

Digital Color Meter utilities folder on Mac

After you launch it, you can drag your pointer anywhere you want on your screen, and it’ll show a magnified view of the area you’re pointing at, and emphasize exactly what it is that you’re metering.

Find RGB Values on Mac With Digital Color Meter

In this example, I’m metering the RGB color of part of the mountain from the OS X El Capitan wallpaper on the Desktop.

As you can see, the values come out to be a red of 132, a green of 55, and a blue of 42. You could use these same values in an app like Adobe Photoshop or Pixelmator to generate the same colors to use for photo editing.

For example, here we are seen using those values with the RGB input interface in Pixelmator’s useful Replace Color function:

Using RGB sliders in Pixelmator on Mac

Going hexadecimal instead

The RGB display is the tip of the iceberg with the Digital Color Meter on your Mac. It can also be used to access hexadecimal color values, which are useful for web designers who use CSS and HTML regularly.

To change from the standard decimal RGB values to hexadecimal RGB values, you just go to the Menu Bar and navigate to View > Display Values > as Hexadecimal to change the output figures.

Digital Color Meter Hexadecimal

Now, the RGB values are displayed as hexadecimal ones instead:

Digital Color Meter Hexadecimal Values RGB

Wrapping up

Despite not being a feature that you will use every day, except for specific circumstances, Digital Color Meter is a very neat feature of the Mac that I had originally not known about until I started exploring my Utilities folder more in depth. When I found it, I started to use it all the time in image editing primarily for color-matching one thing to another.

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Do you have a use for finding RGB values on your Mac’s screen? Share how you’ll use this data in the comments below!

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  • Useful as always. Be careful however, you are using the f.lux profile, it might fake the color if you’re using Digital Color Meter at night.

    (I use ColorSnapper2 personally, but a free alternative can be interesting for me!)

  • Anonymous

    I personally have never need this… But its always nice to know if i do, the tool is there.

  • Mark S

    I just wish there was a way to click on the color you want the value for so you can write the number down on a document on your mac instead of getting out pen and paper to do it while you are still hovering the color.

    • cdlenfert

      Shift + Command + C copies the color values to your clipboard as text, so no need to write them down.

      • Javier Lopez

        This is a gem of knowledge! As a web dev I find myself quickly memorizing the codes 6 digit codes then writing them in manually. Thanks!