by Weston Maggio

Using the HUD Color Picker in Photoshop with a Wacom Tablet

The “HUD” or Heads Up Display version of the color picker can be accessed by holding a combination of keys on your keyboard and tap/holding your pen to the tablet. The HUD will appear wherever your cursor happens to be on screen at the time you perform this function.

The benefit to using this color picker vs. the standard picker is speed and an increased attention to detail. First, accessing the HUD Color Picker is faster because it is temporary: Hold the keys, press your pen to the tablet, select your color and release. Poof! The HUD is gone and you are back to work. Second, the HUD enables you stay better focused on your image as it is much smaller than the standard color picker. The HUD does not cover up your work while you make your color selection. These seemingly minute details can actually make a huge difference on your creative process.

To access the HUD Color Picker on a Mac, hold Control + Option + Cmd and tap your pen to the tablet. Start by selecting your base color from the Hue Strip, and then refine your selection by dragging your cursor to the Shade Box. When you are satisfied with your selection, pull your pen away from the tablet. For added precision in selecting colors between the Hue Strip and Shade Box, add the space bar to the keystroke combo. The space bar freezes the color selector while you drag the cursor between the two areas.

It's a little trickier to access the HUD in Windows: Hold Alt + Shift and Right Click. (By default, the front most button of Wacom pens is set to Right Click. If you changed this function, simply set it back to right click in the tablet properties:

If there is a negative to the HUD, it is a lack of fields to enter color values manually. That said, if manual entry is what you need, speed is probably not top of mind. The HUD is ideal for selecting colors “by eye”. 

Don’t like the strip and box view of the HUD? You can change up the interface of the HUD to a “ring view” in the Photoshop Preferences under General. (Cmd/Ctrl + K)


Make accessing the HUD Color Picker even more convenient by adding the entire keystroke combination to a button on your pen. In the Wacom Tablet Properties, select the Pen within the Tool row. Then select Photoshop in the application row (if you’ve added it for application specific settings.)

From the drop down menu next to one of the pen buttons, select Modifier. Within modifier, select the appropriate keystroke combinations. Note. Be sure to check right click if you are using Windows.

MAC = Control + Option + Cmd + Click

WIN = Alt + Shift + Right Click

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