PowerToys Color Picker Window on Blue Background

Need to figure out a color quickly? Using Microsoft’s free PowerToys utility for Windows 10, you can instantly bring up a color picker with a keyboard shortcut and use your mouse cursor to identify any color on screen in hex, RGB, or HSL format. Here’s how to do it.

Install PowerToys and Enable Color Picker

To use Microsoft’s handy system-wide color picker, you’ll need to download PowerToys from Microsoft’s website first. You’ll find the latest release listed toward the top of the download page linked above. Download an EXE file such as “PowerToysSetup-0.27.1-x64.exe” (The name will vary based on the latest release.) and run it.

After the installation process is complete, launch PowerToys Settings from your desktop or Start menu and click “Color Picker” in the sidebar. Then make sure that the “Enable Color Picker” switch is in the “On” position.

By default, you’ll use Windows+Shift+C to activate the color picker. You can change this keyboard shortcut to your preferred one from this screen, if you like.

Select "Color Picker" then make sure "Enable Color Picker" is turned on.

Next, close PowerToys and get ready to grab some colors. The PowerToys Settings app does not need to be running for Color Picker to work.

RELATED: All Microsoft's PowerToys for Windows 10 and 11, Explained

Activate Color Picker With a Keyboard Shortcut

Once Color Picker is enabled, you can use it at any time by pressing Windows+Shift+C (or whatever keyboard shortcut you chose) on your keyboard. After pressing the shortcut, you’ll see a small pop-up box beside your mouse cursor that shows a square preview of the color you’re pointing to and the hexadecimal code (often called “hex” for short) for that color.

Using Color Picker to identify a color in Windows 10.

You can point your cursor at any color on screen that you want, including icons, applications, images, desktop backgrounds, the taskbar, and more. If you want more info on the color, click the left mouse button while hovering over it, and a window will pop up.

The PowerToys Color Picker detail window.

This window displays the hex color code, the RGB (red, green, blue) value, and the HSL (hue, saturation, lightness) value of the color you just selected. If you’d like to copy one of those values (as a text string) to the clipboard, hover over it and click the “copy” icon that appears.

Also, you can adjust the color value you just selected within Color Picker by clicking the center of the large color bar near the top of the window.

After clicking the color bar, you’ll see another screen with sliders that allow you to adjust the color with your mouse or by entering values with your keyboard.

The Color Picker color adjustment window.

When you’re done, click “OK,” and then the color will be added to your saved color palette, which is the vertical column of boxes along the left side of the window. If you need to remove a color from the palette on the side of the window, right-click the color square and select “Remove.”

If you’d like to leave this window and pick another color, click the eyedropper icon in the upper-left corner of the window.

The detail window will close and you can repeat the process again, selecting any color you’d like.

To leave Color Picker at any time, press Escape on your keyboard or click somewhere to call up the detail window again and click the “X” button in the upper-right corner to close the window. Whenever you need Color Picker again, just hit Windows+Shift+C from anywhere and you’ll be back to picking colors in no time.

It’s a colorful world out there, so have fun!

Profile Photo for Benj Edwards Benj Edwards
Benj Edwards is a former Associate Editor for How-To Geek. Now, he is an AI and Machine Learning Reporter for Ars Technica. For over 15 years, he has written about technology and tech history for sites such as The Atlantic, Fast Company, PCMag, PCWorld, Macworld, Ars Technica, and Wired. In 2005, he created Vintage Computing and Gaming, a blog devoted to tech history. He also created The Culture of Tech podcast and regularly contributes to the Retronauts retrogaming podcast.
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