Using Apple's "Color Picker" in Pages 5, Numbers 3, & Keynote 6 (iWork 2013)

Last week whilst teaching Apple’s iWork course, we were discussing Apple’s Color Picker and came across some changes in the latest versions of Apple’s Pages, Numbers and Keynote apps.
For those of you who are new to the Apple world, the ‘Color Picker’ relates to the ‘floating window’ that appears in front of documents you are working on to allow you to fine tune the colours you want to set for your text, objects, shapes, etc. The “Color Picker” default window is shown below:
colour picker iwork 2014
Most Apple Applications utilise the Color Picker. For example, Apple’s iWork suite of Keynote, Pages and Numbers. But also built-in apps such as Mail and TextEdit. There are even some third-party apps like Photoshop, which can tap into Apple’s Color Picker.
The easiest way to access the Color Picker is to use the short-cut keys of Command-Shift-C. You can then select the item you wish to modify its colours and have full control of your colour features.
However, there has always been ‘clickable’ ways to open this useful tool too.
One ‘clickable’ option is to either select the Applications’ main ‘View’ menu and select ‘Show Colors’, or select the Applications’ main ‘Format’ menu then select ‘Show Colors’:
show colours iwork
format options iwork
The other ‘clickable’ option was to simply click on the Color Picker’s icon in your document toolbar or inspector window:
Now, last October, Apple released their all new graphical versions of their iWork suite with the releases of Pages 5, Numbers 3, and Keynote 6. On first use of all 3 of these apps, there is a concern that the Color Picker is no longer available to access since the inspectors are gone. Yes, you can still use the above-mentioned short-cut keys or pull-down menu option, but the ‘quick-click’ Color Picker icon seems to have gone!
Don’t panic, it is still there, you just need to know where to look!
So, here’s what we discovered in the class.
Please note: The below is documented for Keynote version 6. However, this works just the same for Pages version 5 and Numbers version 3.
(Most or all of these steps and features may also apply to any Apple app that utilisies the Color Picker).
1) If you select an image object and wish to change its colour, (as shown below by the ‘Star shape’ in the following screenshot), you would instinctively then click on the ‘Format’ options (Paintbrush icon) in the toolbar and then select the ‘Style’ tab:

keynote formatting

2) You would then assume that clicking on the ‘Fill’ colour option would allow you to access the Color Picker since the helpful pop up states you can ‘click to choose a preset colour’:

color picker keynote 6

3) Alas, the ‘Fill’ option only offers you a preset collection of colours to choose from and no option to open the extensive granular Color Picker:
current fill keynote
4) The good news is that if you click the disclosure triangle in front of the ‘Fill’ option’s title, this increases your object colour options.
If you now ensure that you have selected ‘Color Fill’ or any other option apart from ‘No Fill’ or ‘Image Fill’ from the first pull down menu, you will now be able to see and click on the Color Picker’s small colour palette icon as shown below :
no fill keynote
Phew, it’s still there!
While we are talking about the Color Picker and now know how to get access to it, I thought I’d mention some useful features of the Color Picker that the students in my class found very useful.
Once you have access to the Color Picker, you can store your favourite customised colours into the small white cells (or boxes) at the bottom of the window.
This is easily done by using the different colour palettes at the top of the Color Picker window to create your perfect colour. Then, you can just drag and drop this colour from the main colour bar section into a vacant white cell at the bottom of the window as demonstrated in the following video:

You will notice that there’s a limited amount of white cells to add your custom colours to. Not to worry!
All you need to do is drag the small dot at the bottom of the window downwards to reveal up to 10 rows of 30 cells, (300 custom colours!)
custom colours keynote
Ok, so now you have some lovely custom colours, but you decide that you want to remove some of the colours that you have added.
Hmm, this isn’t as obvious since selecting a colour cell and then pressing the backspace key or trying to control/right-click the mouse button doesn’t do it. You can either drag any empty ‘white’ cell onto your coloured cell to clear it, or select white in the Color Picker area and drag this white colour OVER the cell. (These ’empty’ cell colours are just WHITE colour cells by default).
Another useful thing to know is that these custom colour cells are global. Meaning once you have configured this in ANY Apple Color Picker, you will immediately be able to apply these custom colours in EVERY other application that uses Apple’s Color Picker! Cool!
So configure this in Keynote, it’s available in Numbers, or Mail or TextEdit!
Right. Another useful feature is the ‘Magnifying Glass’ at the top left of the Color Picker window.
After selecting this with your mouse, you can click on ANY object in your document to add an existing object’s colour to your Color Picker window and then add this to your custom colour cells.
Let’s look at an example. Let’s say that I want to change the colour of the ‘Star’ shape in my keynote slide to the precise Red of the Amsys logo.
All I need to do is open the Color Picker, select the ‘Magnifying Glass’ icon, and now my mouse is a magnifying glass ready to discover any color I want. I can click on the Amsys logo to grab the exact red and add it into my Color Picker:
amsys keynote course
I can now drag this red down into my custom color cells to always be able to apply the Amsys red to anything! Hurray!
Oh, in case you didn’t know, the ‘Magnifying Glass’ can actually be used to select ANYTHING on your Mac in ANY application to capture the colour into your Color Picker, not just the document you are working on! Try it out. Fancy the blue colour that Apple use for the Mail app? Why not add this to your custom colours!
apple mail colour
Finally. I wanted to mention an issue some people have found trying to apply the custom colour to an object in these new versions of Apple’s iWork suite.
Imagine you have opened the Color Picker, got your custom colour ready and have clicked the shape or text box that you want to apply this colour to. You have double-clicked the colour in the colour well but your shape or text hasn’t changed color, but the Color Picker color has changed.
To resolve this. All you need to do is simply close the Color Picker window, re-select/highlight the shape or text you want to change the colour of, and then re-open the Color Picker.
If you attempt to change the colour of an object using an existing Color Picker window, it probably won’t work. The Color Picker relates to the object selected BEFORE you open the Color Picker window.
Instead of closing and reopening it, you can also just click on the Color Picker icon until it is highlighted, as shown by the BLUE highlighted Color Picker icon below:
custom colour picker iwork
I hope you have found this blog useful.
If you would like to learn more about Apple’s iWork apps or just the Mac in general, then take a look at our collection of Creative and introductory training courses.
We have a dedicated 1-day Keynote course and also offer Apple’s 2-day Apple Certified Associate iWork course and exam.
While the author has taken care to provide our readers with accurate information, please use your discretion before acting upon information based on the blog post. Amsys will not compensate you in any way whatsoever if you ever happen to suffer a loss/inconvenience/damage because of/while making use of information in this blog.
This feature has been tested using OS X Mavericks v10.9.3 which was the latest Mac OS release at the time of writing.