I am running OS X El Capitan, and any solutions I have found are out of date.

I can add a colour to my swatch drawer by dragging it. However, how do I remove a colour?

All the articles I have read suggest dragging an adjacent white cell onto the colour, but the empty cells are no longer white and and attempting to drag an empty cell does nothing.


  • How about using the eye-drop tool to select the background color of an "empty" swatch (#ECECEC), and then dragging and replacing the colors you'd like to delete? They will appear "empty" and you can always overwrite them. I agree that there definitely is not an intuitive way to do this. – ruddfawcett Aug 4 '16 at 3:47

Just discovered today, March 2018, you can now just select the color chip (soft online indicates it's selected) and use "delete" key.

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    Why is this answer down-voted? I just verified, running 10.13.4 and indeed selecting a swatch and hitting the keyboard "Delete" key clears the swatch. – James Kachan May 5 '18 at 18:40
  • @JamesKachan Agreed. – JBis Jun 28 '18 at 13:18
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    When I could get the blue highlight around the swatch, this worked - I was able to press the delete key to delete the swatch. In some cases, I could not get the highlight to appear around the swatch. In those cases, dragging the swatch to the trash in the dock worked. High Sierra 10.13.6 – Christian Long Jul 17 '18 at 20:57
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    @ChristianLong Moving the swatch to the trash worked for me! – Dan Levy Jul 20 '18 at 20:48

You can actually just drag & drop them to your desktop trashcan.

This works in High Sierra, I'm not sure if it does for previous versions.

  • Works for Mojave 10.14.5. as well – Prateekro Jul 26 at 21:07

A good way of doing this is editing the ~/Library/Colors/NSColorPanelSwatches.plist file. Open this file in a plist editor or in Xcode, and remove all the Item 1, Item 2 and so on entries, leaving Item 0 as it is.

The .plist should end up looking like this:


Restart the app/color picker and the color swatches should be removed


Terminal Inspector Colors

The Colors dialog can be used to modify the swatch selection. Specifically, selecting and using the delete key, or by dragging to the trash can. You can also use this to rearrange swatches

High Sierra 10.13.4 Beta

  • This doesn't work on macOS Sierra as far as I can tell. – user342354 Mar 20 '18 at 14:51

This does not apply to your case with El Capitan (still don't know how to easily delete a color in that OS). But things have changed with High Sierra (untested in Sierra). Simply drag a swatch to the trash to remove it.


You can drag a defined swatch onto another defined one. One gets overwritten, the other blank again. Kind like playing "musical chairs" …Works even in El Capitan.


Just drag the saved color to the Trash on the dock!!!


Using the eye dropper actually does work. What is interesting is that once you drag it to a swatch that swatch becomes "blank" you can continue to drag that to other swatches and "blank" those out, but if you go back to a swatch you blanked out, that one is no longer draggable. The only draggable "blank" swatch is the last one you "blanked" out.

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