I am running OS X El Capitan, and any solutions I have found are out of date.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. Commented Aug 4, 2016 at 3:47

11 Answers 11


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.

  • 1
    Works for Mojave 10.14.5. as well
    – Prateekro
    Commented Jul 26, 2019 at 21:07
  • Confirming this also works for Big Sur (I'm on 11.0.1). Commented Dec 11, 2020 at 8:08
  • Clicking a swatch and pressing delete also works, but this one is better because you don't have to click the swatch which has the potential downside of applying the swatch to a selected object. It's insane that you don't just drag it outside the swatch panel like you would remove an app from the Dock or at least right click it to delete, but whatever, it is what it is. Commented Apr 6, 2021 at 19:12
  • This answer was edited as if I am not sure about previous versions.. I never said this, stop doing that Commented Mar 3, 2022 at 12:15

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

  • 1
    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. Commented May 5, 2018 at 18:40
  • @JamesKachan Agreed. Commented Jun 28, 2018 at 13:18
  • 3
    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 Commented Jul 17, 2018 at 20:57
  • 3
    @ChristianLong Moving the swatch to the trash worked for me!
    – Dan Levy
    Commented Jul 20, 2018 at 20:48
  • 2
    No longer working in 10.15 Catalina. Commented Jun 1, 2020 at 1:47

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
    Commented Mar 20, 2018 at 14:51

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


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.


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.


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


After searching and testing, I've found two ways to remove your color swatch, TV under MacOS Catalina.

  1. drag the color swatch to the trashcan in the dock
  2. click the color swatch your want to remove and press cmd+delete on the keyboard

I found another way to do this

1) Go to your desktop

2) Click control+click on the trackpad

3) Go to "change the desktop background"

4) In the options choose "fit the picture to the screen"

5) You will see the margin color in the right side and click on it

6) Now the color plate will open and you can click on them and click command + delete


High Sierra: Just alt + "click" the swatch to select, then press delete key.

In some other application, you can also activate apple color picker. But alt click to select may not work. What you need to do is to drop one new swatch on to an existing one and hold!!! (do not let go your drag ) and wait until you see blue selection outline emerge, then you can delete the outlined one with the delete key.
PS. don't be upset if after drag & waiting no blue outline appears automatically.Click in to the swatch will retrieve the selection outline.

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