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Defining and Storing Swatches

Although it is very quick to create a color using the Color panel, you will find it more efficient to create color swatches. A swatch is a color that has been defined and is stored in the Swatches panel.

To work with the Swatches panel:
  1. If the Swatches panel is not visible, choose Window > Swatches to open the panel square9.gif.


    If the Swatches panel is behind other panels, click the Swatches panel tab.

  2. To see the different types of swatches, click the icons at the bottom of the panel as follows:
    • Show All Swatches displays both the color and the gradient swatches.
    • Show Color Swatches displays only the color swatches.
    • Show Gradient Swatches displays only the gradient swatches.
  3. To change the display of the swatches in the panel, choose the following from the Swatches panel menu:
    • Name displays a list of the swatch names in a large typeface.
    • Small Name uses a more compact typeface to display the swatch names.
    • Small Swatch displays only the square of the swatch color or gradient.
    • Large Swatch displays a larger square of the swatch color or gradient.

Although you can apply colors to objects and text directly from the Color panel, this is not considered a good production workflow. Instead, use the Swatches panel to add the color currently defined in the Color panel.

To add a color to the Swatches panel:
  1. Use the Color panel to define a color.
  2. Click the New Swatch icon at the bottom of the panel. The new color, named with the color values, is automatically added to the Swatches panel.

InDesign also lets you drag colors from the Color panel into the Swatches panel.

To drag colors into the Swatches panel:
  1. Create the color in the Color panel.
  2. Drag the color from the Color panel fill or stroke box to the bottom of or between two colors in the Swatches panel.
  3. Release the mouse when a black line appears in the Swatches panel square10.gif. The new color is added and automatically takes its name from the color values.

You can define and add new colors to your document using only the Swatches panel.

To define a new color swatch:
  1. Choose New Color Swatch from the Swatches panel menu. This opens the New Color Swatch dialog box square11.gif.


    Opt/Alt-click the New Swatch icon at the bottom of the Swatches panel.

  2. To name the color swatch yourself, deselect the checkbox for Name with Color Value and then type a name in the Swatch Name field.


    Leave the setting checked to name the color swatch using the values that define the color. This option is not available for spot colors.

  3. Choose Process or Spot from the Color Type pop-up list square12.gif.
  4. Choose LAB, CMYK, or RGB from the Color Mode menu square13.gif.


    Choose one of the Swatch Libraries at the bottom of the Color Mode menu square13.gif.

  5. If you have chosen LAB, CMYK, or RGB, use the sliders to change the values from the ones originally defined.
  6. Click ok. This adds the swatch and closes the dialog box.


    Click Add to add the swatch without closing the dialog box. This allows you to define additional colors.

    The colors that appear in the Swatches panel are displayed with icons that give you information about the type of color, the color mode, and other attributes square14.gif. Of course, once you have defined a color swatch, you can modify its color definition. This changes the appearance of all text and objects that use that color, even if they are not selected.

To modify a color swatch:
  1. Select the swatch and choose Swatch Options from the Swatches panel menu. This opens the Swatch Options dialog box square15.gif. These are the same controls as in the New Color Swatch dialog box.


    Double-click the swatch in the panel.

  2. Make changes to the color.
  3. Click ok to apply the changes.

Once you create color swatches, you can apply them via the Fill and Stroke controls in the Tools panel or Color panel.

To apply a swatch color:
  1. Create the object or text that you want to color.
  2. Select either the Fill or Stroke icons in the Color panel or Tools panel. (See Chapter 6, “Styling Objects,” for more information on the Fill or Stroke icons.)
  3. In the Swatches panel, click the color you want. This applies the swatch to the object.
To delete swatches:
  1. Select the color you want to delete.
  2. Click the Delete Swatch icon square16.gif or choose Delete Swatch from the Swatches menu.
  3. If the swatch is used within the document, the Delete Swatch dialog box appears, asking how you want to replace the deleted swatch square17.gif:
    • To swap the color with one from the Swatches panel, choose Defined Swatch and then pick a swatch from the pop-up list.
    • To leave the color as an unnamed color applied to the object, choose Unnamed Swatch.

If you have many colors in your document that you are not using, you may want to delete them to avoid confusion when the file is sent to a print shop.

To delete all unused swatches:
  1. Choose Select All Unused in the Swatches panel menu square18.gif.
  2. Click the Delete Swatch icon or use the Delete Swatch command in the Swatches panel menu.

You can also select several swatches and merge them into one color.

To merge swatches:
  1. Click to select the first color. This is the final color that you want the other colors to change to.
  2. Hold the Cmd/Ctrl key and click to select another swatch. This is the color that you want to delete.


    Hold the Shift key and click to select a range of swatches. These are the swatches you want to delete.

  3. Choose Merge Swatches from the Swatches panel menu square18.gif. This deletes all the swatches except the swatch that was first selected. That swatch is applied to all text and objects that used the deleted swatches.

The position that swatches occupy in the panel comes from the order in which they were created. You can easily change the order of the swatches.

To move swatches to new positions:
  1. Select a swatch in the panel.
  2. Drag the swatch to a new position. A black line indicates where the swatch will be located square19.gif.
  3. Release the mouse button.

You may find it easier to duplicate a swatch and modify it than to start from scratch.

To duplicate a swatch:
  • Select the swatch and choose Duplicate Swatch from the Swatches panel menu.


    Select the swatch and click the New Swatch icon.


    Drag the swatch onto the New Swatch icon.

You can save a selection of swatches for use in other InDesign documents, or in Adobe Illustrator or Adobe Photoshop documents.

To save selected swatches:
  1. Select the swatches in the Swatches panel that you want to save.
  2. Choose Save Swatches For Exchange from the Swatches panel menu.
  3. Use the operating system dialog box to save the swatches as an Adobe Swatch Exchange (.ase) file.

You can import the swatches from one InDesign document into another. You can also import the swatches from an Adobe Swatch Exchange file.

To import swatches from other documents:
  1. Choose Load Swatches from the Swatches panel menu. The operating system dialog box appears.
  2. Navigate to find the document or Adobe Swatch Exchange file you want to import swatches from.
  3. Click Open. The swatches are imported into the current document.

Unnamed colors are colors that are applied to objects directly from the Color panel or the Color Picker instead of through the Swatches panel. It is a good idea not to have unnamed colors floating around your document. Fortunately, you can easily convert unnamed colors into named colors.

To name unnamed colors:
  • Choose Add Unnamed Colors from the Swatches panel menu. All unnamed colors are added to the panel named with their percentage values.

You can create colors that are available as the default colors for all new documents.

To create default colors:
  1. Close all documents but leave InDesign running.
  2. Use any of the methods in this section, “Defining and Storing Swatches,” to define and store a color in the Swatches panel. The color will appear in the Swatches panel of all new InDesign documents.
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