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Work with swatches

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With the October 2023 release, the last three remaining Pantone Color books (Pantone + CMYK CoatedPantone + CMYK Uncoated, and Pantone + Metallic Coated) are removed from InDesign.

The Swatches panel (Window > Color > Swatches) lets you create and name colors, gradients, or tints and quickly apply them to your document. Swatches make it easier to modify color schemes without having to locate and adjust each individual object.

When the fill or stroke of selected text or an object contains a color or gradient applied from the Swatches panel, the applied swatch is highlighted in the Swatches panel. Swatches you create are associated only with the current document. Each document can have a different set of swatches stored in its Swatches panel.

 When working with a prepress service provider, swatches let you identify spot colors. You can also specify color settings in a preflight profile to determine which color settings work with your printer.

Six CMYK-defined colors appear in the default Swatches panel: cyan, magenta, yellow, red, green, and blue.

 When you print a book whose chapters contain conflicting swatches, you can instruct InDesign to synchronize settings with the master document. (See Synchronize book documents.)

Swatch types

Use the Swatches panel menu to create new color swatches, load swatches from another document, and more. The Swatches panel stores the following types of swatches:


Icons on the Swatches panel identify the spot  and process  color types, and LAB , RGB , CMYK , HSB , and Mixed Ink  color modes.


A percentage value next to a swatch in the Swatches panel indicates a tint of a spot or process color.


An icon on the Swatches panel indicates whether a gradient is radial  or linear .


The None swatch removes the stroke or fill from an object. You can’t edit or remove this swatch.

Swatches panel
Double-click on a color to open the Swatch Options dialog


Registration  is a built‑in swatch that causes objects to print on every separation from a PostScript printer. You cannot edit or remove this swatch.


Black is a built‑in, 100% process color black defined using the CMYK color model. You can’t edit or remove this swatch. By default, all occurrences of Black overprint (print on top of) underlying inks, including text characters at any size. You can disable this behavior.


Paper is a built‑in swatch that simulates the paper color on which you’re printing. Objects behind a paper-colored object won’t print where the paper-colored object overlaps them. Instead, the color of the paper on which you print shows through. To edit the Paper color to match your paper stock, double-click it in the Swatches panel. Use the Paper color to preview only—it will not be printed on a composite printer or in color separations. You can’t remove this swatch. Don't apply the Paper swatch to remove the color from an object. Use the None swatch instead.

 If the Paper color is not working as described, and you are printing to a non-PostScript printer, try switching your printer driver to Raster Graphics mode.

You can also add colors from any color library to the Swatches panel so that they are saved with your document.

Customize swatch display

You can control the size of swatches and whether the name displays with the swatch. Click on the Swatch panel menu to customize the swatch display.

  • To display all color, tint, and gradient swatches, select Show All Swatches .
  • To display only process color, spot color, mixed ink color, and tint swatches, select Show Color Swatches .
  • To display only gradient swatches, select Show Gradient Swatches .

 The None swatch is always displayed regardless of which button you click.

Swatches can include spot or process colors, mixed inks (process colors mixed with one or more spot colors), RGB, HSB, Lab colors, gradients, or tints.

When you place an image that contains spot colors, the colors are automatically added as swatches to the Swatches panel. You can apply these swatches to objects in your document, but you cannot redefine or delete the swatches.

Create swatches

You can create not only a new color swatch but also a swatch based on the color of an object. Before you create swatches, learn which settings are appropriate for your printer service provider.

Create a new color swatch

  1. Select New Color Swatch in the Swatches panel menu.

  2. For Color Type, choose the method you’ll use to print document colors on a printing press.

  3. Fill the Swatch Name.

  4. For Color Mode, choose the mode you want to use in defining the color. Drag the sliders to change the color values. You can also enter numeric values in the text boxes next to the color sliders.

  5. Click OK to add the swatch and exit the dialog box.

Create a swatch based on the color of an object

  1. Select the object.

  2. Select the Fill box or the Stroke box in the Swatches panel.

  3. Select the New Swatch   and double-click the resulting new swatch.

The selected color or gradient appears in the Swatches panel and in the Fill box or Stroke box and is applied to the fill or stroke of all selected objects.

 To directly define a spot color using the New Swatch button in the Swatches panel, make sure that no swatches are selected, and then hold down Alt+Ctrl (Windows) or Option+Command (Mac OS) as you click the New Swatch button .

Add unnamed colors and edit default colors in the Swatches panel

While you can create colors using the Color panel or Color Picker, unnamed colors are more difficult to edit later and to use consistently. Select Add Unnamed Colors option in the Swatches panel to search for unnamed colors applied to objects within the document, and then add them to the Swatches panel. Colors are automatically named according to their CMYK, RGB, HSB, or Lab components.

You can change/edit the swatches in the Swatches panel that appear by default in new documents.

Duplicate, edit, and sort swatches

Duplicating swatches can be useful when you want to create a warmer or cooler variation of an existing color. Select Duplicate Swatch to create a duplicate version of the swatch. You can change individual attributes of a swatch by selecting the Swatch Options. You can sort swatches by name or by color values. You have the option to sort all swatches or selected swatches. Swatches within a color group are also sorted based on the sorting applied.

Control swatch names

By default, the name of a process color swatch is derived from the values of the color’s components. For example, if you create a red process color using 10% cyan, 75% magenta, 100% yellow, and 0% black, its swatch is named C=10 M=75 Y=100 K=0 by default. This makes it easier to identify the composition of process colors.

The name of a process color swatch automatically updates when you change its CMYK values; you can switch this option off or on for individual swatches as needed. 

  1. Double-click a process color in the Swatches panel.
  2. Select the Name With Color Value option to let InDesign rename the swatch when you adjust its CMYK percentages. Deselect it, if you want to rename it manually.

  3. Select OK.

Delete swatches

When you delete a swatch that has been applied to an object in the document, InDesign prompts you for a replacement swatch. You can designate an existing or unnamed swatch. If you delete a swatch used as the basis of a tint or mixed ink, you are prompted to choose a replacement.

Delete individual swatches

  1. Select one or more swatches.

  2. Select Delete   in the Swatches panel.

  3. InDesign asks you how to replace the swatch you’re deleting. Do one of the following, and click OK:

    • To replace all instances of the swatch with another swatch, click Defined Swatch, and choose a swatch in the menu.

    • To replace all instances of the swatch with an equivalent unnamed color, click Unnamed Swatch.

Delete all unused swatches

  1. Choose Select All Unused in the Swatches panel menu. Only swatches that are not currently used in the active file will be selected.

  2. Select Delete   in the Swatches panel.

 You cannot delete spot colors used by placed graphics in the document. To delete these colors, you must first delete the graphic. However, in rare cases, the spot color cannot be removed even though the graphic has been removed. Use File > Export to create an InDesign Markup (IDML) file in such instances and re-open that file in InDesign.

Merge and save swatches

When you import swatches or copy items from other documents, you may end up with duplicate swatches applied to different objects. You can combine duplicate swatches and save them to use in other documents. You can save swatches in an Adobe Swatch Exchange (.ase) file. InDesign, as well as Illustrator and Adobe Photoshop

Merge swatches

  1. In the Swatches panel, select two or more duplicate swatches.

    The first swatch you select is the one that gets merged into.

  2. Select Merge Swatches in the Swatches panel menu.

Save swatches

  1. Select the swatches you want to save in the Swatches panel.

  2. Select Save Swatches in the Swatches panel menu.

  3. Specify a name and location for the file, and click Save.

Share swatches between applications

You can share the solid swatches you create in Photoshop, Illustrator, and InDesign by saving a swatch library for exchange. The colors appear exactly the same across applications as long as your color settings are synchronized.

  1. Create the process and spot color swatches in the Swatches panel you want to share , and remove the unwanted ones.

  2. Select Save Swatches from the Swatches panel menu, and save the swatch libraries in an easily accessible location.

  3. Load the swatch library into the Swatches panel for Photoshop, Illustrator, or InDesign.

 You cannot share the following types of swatches between applications: patterns, gradients, mixed inks and tints, and the Registration swatch from Illustrator or InDesign; and book color references, HSB, XYZ, duotone, monitorRGB, opacity, total ink, and webRGB swatches from Photoshop. These types of swatches are automatically excluded when you save swatches.

Import swatches

You can import colors and gradients from other documents, adding all or some of the swatches to the Swatches panel. You can load swatches from InDesign files (.indd), InDesign templates (.indt), Illustrator files (.ai or .eps), and Adobe Swatch Exchange files (.ase) created by InDesign, Illustrator, or Photoshop. Adobe Swatch Exchange files contain swatches saved in the Adobe Swatch Exchange format.

InDesign also includes color libraries from other color systems, such as ANPA, or you can add libraries through Pantone Connect. Spot colors used by imported EPS, PDF, TIFF, and Adobe Photoshop (PSD) files are also added to the Swatches panel.

Import selected swatches from a file

  1. Choose New Color Swatch from the Swatches panel menu.

  2. Choose Other Library from the Color Mode list, and then select the file from which you want to import swatches.

  3. Select Open.

  4. Select the swatches you want to import and select OK.

Import all swatches from a file

  1. From the Swatches panel menu, select Load Swatches.

  2. Double-click an InDesign document.

Copy swatches between InDesign documents

You can copy or drag a swatch (or objects with a swatch applied) from one document to another. When you do so, the swatch is added to the destination document’s Swatches panel. If you want to copy the swatch’s tints and gradients as well, you need to copy the original object, not just the swatch.

Load swatches from predefined custom color libraries

You can select from a range of color libraries—including the Toyo™ Ink Electronic Color Finder™ 1050, the Focoltone® color system, the Trumatch™ color swatch system, the DIC Process Color Note, and libraries created especially for web use. Before using swatches from a color matching system, consult with your prepress service providers to determine which ones they support.

  1. Choose New Color Swatch from the Swatches panel menu.
  2. Choose the library file from the Color Mode list.

  3. Select one or more swatches from the library, and select Add. (To exit the dialog box without adding swatches, choose OK.)

  4. When you're done adding swatches, select Done.

Color libraries installed with InDesign

InDesign installs color libraries for the color matching systems described below. You can install additional color libraries and load swatches from them in InDesign.

ANPA Color

Consists of 300 colors selected by ANPA (American Newspaper Publishers Association). Colors in this library are primarily used as spot colors in newspapers.

DIC Color

Provides 1280 CMYK spot colors from the DIC Process Color Note. Colors may be matched against the DIC Color Guide, published by Dainippon Ink & Chemicals, Inc. For more information, contact Dainippon Ink & Chemicals, Inc., in Tokyo, Japan.


Consists of 763 CMYK colors. You can use Focoltone colors to help avoid prepress trapping and registration problems by viewing the Focoltone charts that show the overprints that make up the colors. For more information, contact Focoltone International, Ltd., in Stafford, United Kingdom.


Use when your job specifies colors from the HKS color system, which is used in Europe.


PANTONE® Colors are a well-known standard for spot color reproduction.  Colors from the Pantone library can be accessed through the Pantone Connect plugin available on Adobe Exchange.


You can print a solid PANTONE Color in CMYK. To compare a solid PANTONE Color to its closest process color match, use the PANTONE solid to process guide. The CMYK screen tint percentages are printed under each color. The guide is now printed on a brighter coated stock and includes comparisons of the 147 new solid colors to CMYK.


PANTONE process guides let you choose from over 3,000 process combinations now printed on coated and uncoated stocks. Displayed in chromatic order in fan-guide format, it's easy to select colors and specify CMYK screen values.


For more information, contact Pantone, Inc., in Carlstadt, New Jersey, U.S.A.

System (Windows)

Includes 256 colors of the Windows default 8‑bit panel, which is based on a uniform sampling of RGB colors.

System (Mac OS)

Includes 256 colors of the Mac OS default 8‑bit panel, which is based on a uniform sampling of RGB colors.


Includes 1050 colors based on the most common printing inks used in Japan. You can use the Toyo 94 Color Finder or the newer Toyo Color Finder. Consult the color guide that illustrates printed samples of Toyo Ink. This color guide is available at print publishers and graphic arts supply stores. For more information, contact Toyo Ink Manufacturing Co., Ltd., in Tokyo, Japan.


Provides predictable CMYK color matching with over 2000 achievable, computer-generated colors. Trumatch colors cover the visible spectrum of the CMYK gamut in even steps. The Trumatch Color Finder displays up to 40 tints and shades of each hue, each originally created in four-color process and each reproducible in four colors on electronic imagesetters. In addition, four-color grays using different hues are included. For more information, contact Trumatch Inc., in New York, New York, U.S.A.


Includes the 216 RGB web‑safe colors most often used by web browsers to display 8‑bit images. This library helps you create artwork for the web using colors that display consistently across Windows and Macintosh systems.

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