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Work with swatches

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  Future changes to the Pantone Color Libraries

Pantone color libraries currently preloaded in Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator, and InDesign, will be phased out starting August 31, 2022 (with the exception of PANTONE+ CMYK Coated, PANTONE+ CMYK Uncoated, PANTONE+ Metallic Coated). Pantone is supporting their most up-to-date color libraries exclusively through the Pantone Connect plug-in available here. Adobe and Pantone have been working together to support your color needs and additional information and tutorials will be available shortly.

Swatches panel overview

The Swatches panel (Window > Color > Swatches) lets you create and name colors, gradients, or tints, and quickly apply them to your document. Swatches are similar to paragraph and character styles; any change you make to a swatch affects all objects to which the swatch is applied. 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 clearly 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:

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

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

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

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

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

Paper  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. You can edit the Paper color to match your paper stock by double-clicking it in the Swatches panel. Use the Paper color for previewing only—it will not be printed on a composite printer or in color separations. You can’t remove this swatch. Do not apply the Paper swatch to remove 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.


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.


Registration  is a built‑in swatch that causes objects to print on every separation from a PostScript printer. For example, registration marks use the Registration color, so that printing plates can be aligned precisely on a press. You cannot edit or remove this swatch.

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.

  1. In the Swatches panel menu, choose one of the following:
    • Name displays a small swatch next to the name of the swatch. The icons to the right of the name show the color model (CMYK, RGB, HSB, and so on), and whether the color is a spot color, process color, registration color, or none.

    • Small Name displays compacted swatch panel rows.

    • Small Swatch or Large Swatch displays only the swatch. A triangle with a dot in the corner of the swatch indicates that the color is a spot color. A triangle without a dot indicates a process color.

  2. To set what type of swatches display, click one of the following buttons at the bottom of the Swatches panel:
    • Show All Swatches  displays all color, tint, and gradient swatches.

    • Show Color Swatches  displays only process color, spot color, mixed ink color, and tint swatches.

    • Show Gradient Swatches  displays only gradient swatches.


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

Create color swatches

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.


Before you create swatches, learn which settings are appropriate for your printer service provider. You can specify color settings in a preflight profile to highlight color settings that don’t work with your printer.

Create a new color swatch

  1. Choose 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. For Swatch Name, do one of the following:
    • If you chose Process as the color type and you want the name always to describe the color values, make sure that Name With Color Value is selected.

    • If you chose Process as the color type and you want to name the color yourself, make sure that Name With Color Value is deselected, and type a Swatch Name.

    • If you chose Spot, type a Swatch Name.

  4. For Color Mode, choose the mode you want to use in defining the color. Avoid changing the mode after you define a color.
  5. Do one of the following:
    • Drag the sliders to change the color values. You can also enter numeric values in the text boxes next to the color sliders.

    • For spot colors, choose from color libraries in the Color Mode menu.

  6. If an out-of-gamut alert icon  appears, and you want to use the in-gamut color closest to the color you originally specified, click the small color box next to the alert icon.
  7. Do one of the following:
    • Click Add to add the swatch and define another one. Click Done when finished.

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


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 .

Create a swatch based on the color of an object

  1. Select the object.
  2. In the Toolbox or Swatches panel, select the Fill box or the Stroke box.
  3. In the Swatches panel, do one of the following:
    • Click the New Swatch button  and double-click the resulting new swatch.

    • Choose New Color Swatch in the Swatches panel menu.

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

Add unnamed colors to 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. Use the Add Unnamed Colors option 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.

  1. In the Swatches panel, choose Add Unnamed Colors.

Manage swatches

You can edit, duplicate, sort, and delete swatches in the Swatches panel.

Edit the default colors in the Swatches panel

You can change the swatches that appear by default in new documents.

  1. Close all open documents.
  2. Edit the swatches you want to change in the Swatches panel.

Duplicate a swatch

Duplicating swatches can be useful when you want to create a warmer or cooler variation of an existing color. Note that duplicating a spot color results in an additional spot color printing plate.

  1. Do one of the following:
    • Select a swatch, and choose Duplicate Swatch in the Swatches panel menu.

    • Select a swatch, and click the New Swatch button  at the bottom of the panel.

    • Drag a swatch to the New Swatch button at the bottom of the panel.

Edit a swatch

You can change individual attributes of a swatch by using the Swatch Options dialog box. Additional options are available when editing mixed ink swatches and mixed ink groups.

  1. In the Swatches panel, select a swatch, and do one of the following:
    • Double-click the swatch.

    • Choose Swatch Options in the Swatches panel menu.

  2. Adjust settings as desired, and click OK.

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.

By default, 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. As with any swatch you define, you can change the name of a process color swatch at any time.

  1. Double-click a process color in the Swatches panel.
  2. Do one of the following, and click OK:
    • To let InDesign rename the swatch when you adjust its CMYK percentages, make sure that the Name With Color Value option is selected.

    • To rename a swatch when you adjust its CMYK values, make sure that the Name With Color Value option is deselected.


The new swatch is automatically renamed New Color Swatch (this has a number following it if more than one New Color Swatch exists) when this option is deselected. You can change this name manually.

Sort swatches

You can sort swatches by name or by color values. You have the option to sort all swatches or selected swatches.

Sort by Name

Swatches are sorted alphabetically (A to Z).

To sort all swatches by name, do one of the following:

  • Select Sort from the Swatches panel menu and choose All Swatches by Name. 
  • Right-click on a swatch and select Sort > All Swatches by Name.

To sort selected swatches by name, select the swatches and do one of the following:

  • Select Sort from the Swatches panel menu and choose Selected Swatches by Name. 
  • Right-click on selected swatches and select Sort > Selected Swatches by Name.

Sort by Color Values

Swatches are sorted based on their color values. First swatches are sorted in the following order: CMYK > Lab Color > Mixed Ink > RGB. Then all swatches of
a particular color mode are sorted based on color values.
For example, all CMYK swatches are sorted based on values of C, M, Y, and K.

To sort all swatches by color values, do one of the following:

  • Select Sort from the Swatches panel menu and choose All Swatches by Color Values. 
  • Right-click on a swatch and select Sort > All Swatches by Color Values.

To sort selected swatches by color values, select the swatches and do one of the following:

  • Select Sort from the Swatches panel menu and choose Selected Swatches by Color Values. 
  • Right-click on selected swatches and select Sort > Selected Swatches by Color Values.

Swatches within a color group are also sorted based on the sorting applied.

Delete individual 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.

  1. Select one or more swatches.
  2. Do one of the following:
    • Choose Delete Swatch in the Swatches panel menu.

    • Click the Delete icon at the bottom of the Swatches panel.


    You cannot delete spot colors that are 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. In such instances, use File > Export to create an InDesign Markup (IDML) file. Then re-open that file in InDesign.

  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. Click the Delete icon.

Merge swatches

When you import swatches or copy items from other documents, you may end up with duplicate swatches that may be applied to different objects. Use the Merge Swatches command to combine duplicate swatches.

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

    The first swatch you select is the one the survives (gets merged into).

  2. Choose Merge Swatches in the Swatches panel menu.

Save swatches for use in other documents

To use your color swatches in other files or to share them with other designers, you can save swatches in an Adobe Swatch Exchange (.ase) file. InDesign, as well as Illustrator and Adobe Photoshop, can import swatches from a Colorbook file.

  1. In the Swatches panel, select the swatches you want to save.
  2. Choose 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. In the Swatches panel, create the process and spot color swatches you want to share, and remove any swatches you don’t want to share.

    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.

  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.

Import swatches

You can import colors and gradients from other documents, adding either 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 the PANTONE Process Color System®.


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. Click Open.
  4. Select the swatches you want import.
  5. Click OK.

Import all swatches from a file

  1. From the Swatches panel menu, choose 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.

  1. Do one of the following:
    • Copy an object into the current document using drag-and-drop or copy-and-paste.

    • Select the swatches you want to copy and drag them from the Swatches panel to the document window of another InDesign document.


    If you drag a swatch that has an identical name as an existing swatch (including capitalization) but has different color values, InDesign renames the swatch “[original swatch name] 2.”

Load swatches from predefined custom color libraries

You can select from a range of color libraries—including the PANTONE Process Color System, 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. Do one of the following:
    • Choose the library file from the Color Mode list.

    • Choose Other Library from the Color Mode list, locate the library file, and then click Open.

  3. Select one or more swatches from the library, and click Add. (To exit the dialog box without adding swatches, click OK.)
  4. When you are done adding swatches, click 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.

A swatch book with specifications for process and spot colors, overprint charts, and a chip book for marking up layouts are available from Focoltone. 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 the worldwide standards for spot color reproduction. In 2000, a major revision was made to the PANTONE MATCHING SYSTEM® Color guides. 147 new solid colors and seven additional metallic colors have been added to the System to now include a total of 1,114 colors. PANTONE Color guides and chip books are now printed on coated, uncoated, and matte paper stocks to ensure accurate visualization of the printed result and better on-press control.

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.

Toyo Color Finder

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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