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Illustrator Tips: Color Swatches

Swapping swatches with Photoshop; combining libraries; setting up permanent default swatches By Dave Nagel
No matter how long you've worked in Adobe Illustrator, there's always something new to learn--even in terms of the most basic functions of the program. For the latest installment in our "Illustrator Tips" series, we take a look at ways to manipulate color swatches, from importing color swatches--selectively--from Adobe Photoshop to merging color swatches to adding new swatches to Illustrator's default Swatch library so that you don't have to import colors on a document by document basis.

Swapping swatches with Photoshop
Most of you, being seasoned graphic designers and illustrators, are probably aware that it's possible to share color swatch libraries between Photoshop CS2 and Illustrator CS2. But what you might not know is that it's also possible to pick and choose the swatches that you export from Photoshop, rather than exporting a complete swatch library, which may be impractical for many of you. We'll look at both methods here: saving a complete swatch library from Photoshop for use in Illustrator and saving just a few hand-picked swatches from Photoshop for use in Illustrator.

First the basic method, in case you're unaware of it. Let's say that, like me, you've spent years generating color swatches for every conceivable situation. And, like me, you want all those swatches to be available in Illustrator as well as Photoshop. What you need to do is export your Photoshop swatch library to a format that Illustrator can understand. Fortunately, that capability is built into Photoshop CS2.

1. Open the Swatches palette in Photoshop.
2. Click on the flyaway menu at the top right, and choose "Save Swatches for Exchange" from the list of options.

3. This will allow you to create a swatch file with an ase extension, rather than the usual aco extension. Save this file into your Illustrator CS2 /Presets/Swatches folder.

4. Now, in Illustrator CS2, open up the Swatches palette. Click the flyaway menu on the top right, and choose Open Swatch Library > [Your Library] from the list of options. This will open up the new swatch library in a separate palette.

And that's it for that.

Okay, but what if you don't want to transfer your entire swatch library from Photoshop to Illustrator? What if you just want to transfer some of them to keep your swatches in Illustrator more manageable?

Here's how that works.

1. In Photoshop, go to Edit > Preset Manager. This opens up the Preset Manager dialog.
2. Select "Swatches" from the pull-down menu in the Preset Manager, and you will see all of the swatches that currently appear in your Swatches palette.

3. Now you can go in and pick and choose the swatches to export by holding down the Command key (Mac) or Control key (Windows) and clicking on the individual swatches you want.

Or, if you have a contiguous block of swatches you want to export, click on the first one, then hold down the Shift key and click on the last one. This will select the first and last swatches, plus everything in between

4. Now, you see the "Save Set" button becomes active in the interface when you have swatches selected, but do not use this button. It will save your swatches in a format only Photoshop can understand. Instead, click the little flyaway menu next to the pull-down menu. From there, choose the "Save Swatches for Exchange" option.

5. Again, save the swatch library to your Illustrator CS2/Presets/Swatches directory.
6. And, again, open the library in Illustrator using the flyaway menu in the Swatches palette. This will open up your newly created, smaller Photoshop swatch library in a new palette tab.

And that's it for that.

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Related Keywords:adobe illustrator, swatches, export swatches, colors, palette, saving colors, default colors, graphic designers, illustrators

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