Hey there future Illustrator pro – yeah, I’m talking to you! I know how frustrating it is when you open Illustrator and quickly realize things that should be simple (like creating custom color swatches), well… aren’t really that simple at all.
Like maybe the custom swatches feature? How long have you been clicking around trying to figure out that gem? Or, actually, maybe you figured it out, only, you didn’t because now you can’t find your saved swatches?
I know this one tripped me up for awhile before I really got my bearings in Illustrator. But first, let’s talk about what a custom swatch actually is and why you’d want to use it.
What is a Custom Swatch and Custom Swatch Library?
Custom swatches are colors that you can save for later use when working in Illustrator and other Adobe applications like InDesign or Photoshop.
A custom swatch library is a group of custom swatches that are saved together to create consistency in your documents and graphics.
How do you save a custom swatch?
Saving a custom swatch is easier than you might think, but it’s not straightforward, so don’t beat yourself up if you haven’t figured this out quite yet. To save a color you’ve mixed or plugged in from a hex code, simply drag the color over from your toolbar over onto your swatches panel, like this:
Easy peasy, right? Now, let’s learn how to save our custom colors for later use.
How to save custom swatches as a custom swatch library:
How to save custom swatches into a custom library:
- Open your swatch panel. You can head up to Window > Swatches if you don’t already have it open.
- Once you have your custom colors in your swatches panel, you’ll want to select all the colors you want to save into your library. This is fabulous for branding colors, or seasonal color palettes, etc. Seriously, do this one thing consistently and you’ll stop fumbling for the same “look” every time you make a graphic.
- With your swatches selected, click on the folder icon at the bottom of the swatch panel. This will bring up a dialog box asking you to name your group. Go ahead and do that now. Congratulations! You’ve just saved them into a ‘group’ which acts like a collection of colors, but you’re not done yet!
This is where some people might mistakenly think they’re finished and close their document, but wait! If you do that, your swatches will only be saved in that document, and not stored within Illustrator for later use in other documents. We still need to create the custom library, so let’s keep going.
- Select your new group that you just created, and select the library icon at the bottom of the swatches panel.
- Choose “Save Swatches…” from the library flyout menu. Name them and save as Ai (for Illustrator only) or ASE (for use in other Adobe applications too)
- To access them, you can find them by clicking the library icon and choosing “User Defined”. The library name will show up and there are your custom swatches!
To make sure a swatch panel always pops up in a new document, be sure to choose “Persistent” from the hamburger menu in the upper right-hand corner of your custom swatch window.
This will take effect the next time you restart Illustrator and open a new document.
Did this help you? Let me know in the comments below.
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