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Consistency of design is what holds long documents together and one of the things that gives them a professionally made quality. Styles are your tool to ensure consistency in text. Swatches are your tool for ensuring consistency in colors. So let's see how they work. The first step in controlling the colors in your document is to manage them all in the Swatches panel. Ideally, there should be no unnamed colors in your documents. Unnamed colors are ones that are used in the layout but not managed by a swatch. To rid yourself of unnamed colors, go to the Swatches panel and choose Add Unnamed Colors, and I can see here that four colors were just added to the Swatches panel.
So how do unnamed colors get into documents? Well, when you mix a color in the Color panel and apply it to a page object or when you use the eyedropper to sample a color from something like a placed photo and apply it to a page object, those colors are not automatically made into swatches. Now, if you're working on a print project and you need to get all your swatches into CMYK, you can quickly convert from RGB by selecting the swatches and going to the Swatch panel menu and choose Swatch Options, and switch Color mode from RGB to CMYK, and click OK.
And now you have all CMYK swatches. But there is one slightly annoying thing that happens when you do this. If I select one of those swatches and go to my Swatch Options, I can see that the ink percentages for CMYK are not whole numbers. Now, there is no way this is going to be detectable in your output, but it can be annoying nonetheless. Fortunately, there's another way to convert RGB swatches to CMYK and to get nice, whole-number ink percentages.
So let's cancel out of here. We'll undo, get our RGB swatches back, and we will run a script. The script is just called ConvertRGBtoCMYK. It was written by Dave Saunders, and you can download it free from his web site. When you run it, just double-click and go back to the Swatches panel, and now you have all CMYK swatches. And if I select one and look at the Swatch Options, I can see that I have nice whole-number ink percentages.
Another way of ensuring consistent color is to use swatch libraries. You can save the solid color swatches you create in Photoshop, Illustrator, and InDesign into independent files called swatch libraries. So, for example, if you have an artist doing work in Illustrator or Photoshop, you can know that they're using the exact same colors you are InDesign by giving them a swatch library to work with. To create a swatch library, go to the Swatches panel and create the process or spot-color swatches you want to share, remove the swatches you don't want to share, then select the swatches, go to the Swatch panel menu, and choose Save Swatches, and this creates a .ase file, an Adobe Swatch Exchange file.
I'll just call it Colors and save it. Now that Swatch Library can be loaded into other InDesign documents to create those exact same colors. Now, there is one more important thing to understand about the Swatches panel that I want to point out. If you place artwork in your document that contains spot colors, InDesign adds those spot colors to the Swatches panel. So I can scroll up and I can see this document has PANTONE 512 C in it. When you place an EPS, PDF, TIFF, or a Photoshop file containing spot colors, these colors will show up in the Swatches panel, and they will be undeletable unless you remove the artwork where they're used.
So you can see the trashcan is grayed out down here. I can't remove this spot color. And that's because InDesign needs that color information as long as the art file is placed in the layout. This automatic adding of spot-color swatches to the panel can also be a source of some confusion if you're not exactly sure where a color is being used. There are a few ways to determine exactly where a color is used in an InDesign document. The simplest is just through Find/Change. So if I press Command+F or Ctrl+F and go to my Object Options and click in Find Object Format, I see that I can find a specific color for a fill or stroke, but what if that color is coming in from a place graphic, like is the case with this PANTONE color? The Find isn't going to find that.
So let's click Done to get out of the Find dialog box and use a different method. This time we are going to use the Separations Preview panel. So I will go to Window > Output > Separations Preview. For view, I will turn on Separations, and I will click on the little eye button next to CMYK to turn off all the CMYK process plates, and that leaves just the PANTONE plate turned on in the Preview. Then I will move this out of my way and zoom out by pressing Command+Minus or Ctrl+Minus so I can see my whole document.
Actually, I might need to zoom in a little bit more. I will scroll up, and there it is. Lurking way out on the pasteboard, there is a little object that's been placed that uses PANTONE 512 C. And if I delete that, now the trashcan becomes available, and I can remove that spot color from my document. In any project it's important to have good control over color usage so you can have a consistent and professional look and achieve predictable output, and by consistently using swatches, you can always be in control of your colors.
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