Join David Blatner for an in-depth discussion in this video Applying color swatches, part of InDesign: Color.
- I covered the basics of how to apply colors to objects and text in InDesign Essential Training here in the online training library, but it's worth going over once more quickly plus this way I can sneak in a few bonus power user tips. After selecting one or more objects on my page, I can fill them by first opening the Swatches panel, and then making sure that the Fill icon is on top, not the Stroke icon. These Fill and Stroke icons at the top of the Swatches panel also show up down here at the bottom of the Tool panel, but they're so small in both places that I rarely use them.
Instead I just press the x key on my keyboard. Pressing x swaps which icon is on top, Fill or Stroke. Of course, that doesn't work if you're editing text because you'll just type the letter x, but if you're not editing text, then the x key is great for that. Once I have the Fill icon on top, I can click on any swatch in the Swatches panel, or if the Swatches panel is closed, then I'll use the Control panel. Actually this Fill widget up here in the Control panel is even better than the Swatches panel because then you don't have to worry about the Fill or the Stroke icon and which one's on top.
This one is always Fill and this one down here is always Stroke. So that's really handy. Of course, if you don't see the swatch you're looking for in this list, you'll need to make one. I'll talk about building swatches in the next chapter. I'll just click this color and then to make the menu go away, you can click anywhere else in InDesign or press the escape or return key. That's enter on Windows. Now if you're a keyboard shortcut kind of person, and you know I am, then you'll want to learn a few shortcuts for applying colors.
First the d key. Pressing d resets an object to what InDesign considers the default colors. That's a fill of none and a 1 point black stroke. Next learn the shift x key. Remember that the x key swaps the Fill and Stroke icons, which one is on top? But shift x does something different. It swaps the colors themselves. So now these objects have a fill of black and a stroke of none. I can see up here in the Control panel that this object has a 40% opacity, which is why they're just gray and you can see through them, but the fill color is actually black and the stroke is none.
Now the other way you could swap the fill and stroke is to click this little tiny little double-headed arrow at the bottom of the Tool panel, and that also shows up in the Swatches panel, but it's so small that it's hard to click on so I just use shift x. Okay, then there are three little keys in the lower right corner of your keyboard, comma, period, and slash. Comma fills with the last selected color or stroke 'cause these shortcuts depends on which icon's on top just like when you click in the Swatches panel.
Let's say I click on this frame here and this frame has no fill color, just a fill color of none, and I press the , key, it applies the last selected color, which you remember was black. Now this text frame has no transparency applied to it so we can see the full black. Now the thing is that this comma keyboard shortcut only really works with frames that have a background of none because as soon as I click on a frame that has a fill color, like this red one back here, then that fill color becomes the last selected color.
See, I can see it over here in the Fill color over down here in the Tool panel, but what's nice is that I can now apply that same color, that red, to this frame over just by clicking on it and pressing comma because that text frame had a fill of none. Now the slash key which at least on U.S. keyboards is down by the shift key, means fill or stroke with none. That's just the fastest way to strip off a color. I'll click over here, press / and now it has a fill of none.
The last one is the period or . key, and that fills with the last used gradient. For example, I'll open up the Gradient panel by going to the Window menu, choosing Color and then Gradient, and you can see that the last used gradient in this document is this white-to-red gradient, this blend that goes from left-to-right. So if I select this text frame and hit . on my keyboard, that's the gradient I get. The only thing annoying here is that it won't apply the rotation, the angle of the last gradient.
Let me show you. I'm going to change this gradient by dragging these color stops over to make it a little bit more sharp transition, and then I'll change the angle to, let's say, -90 to make it go from top to bottom. Now I'll select another text frame and I'll hit the . or period key. I get the gradient, those color or gradient stops are just where I wanted them, but I don't get the angle. That reverts back to 0. So if I had a bunch of frames that I wanted to fill with a certain gradient with a certain angle and so on, it'd be much better to use an object style because object styles can save gradient fills and their angles and a lot more.
Okay, let's close the Gradient panel. There are a couple other good techniques that you should know about. One is that you can actually drag swatches right out of the Swatches panel. See how I'm dragging this orange swatch out? Now what's nice about this is that I don't actually have to have anything selected on my page, I just watch the cursor. When I see that little black square next to the arrow on the cursor, that means fill this object with this color. Okay, let me try another one.
I'll drag out this blue swatch and this time I'm going to place it next to the edge of this frame. You can see that little line next to the arrow on the cursor? That means apply the color to the stroke of this object. The only problem with dragging is that in a complex layout like this one where you have a bunch of overlapping objects, it's sometimes hard to tell what object is going to be filled or stroked so I don't really use that very often. The last method I want to show you is the Eyedropper Tool, and I cover that in detail in my InDesign Essential Training title, but really quickly you should first select the object that you want to change.
For example, I'll select this frame over here. Now sometimes when you press the Eye key, you get the Color Theme Tool. See it down here in the Tool panel? I'll talk about that tool in a later chapter. That's not what we want right now so I'll press the Eye key again to get the Eyedropper. The Eye key jus toggles back and forth between them. Now with the Eyedropper icon empty or white, I just hover over something, like this orange frame, and click.
See how that Eyedropper icon is now half filled? I can pick up another color by holding down the option key or the alt key on Windows, and clicking. If I option or alt click over here where there's no text, it'll pick up the fill and stroke of the frame, not the text. Of course, once that Eyedropper Tool is filled like this, I could just click on any other object and it fills it with the same thing. I don't have to select anything first. As soon as I click, it applies that fill and stroke.
Now again, I actually prefer using object styles for this kind of thing because styles are more powerful and they're easier to edit and so on. But if I'm just putting together something quickly and I need to copy some colors from one place to another, the Eyedropper is pretty handy. Now this document is looking pretty ugly but at least now you know all the options for applying swatches. There are a couple of other features for applying unnamed colors to objects and text, but I'm gonna cover those in a later chapter when I discuss exploring colors interactively.
- RGB vs. CMYK
- Spot colors vs. process colors
- Applying colors
- Converting spot colors
- Creating swatches
- Exploring color with the Color Picker, Color Theme tool, and Adobe Color