Join David Blatner for an in-depth discussion in this video Understanding the danger and power of unnamed colors, part of InDesign CS6 Essential Training.
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Some people spec in their colors far ahead of ever applying them in the document. Others like working more interactively, playing with colors as they lay out a page. You can work either way in InDesign. But if you're in the play as you go corner, you'll probably like using the Colors panel. You can find the Colors panel by going to the Window menu, choosing the Colors submenu, and then choosing Color. You can also find a version of the Color panel hiding inside the Control panel if you Shift+Click on one of these Fill or Stroke buttons. Normally, if you click on that pop-up menu, you get the Swatches panel, right? Well, if you Shift+Click on it, it turns into the Color panel.
It's just a little known fact. I'm going to use the Floating Color panel, because it's easier to see, easier to demo with. I'm going to create and apply a color on the next page. So I'll press Option+Page Down or Alt+Page Down on Windows and I want to apply a color to this text, Roux. Now normally you'd think that you have to select that text with a Type frame first. Well, you don't have to. I'm going to select it with the Selection tool, and then I'm going to up here to the Color panel and click on the little T. That T means apply the color to the text inside the frame, not the frame itself.
The little box next to it means apply it to the frame. The T means apply it to the text inside the frame. You can see those same things in the Swatches panel over here. There's the box and the T and also at the bottom the tool panel, the little box and the T. So, we're going to apply this to the T, the text inside the frame. That way we can see the color being applied to the text instead of having to pay attention to all the highlighting around the text. When I select any object on my page that already has color applied to it, the Color panel displays a tint ramp.
This tint ramp lets me change the tint of the color, not the color itself. You see how the other cursor changes to an eyedropper, and then I can click on that tint ramp to change the tint of the color. In this case, I don't want a tint. I want a different color entirely. So I'm going to click on this little full strength swatch at the end and I'm going to change this tint ramp into a color ramp and I can do that by going to the Color panel flyout menu and choosing either CMYK or RGB. RGB if it's an onscreen document; but in this case I'm going to choose CMYK.
Now I can dial in colors here or just click in the colored ramp. Whatever I click on is applied whatever selected on the page. Now you need to be very careful when choosing colors from the screen, because unless you've done a lot of work to set up your color management environment, the colors that you see on screen may not match what you see in print. Believe me I've been burned by that one myself. So it's better to pick your colors from a printed swatch book, such as the True Match, Pantone Books. Unfortunately, there are two other problems with using the Color panel too even if you're typing colors in from a swatch book.
First, if I handed this document to somebody else and they selected this text frame, they would not know if that color is a CMYK color or an RGB color, because it does not show up in the Swatches panel at all. Second, the fact that it doesn't show up in the Swatches panel makes it really difficult to apply that same color elsewhere in my document. So if I care about consistency throughout my document and I want the same color on multiple pieces of text or multiple objects, that's a problem. So here's what you do. It's really important if you're going to use the Color panel to make these kinds of colors; these are called Unnamed Colors, then you have to go to the Swatches panel, choose the flyout menu, and choose Add Unnamed Colors from the Swatches panel flyout menu.
Add Unnamed Colors goes through your whole document, finds all the unnamed colors, all the ones that you've created with a Color panel, for example, and adds them to the Swatches panel, and it links them. So if I changed the Color Swatch here this text will change as well. If you like working on the fly and you like this Color panel, there are two other ways of making colors that I want to point out to you. One is the Color Picker. The Color Picker you can find by double-clicking on the Fill or Stroke icons in the Color panel or the Fill and Stroke icons at the bottom of the tool panel.
When I do that, up comes the Color Picker and some people really like this, because it kind of reminds them of Photoshop I guess. You can click on any color in here as long as you're aware that just because you click on it, doesn't mean you're going to get that in print. But you can pick a color just by clicking on it, and then you can click on OK or better Add CMYK Swatch which adds it to the Swatches panel, like that; it just adds it right there, and then click OK. Now the color is applied and the swatches in the Swatches panel. The last method is to use the Eyedropper tool.
I'm going to grab the Eyedropper tool out of the tool panel here. I'm going to make sure that the formatting effects Type button is selected in the Color panel or the Swatches panel, that little T icon that we looked at earlier. And then I'm going to grab a color out of an image. I can grab any color I want, like the green from these trees, for example. It actually picks up that color, and puts it into the Color panel and because this was selected, it also applies it to that text. If I want to choose a different color instead, I need to hold down the Option or the Alt key to change the Eyedropper from the field Eyedropper back to the empty Eyedropper.
As long as I'm holding down Option or Alt I can pick up a different color. So, for example, I might want to pick this up from her shirt. That changed it to the purple or I might want to pick it up from this blue shirt down here. You can see that it updates automatically as long as I'm holding down that Option or Alt key. Once again, this is an Unnamed Color. So I have to go to the Swatches panel, choose Add Unnamed Colors, and suddenly it shows up in my Swatches panel as well. Personally, I rarely use any of these methods to create colors. I'm in the camp that believes that you should set up your colors in the Swatches panel first.
But if these tools work for you, then go for it.
- Getting started in just 30 minutes: the quick start guide to InDesign
- Understanding your workspace
- Creating and setting up new documents
- Creating and applying master pages
- Entering and editing text
- Placing graphics
- Working with color and gradients
- Editing frame and path shapes
- Working with layers, objects, and groups
- Rotating and scaling objects
- Applying character and paragraph formatting
- Using styles
- Creating and formatting tables
- Exporting to EPUB and interactive PDF
- Packaging, printing, and exporting your final document