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Share Swatches Between CS2 Applications Without Recreating Them

Published By: InDesignSecrets.com
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In Creative Suite 2 Adobe introduced the Adobe Swatch Exchange (.ASE) file format. With it, you can create custom swatch colors in InDesign, Illustrator, or Photoshop, and import them into the rest without having to manually recreate them. Among several ramifications, that means for print output pros fewer instances of the common problem of the same spot color used under multiple names.
Swatch Exchange is a great innovation, but it has limitations. Here’s the low down.

Creating Swatches for Exchange

  1. Create your custom swatches in any one CS2 application.
  2. Delete any swatches you don’t want to export–for instance, the copious default swatches in Photoshop or Illustrator.
  3. Choose Save Swatches for Exchange from the flyout menu of any CS2 application’s Swatches palette. You’ll be presented with the Save As dialog, and you’ll create a .ASE file. Save the file.

Load Exchange Swatches

In the next CS2 application, select Load Swatches from the Swatches palette flyout menu. Set the Files of Type dropdown to “Swatch Exchange (*.ASE),” and navigate to the location of the file you just created. Click Load. Finis.


Swatch Exchange was built to easily copy most, not all color swatches from one application to another. What doesn’t it do? Patterns and gradients are most obviously missing. So are HSB, XYZ, duotone, monitorRGB, opacity, total ink, and webRGB swatches (from Photoshop). Colors referenced from within InDesign book files, as well as the Registration color from InDesign and Illustrator, are also omitted. All of these swatches will be simply ignored upon export to Swatch Exchange format.
It would be nice to have support for gradients, HSB, duotone, book files, and a few others, but the Swatch Exchange format is still a very cool and useful, albeit quiet, feature. I’m certain that, by reducing just my reliance on sticky notes, the Swatch Exchange format has saved several trees. Here’s to you saving a few as well.