Share Swatches Between CS2 Applications Without Recreating Them

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.

Pariah Burke

Author, consultant, trainer, guru: Digital Publishing, ePub, InDesign, Illustrator, Photoshop, Quark. Empowering, Informing, Connecting Creative Professionals™