How to Install Color Swatches in Illustrator

When finding new color swatches for Adobe Illustrator, you want to use them right away in your design and often enough even save them permanently to Illustrator for future use. There are several ways to load or open swatches and in this small tutorial we’ll explore the different ways to install and use custom color swatches.

Open a Swatch Library by double-clicking the .ai file

Double click the .ai file and expand the swatches panel to see the color palettes

First, locate the swatches palette file. Adobe Illustrator swatches have an .ai extension, which is the most common Illustrator extension.

You can easily open the file by double-clicking it. A new blank artboard gets opened within Illustrator and this can be a bit confusing, but when we have a look at the Swatches Panel (Window > Swatches), you’ll notice that the color swatches are replaced by the new set of swatches.

It is important to know that as soon as you close the file the swatches will be gone, they won’t be saved. Plus, you won’t even have the default colors in your swatches panel anymore.

Save a Swatch Library

In order to save them you have to add them to your user defined library. To do so, go to the Swatches Panel, click on the bookshelf icon on the bottom left (Swatches Libraries Menu) and select “Save Swatches”. Then save them in the folder “User Defined”.

Click the bookshelf icon menu to save Swatch Library

Alternatively you can also hit the burger menu and save them the same way:

Click the burger menu to save Swatch Library

Load swatches into a new document

To load them into a new document, create a document of your choice, then click the bookshelf icon (Swatches Libraries Menu) in the swatches panel and open up the swatches library under “User Defined”.

Alternatively you can also load them via the burger menu of the Swatches Panel.

Load Swatches

Instead of double-clicking the .ai file, you can load the swatches via the Swatches Panel. Go to the burger menu, select Open Swatch Library>Other Library and locate the folder where you saved the swatches. Then you can use them in your designs or save them to your user defined folder.

Click the burger menu of the swatches panel and select “Open Swatch Library>Other Library”
Once the swatch library has been selected the new swatch library panel will show up

Loading ASE files (Adobe Swatch Exchange)

Files with the ending .ase are Adobe Swatch Exchange files which can be loaded into Photoshop and Indesign and Illustrator. You cannot open a file with the extension .ase by simply double-clicking it, but you can load the file the same way as mentioned above via the menu.

Click the burger menu of the swatches panel and select “Open Swatch Library>Other Library”
Select the swatch library with the ending .ase

Making Swatch Libraries Persistent

If you are working with a particular swatch palette often and don’t want to open it each and every time, you can make it persistent then next time you open Illustrator it will be pre-loaded. To do this, open the swatches library and then click on the burger menu top right and from the drop down select Persistent. The next time you open up Illustrator it will now open up the swatches library as well.

Saving Swatches in Your Creative Cloud Libraries

This options allows you to have access to your color swatches from any device you are signed in to with your Adobe Creative Cloud account. Plus you can access your colors in any Adobe program that uses the Libraries Panel like Photoshop, InDesign or even After Effects and you can share your palettes for collaboration.

To save your colors to the Creative Cloud Library, select your swatch group and click on the Add Selected Swatches and Color Groups to My Current Library button. Unfortunately, you can’t have more than five colors in a library group, so if you have more than five colors just make another group and split your colors up between them.

And that’s it. Creating your own swatch libraries, saving them and exporting them, let’s you easily work with favorite colors in your future designs. Plus there are lots of awesome free swatch libraries out there to get inspired by so load them up, save them and create away!

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Simona Pfreundner has been teaching Adobe Creative Suite since 2008 through written tutorials, instructional video courses and classroom teaching. With 15 years experience in the graphic design field as an agency, in-house and freelance designer, her love for art and drawing has enabled her develop an approachable and intuitive style of teaching that helps people learn graphic design software in a fun and easy way.

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