How to Check What Colors Are Being Used in Illustrator

By Elizabeth Mott

Adobe Illustrator's powerful support for color modes and models includes the ability to choose and store swatches that represent the colors you've considered or used in any Illustrator document. You can enter colors by mathematical formula in RGB, CMYK, HSB, Web-safe or Grayscale color pickers or choose from prefabricated libraries of hues formulated for print or screen. The same user interface that helps you choose and create colors also gives you at-a-glance confirmation of which colors your graphics and text actually use.

Step 1

Choose "Open" from the File menu, and navigate to the location of the Adobe Illustrator document whose colors you want to evaluate. Double-click on the name of the file to open it or click once on it to select it, and click on the "Open" button.

Step 2

Open the Swatches panel by choosing "Swatches" from the Window menu if it's not already visible on your screen. When the panel opens, click on the "Show Swatch Kinds" button at the bottom of the panel, and select "Show All Swatches." The panel displays the color, gradient and pattern swatches defined in your document, along with any color groups.

Step 3

Identify any colors and other swatch elements that you've added but haven't used, used but have replaced, or that became part of your document by default rather than design. Choose "Select All Unused" from the fly-out menu at the top right corner of the Swatches Panel. Adobe Illustrator highlights the relevant swatches -- if any exist -- by drawing an inner border around them. Click on the "Delete Swatch" button at the bottom of the Swatches panel to delete the unused swatches.

Step 4

Hold your pointing-device cursor over any swatch to display a tool tip that shows the name of the swatch. Double-click on each swatch one at a time to examine its Swatch Options in the dialog box of the same name.

Step 5

Choose "Save Swatch Library" from the fly-out menu at the top right corner of the Swatches panel to create a library file that includes all the swatches used in your document. Share this library with colleagues who need to create Adobe Illustrator documents that apply these same colors or use the library in other files of your own.

Step 6

Choose "Save Swatches for Exchange" to create a color library you can share among other Adobe Creative Suite applications, including Photoshop and InDesign. Like Illustrator's Swatch Libraries, these collections foster collaboration with others and simplify your own work. Unlike regular Swatch Libraries, exchange libraries only can include process- and spot-color swatches.

Tips & Warnings

  • Establish Adobe Illustrator color groups that keep your spot and your process colors apart from one another, or your Web choices separate from your print colors.
  • Use consistent color among related documents to present and preserve identity in your materials.
  • Choose spot and process colors from predefined libraries whenever possible so you can review them in color reference guides and verify that your choices look the way you expect. This consideration increases in importance with spot colors, especially metallic inks, because their onscreen representation only approximates their printed appearance.