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Tip of the Week: Swatches Panel Makeover

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Now that we’re two weeks into 2016, it’s safe to say that most of us have abandoned any New Year’s resolutions we made. But that doesn’t mean you can’t still make small changes to get things done faster/easier/better in InDesign. Here’s an idea: make 2016 the year you finally tidy up that Swatches panel. You know what I’m talking about. The one that looks like this:


One thing you can do to clean things up is to merge swatches that are very similar or may have been duplicated by mistake. First, deselect everything in the document. Then click the swatch you want to keep in the Swatches panel. Then Shift-click or Command/Ctrl-click to select the swatches you want to merge. Right-click on them and choose Merge Swatches (you can also choose this command from the panel menu).


That’s it. There is no dialog box or warning, the swatch you select first will replace the other swatches wherever they were used.


Other things you can do to give your Swatches panel a makeover:

  • Choose Select All Unused from the panel menu and delete unnecessary swatches
  • Use Justin Putney’s Sort Swatches script to arrange your swatches by name
  • Create color groups for swatches that share a common theme or purpose
  • Use a consistent naming convention for all your swatches
Mike Rankin

Mike Rankin

Editor in Chief of, InDesign Magazine, and Author of courses on InDesign and Illustrator. Husband. Dad. Dog walker.
Mike Rankin

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12 Comments on “Tip of the Week: Swatches Panel Makeover

  1. Actually this is not completely true: “the topmost swatch will replace the other swatches wherever they were used.”
    If you select a swatch. And then cmd-click on the other swatches you want to merge. And then choose “Merge Swatches”. The first selected swatch is the one to remain.

  2. I also like to move the most common elements — usually Brand colours — near the top, but above those I put Black and any shades of grey that I use frequently. Keep the panel tidy “above the fold” goes a long way, even if it’s still messy below. Before exporting for a printer (or another poor soul) I always remove extraneous swatches and try to re-assign any rogue formulae that snuck in there.

  3. The “Sort Swatches Script” mentioned above to sort the order of the colors by Name is a great tip! How on Earth did inDesign not include something as simple as that is ridiculous. I did see somewhere where it explains to choose “sort by Name” within inDesign but for the life of me cant see where or how thats supposed to be at. I thought it only perhaps applied to the CC version, though not sure. At any rate, that script works great, now I can see all my colors alphabetically! Thank you for the great tip! TIP: the installation is a bit confusing since the directions are not very clear: 1) download script 2) open script with Adobe Extensions Manager to install into Indesign 3) then run the script within InDesign by going to window >> utilities >> scripts >> then select “sort swatches.jsx” located in the “Ajar Productions” folder. When you select it, then the script will do its thing and re-arrange all the colors on the fly. If you have lots of colors in the panel it may take a few seconds for it to run.

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