Step-by-step tutorial on creating swatches in Adobe Illustrator

If you’re anything like me, you find swatches in Adobe Illustrator mind-boggling and darn right annoying. Hopefully I can demystify creating swatches in this step-by-step tutorial. In this tutorial, I am using my own RHA swatches for example purposes.

Before beginning the tutorial, what exactly are swatches? Swatches are named colours, tints, gradients and patterns found in some Adobe applications. They can appear individually or in groups. Swatches are mainly used to create a library of cohesive brand colours. You can open libraries of swatches from other Adobe Illustrator documents.

While you can open Adobe’s default swatch libraries, in this tutorial we will create our own swatch library.

How to create swatches in Adobe Illustrator

  1. Create a new artboard in Adobe Illustrator. I used the following settings: 1920px x 1080px, RGB and web.
  2. Using the Rectangle Tool, create as many squares as you need and fill them with your desired brand colours. To choose the right colours, you may need to consult a brand designer or use the Color Guide tool (Windows > Color Guide) for inspiration.
Example of swatches from my own brand
  1. To easily collect all swatches used in your document, click Swatches > Add Used Colors from the burger menu. To clean up your Swatches panel, click Select All Unused followed by the bin icon. You should now only see the swatches from your document in the Swatches panel.
swatches in adobe illustrator
Swatches > Add Used Colors function
  1. Save your file in a memorable location. People tend to save custom swatch libraries as an .ASE file, but this is not necessary.
  2. Create a new document. To open your new swatch library, click Window > Swatches > Open Swatch Library > Other Library and select your new AI file. You should see your custom swatch library in its own panel now.
  3. You can now drag swatches from your custom swatch library into the main Swatches panel.
  4. To ensure that your custom swatch library appears in every new document created, click Persistent from the burger menu.
Persistent option


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: