How to make Illustrator default to CMYK. My color box says CMYK, but my swatches still default to RGB please help.

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Illustrator "defaults" to what an existing file is set to, or whatever you tell illustrator to use. There's no way to tell Illustrator to always use a particular color mode.

Open new files as CMYK:

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Illustrator uses whatever color mode you chose when opening a new file.

If you are opening existing files, you'll need to change the document color mode via File > Document Color Mode: SEE HERE

You should also be aware of issues with merely switching document color modes: See here

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