I am using CS4 and I am trying to keep my own palette of colours, organised in groups, for my projects.

I am a bit annoyed by the way I use it and I am wondering what the best way is. Ideally, I would like to have a file containing all my colours, modifiable, stored in a neutral directory that can be automatically read at start time by Illustrator and Photoshop. My actual problems now:

  • I can save colours from the AI Swatch, but if I do not save it in a default directory, it seems they cannot be opened at start time, even when they are Permanent.
  • I cannot add new colours as I want in an existing library. I have to delete all Swatches, import my library into the Swatches, add the new colours, and save the file again. This is very annoying. Dragging and dropping new colours on an existing library has no effect.

How can I efficiently store and share all my colours?

My other idea was creating a regular .ai file with coloured boxes, so I can open it anytime I need colour. It is not ideal, but it seems that I will always be able to use it, store it where I like and add new colours easily. If this is a possible solution:

Is there a way to automatically dump my colour palette to objects without having to manually go one by one assigning colours?

(Note: There might be new CC features that address colour management, but I am not a CC user)

1 Answer 1


How can I efficiently store and share all my colours?

You can edit the startup files.

You will need to dig into the application files, backup the startup files, edit copies, then replace the startup files and relaunch the application.

By placing all your swatches in the startup files, they will be present with any new document, just like the default swatches. You can alter anything in teh start up files, add swatches, brushes, styles, change the default stroke weight or fill, etc.

This is for CS3, but CS4 isn't much different. --> Edit Start Up files in Illustrator CS3 (Adobe Help)

Note that from CS6 forward, the location of startup files and the sheer number of startup files has changed. See here for CS6 or newer.

Is there a way to automatically dump my colour palette to objects without having to manually go one by one assigning colours?

Not with CS4. You'll need CS6 or greater to perform such a task easily.

  • It is not the ideal solution but it might work. So I create a new document and set all the swatches, brushes, etc I want. Then I saved the .ai in the New Document Profiles folder. When I start AI, I can select this profile in the File - New. If I want to make a modification, it's still troublesome because I might need to open the .ai file and make the amendments there. Otherwise, if I save in the middle of a work, I will drag all changes to the profile. Not ideal but better than my current situation. It cannot be shared with Photoshop, though, I think. Commented May 9, 2019 at 19:06
  • Swatches have to be saved as .ase files to share them with Photoshop. And the purpose of startup files is that they do not change frequently. If you are constantly changing things, you can load any illustrator file in the swatches panel. Merely "load swatches" and then choose the last file you worked on. There isn't a simple, easy, solution if you are constantly altering things.
    – Scott
    Commented May 9, 2019 at 19:10
  • What you seem to be seeking is more along the lines of Adobe's CC cloud "Libraries" functions, where a library is stored on Adobe's server, can easily be updated and is accessible from any document. I'm not one to tout the "latest and greatest" version ever, in fact I still use CS6 95% of the time, but CS4 won't even run on my systems and hasn't for a few years. If you stick with CS4, there are limitations unfortunately.
    – Scott
    Commented May 9, 2019 at 19:18
  • Yes, I agree. I think Adobe solved this problem in a later version, but I am not a fan of pay-monthly software. I think I will stick to your solution for a few weeks and see how it goes. I don't need changes constantly, but from time to time I find a new colour schema I like and then I want to add it in my swatches, for example. Thanks for your help and suggestions Commented May 9, 2019 at 19:31
  • I agree the subscription model is absolutely horrid, which is why I try and use CS6 as much as possible. Even more so when factoring the "I can't open my copyrighted artwork unless I subscribe". I, much to my chagrin, have to subscribe in order to open client-provided files in many instances. It is a business write-off though.
    – Scott
    Commented May 9, 2019 at 19:35

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