Why, after a Live Trace, when you Output to Swatches, do you always end up with a bunch of Unused Swatches? What are their purpose, assuming they have one? I see a lot articles explaining how to delete them, but nothing on why they're there to begin with.

  • Are you certain they are unused? Or that they aren't part of the file before the trace?
    – Scott
    May 13, 2013 at 20:22
  • Well, they don't do anything to the image if I edit them, and if I use the Select Unused Swatches command, they are selected. This is from a Live Trace, so they couldn't belong to the original file, (since it's not an Illustrator file, right?). They often seem to be identical in color to the "real" swatches.
    – sudon't
    May 13, 2013 at 20:25
  • I can't replicate the issue with Illustrator v15.1.1. Note: Live Trace was replaced entirely with Image Trace in CS6 - same function completely rewritten.
    – Scott
    May 13, 2013 at 20:31
  • That's interesting. Maybe they fixed that? Is the Delete Unused Swatches command still there?
    – sudon't
    May 14, 2013 at 1:54
  • Yes. THere's merely no output to swatches in CS6.
    – Scott
    May 14, 2013 at 2:03

1 Answer 1


live trace adds the swatches sampled from the original image you are tracing. for example if you have set it to 6 colour trace, it will add six colours to your swatch palette. it doesn't matter if they are used or unused, you can delete them from your swatch palette and it will not affect the trace.

  • That's just the thing - it adds way more than six. Or whatever the number of colors are. And they appear to be doubles, or even triples of the "used" swatches. I learned pretty quickly that it's no problem to select and delete them. After all, there is a command just for that. Clearly Adobe saw a need for the command, so I wonder why these swatches are generated in the first place?
    – sudon't
    May 14, 2013 at 1:52
  • there's a ton of things i wonder about in illustrator :) May 14, 2013 at 8:45
  • Yeah, me too, but I'm really just learning it. So, just now I did a six-color trace, and ended up with thirteen swatches. I wonder if maybe it happens because I changed the Tracing Options a couple of times before hitting Trace? That's the only thing I can think of if this isn't "normal" behavior.
    – sudon't
    May 14, 2013 at 21:30
  • Ok, what happens is everytime you adjust Live Trace options, and Preview your changes, if you have Output to Swatches selected, it'll add swatches. If Output to Swatches is left unchecked until you're ready to Trace, you'll end up with the normal amount of swatches.
    – sudon't
    Jun 1, 2013 at 19:44

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