I'm going crazy over this one. I have been trying to locate color swatches being used in a Illustrator CC file. Through this process of elimination I have tried multiple search and locate options. However, the swatches still appear in my Swatches Panel when I choose the option for Add Used Colors.

  1. Convert the color swatches over to Spot and using the Separations Preview. Here I can turn on and off the color to locate where the color is being used.
  2. Create a simple shape with the fill and stroke using this swatch. Then using the Select -> Same -> Fill Color -or- Select -> Same -> Stroke Color.

Through this process I have located the colors, which are builds of Black in CMYK, and converted them to the color standard of a Rich CMYK Black that I need. But now there is no indicator that shows me where these "Hidden" colors are being used. Anyone have other tricks that might help me locate these colors?

Here is a Screenshot of my swatches and the CMYK value colors are the ones that i cannot find being used in any shape or font.
enter image description here

Thanks in advance.

  • Hidden colors? What "hidden" colors?
    – Scott
    Commented Nov 22, 2014 at 17:32
  • Swatch panel indicates that I have multiple builds of Black. however there is nothing that I can find in my document that has these colors being used. So therefore I have called them "Hidden Colors" Commented Nov 22, 2014 at 17:40

4 Answers 4


With no art selected, you can highlight a swatch and use Select > Same > Fill & Stroke to find what objects used that swatch.

You can also use Select All Unused from the Swatch Panel Menu which will highlight the unused swatches. Note this tends to leave behind an orange and a green due to their use in Symbols. Brushes, symbols etc which use a swatch count.

You can also use the default Action included with Illustrator titled Delete All Unused Items -- often you need to run this twice.

  • Thanks for a quick response. With what you have suggested I have tried before and just ran through these steps once again. With no avail these swatches are still appearing. It's strange I wonder if it is a similar bug that happens like you mentioned with the Orange and Green. This file is nothing complex. It is a menu layout that uses A Red and Yellow for a shape border. And the Text is using a Rich Black. I also used a Transform Move function that would move whatever was selected way off the Artboard. This way I could see the Object that has used the swatch in question. Commented Nov 22, 2014 at 17:57
  • I don't know how I could possibly assist any further without seeing the file itself.
    – Scott
    Commented Nov 22, 2014 at 19:43

This is the way I've done it. Select All then Edit>Recolor Artwork. There is a Folder Icon on the top right of the panel. This will create a Swatch Group of all the used Colors. Cancel this panel unless you would like to merge colors etc. Delete the other colors in the swatch.

Good Luck.

Edit: If you have 2 very similar blacks the Edit Colors panel will list them as one color. If you have "unused colors", above the list you will find Current Colors(X) which will differ from the number of rows listed. If you make the Swatch as previously mentioned it will only create the colors displayed in the list because it will merge similar blacks by default. After closing the panel clicking "Add Unused Colors" will add all the colors which should be the same amount as Current Colors(x). This Conversion can be turned off in Preferences>Appearance of Black and choose "Display All Blacks Accurately".

  • This is a good way of locating the colors and converting them over to what I would need. I set up a User Defined Color Swatch Library for the 3 colors I needed. And was able to merge the random colors into a 3 color Recolor Artwork output. This is great, However, I'm still confused when I select Swatches -> Add Used Colors there still appears to be colors added in addition to the 3 colors. ::Mind Blown:: Thanks @Andy Stone, for your time and input. Commented Nov 22, 2014 at 21:23

If there are some colours you cannot find and delete it could be that the layer it's used on is locked, or the object is locked. Make sure you have all layers/objects unlocked before searching, otherwise the colours on those layers/objects will not be able to be changed or deleted


I was having the same problem and going insane until I finally figure out where the color was being used. I checked in the layers pallet and went line by line, and checked if any element had a effect applied to it's appearance (even an effect that was not showing, just listed), and I found the color being used as a drop shadow.

So, your color IS there, somewhere. You just have to find it.

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