When saving a file for print I check in Bridge to ensure the correct swatches are present:

Document Swatches

However to get to that point, I cleared out the Swatch panel. Otherwise I might get something more like this:

Document Swatches Extra

which was generated as part of the following panel, where some of those swatches aren't even in use:

Document Swatches in Illustrator

Should I even be worrying about Document Swatches as long as the plates are correct? If so, which is the best practice:

  1. Remove all but the required Spots?
  2. Remove all unused?

3 Answers 3


Clearing out unneeded swatches, brushes, symbols, layer styles, unused fonts, orphan vertices and paths, etc. certainly helps in reducing the likelihood of such an extraneous element causing issues somewhere in production. As an added bonus, it also helps reduce the file size.

But as most of my printers prefer a PDF workflow, I generally don't worry about it. So far, I've not had any issues.


For most of my work I deal with screen printing prepress. In the end, it's all the same to me. Regardless of how clean the swatch panel might look, my workflow will remain unchanged. In fact, I'm pretty much going to ignore the provided swatch panel and create my own. So to answer your best practice question: I don't care what you do. It's not that I enjoy duplicating work that's already been done, it's that I don't trust other designers!

I see artwork from all ranges of expertise, anything from a hand-sketched logo pasted into a Word document to corporate artwork with the accompanying branding guide. It's a sigh of relief when I'm given well organized artwork that is easy for me to work with, but I will never assume that it's flawless. I'm still going to double check that there isn't a fifth spot color hiding in the artwork if they're asking for a four color print.

Despite that, your efforts are not done in vain. When I do come across an issue with the artwork, that's potentially adds more communication back and forth about pointing out the issue and suggesting how it should be solved. Adding this step to your workflow can help eliminate oversights.

Seeing well-crafted artwork also builds respect, and that can certainly go a long way when it comes to establishing a good relationship with your printer.


With PDF export/save... it makes no different. The PDF will inherently only include used colors. Spot colors aren't included unless they actually used in the file.

For Illustrator files, clearing out unused swatches will reduce file size (kb), but other than making things look neater. That's about it.

I never worry about swatches unless I'm providing someone else with native files. In that case, I just clear out the unused swatches to make things appear nicer -- similar to actually naming all layers.

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