Color Editing in Adobe CS5 Illustrator - dummies

By Jennifer Smith, Christopher Smith, Fred Gerantabee

In Adobe Creative Suite 5 (Adobe CS5) Illustrator you edit colors in the Swatches panel by using the Swatch Options dialog box. This dialog is accessed by double-clicking the color or choosing Swatch Options from the Swatches panel menu.

Edit a color swatch in the Swatch Options dialog box.
Edit a color swatch in the Swatch Options dialog box.

Use the Swatch Options dialog box to

  • Change color values: Change the values in a color by using the sliders or typing values in the color text fields. Being able to enter exact color values is especially helpful if you’re given a color build to match. Select the Preview check box to see results as you make the changes.

  • Use global colors: If you plan to use a color frequently, select the Global check box. If it’s selected and you use the swatch throughout the artwork, you have to change the swatch options only one time and then all instances of that color are updated.

One important option to note in the Swatch Options dialog box is the Color Type drop-down list. You have two choices: spot color and process color. What’s the difference?

  • Spot color: A color that isn’t broken down into the CMYK values. Spot colors are used for 1 or 2 color print runs or when precise color matching is important.

  • Process color: A color that’s built from four colors (cyan, magenta, yellow, and black); used for multicolor jobs.

Suppose that you’re printing 20,000 catalogs and decide to run only 2 colors: red and black. If you pick spot colors, the catalogs have to be run through the press only two times: once for black and once for red.

However if a process color were used, it would be created from a combination of cyan, magenta, yellow, and black inks, and the catalogs would need to be run through the press four times in order to build that color.

If you went to a print service and asked for red, what color would you get — fire engine red, maroon, or a light and delicate pinkish red? But if the red you pick is PMS 485, your printer in Kutztown, Pennsylvania, can then print the same color of red on your brochure as the printer making your business cards in Woburn, Massachusetts.

You would use process colors to send an ad to a 4-color magazine. Its printers certainly want to use the same inks they’re already running, and using a spot color would require another run through the presses in addition to the runs for the cyan, magenta, yellow, and black plates. In this case, you convert to process colors any spot colors created in corporate logos or similar projects.

Choose the Spot Colors option from the Swatches panel menu to choose whether you want spot colors changed to Lab or CMYK values:

  • Choose Lab to produce the best possible CMYK conversion for the actual spot color when using a color-calibrated workflow.

  • Choose CMYK (the default) to see the manufacturer’s standard recommended conversion of spot colors to process. Results can vary depending on printing conditions.