Inspiration Stream, now with downloadable ASE file

02 May 2012

Time to talk about color inspiration today. Each image in my Inspiration Stream contains a color that is handpicked. No ingenious automation process in action here, as I want to have full control over this. I even try to choose my colors so I end up with an interesting palette at the top of each page. Even though, each time I add a new image to the gallery, the colors move one position per page as the images move one position as well. Still, I try to watch that the neighboring colors are in harmony.

That said, it has always been my intention to create some sort of non-stop color palette, or a color palette per page. You could already copy the hex color value, but now it goes one step further thanks to the help of Ben Bodien, who implemented a script and some PHP magic so that you can now download an ASE file.

What is an ASE file?

An ASE file is an exchangeable Swatches palette. It contains a group of colors saved into one file that you can use in different Adobe programs. Saving your colors in Illustrator, Photoshop or InDesign as an ASE file, makes it possible to use them in one of these applications. So the colors of an ASE file are exchangeable among these programs. Photoshop has also its own ACO color palette file, but such file can only be loaded into a Photoshop Swatches palette, and not in an Illustrator or InDesign Swatches palette. In Illustrator the swatches can be saved as an AI file and only to be used in Illustrator. This is useful in case your swatches also contain gradient or pattern swatches, as these type of swatches can't be saved as ASE files.

Download the ASE file

At the top of each gallery page, you'll now see a download link to the right of the colors. Clicking the link will download an ASE file to your HD. Now it's just a matter of loading this color palette file into Photoshop, Illustrator or InDesign.

Load the ASE file

To load this color palette into one of these applications, you need to access the drop down menu of the Swatches palette, which can be found under the arrow button on the right of the palette. If the palette isn't visible on your screen you go to Window > Swatches. For InDesign you go to Window > Color > Swatches. If you are using Photoshop, you can either choose between Load Swatches or Replace Swatches. Load Swatches will add the swatches to the current ones, while Replace Swatches will replace all the currently loaded swatches in the palette. After you've chosen one of the 2 options, you browse to the ASE file, select it, and you are all set.

Loading an ASE file into Photoshop CS6

In Illustrator, you choose Other Swatches Library > Other Library…, browse to the ASE file, select it and you are done. In InDesign it's also the same method. You choose Load Swatches… from the Swatches palette drop down menu, browse to the ASE file and select it.

Save your own ASE file

Of course you can also save your own ASE file for the project you are working on. I usually add the colors I frequently use in a project into the Swatches palette. Before I start to add any colors into the palette, I make sure there are no colors in the palette. However this is with the exception of InDesign, because there you just select the swatches you want to save. In case of Photoshop or Illustrator, I always make sure I start with an empty palette. To clean out the palette in Photoshop, you need to hold down the Alt/Option key and click on the swatches one by one. At least this is the only way I'm aware of, besides dragging them one by one to the trash icon at the bottom of the palette. In Illustrator and InDesign you can select multiple swatches at once holding down the Shift key, and then click the trash icon button at the bottom of the palette. However, in Indesign and Illustrator there are swatches that can't be removed. In Illustrator there is the None and Registration swatch, and in InDesign you also have Black and Paper which can't be removed, but like I mentioned before no need to do this here as you just select the colors you want to save.

Once you have emptied the Swatches panel and added your own, you go to Save Swatches for Exchange… from the palette's drop down menu in Photoshop. In Illustrator you choose Save Swatch Library as ASE… from the drop down menu. In Photoshop the colors will be loaded into the Swatches palette. However, in Illustrator the swatches will be there in a separate Swatches palette. From there you can just select them and drag them into the main Swatches palette of your document if you like.

Did you know…

Select and drag color swatches into the main Swatches palette in Illustrator CS6

In Illustrator you can also import swatches from any other Illustrator file by just accessing that file via the Swatches palette's drop down menu. By going to Other Swatches Library > Other Library… and selecting the file, Illustrator will open the Swatches palette of that file. The custom swatches you've saved in the Swatches palette for that file will be available in a separate palette. From there you can just select the swatches you want to use and drag them into the main Swatches palette if you want.

Hopefully you'll find this new addition to the Inspiration Stream helpful in your search for the perfect color palette.


  1. 1 Marilyn McClure 02 May 2012

    I didn’t know importing swatches is available… Thanks, such a great help.

  2. 2 Rafael Buse 02 May 2012

    Awesome feature!