Working with Adobe Swatch Exchange Files

by Brittanie in General / 09.15.08

This article explains how to use .ASE files. It will teach the following:

-How to create a color swatch group within a Photoshop or Illustrator project
-How to save and export a color palette from .psd or .ai
-How to download .ASE files from Kuler and import into .psd or .ai

Color swatches become very useful and important to illustrators who are extremely organized and want to have palettes on hand when the moment calls for them. Palettes can also be shared amongst designers on sites such as This process can be a little confusing at first so in this blog I hope to address some of the issues I had when I first started importing and exporting .ase files.

Creating an Adobe Swatch Exchange File

1. Open Adobe Illustrator and create a new project

2. Create 5 shapes with 5 different colors on the canvas

3. Click the hamburger drop down menu in your swatches palette

4. Create a new color group and name it appropriately

5. Click on the group in your swatch palette

6. Select one of the shapes you just created and with the hamburger menu open select “new swatch”. This will place a new color swatch in your new color group.

7. Continue the last step for all 5 shapes

8. Once you have all 5 swatches sampled and placed within the color group, select the color group and in the drop down hamburger menu select “save swatch library as ASE”

Now you can upload your file to and share it with the rest of the color community!

Importing an Adobe Swatch Exchange file can also be tricky. Kuler and many other sites use this file to share colors from one illustrator to another.

Importing an Adobe Swatch Exchange File

1. Download, rename and save the ASE file you want to import into an adobe program

2. Open either Photoshop or Illustrator.

3. To open the ASE file you can either drag it over the program icon on your desktop or dock (Mac) or within the program, go to your swatch’s hamburger menu and select “Open Swatch Library” and then “Other Library…”

4. Direct your finder to the folder containing the ASE that you just downloaded.

5. In your swatch palette you will see the ASE that you just opened and separated from your swatches as another tab.

Congratulations! You can now share and download Adobe Swatch Exchange files like a professional illustrator!

Please leave feedback and let me know if you would like to see more blogs like these on MindBites.

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  1. ChrisR, December 16, 2008:

    But how do you create a swatch palette from within PS? Unlike in AI, you can’t click on the color swatches you want to save as ase.

  2. Brittanie, December 16, 2008:

    RE: “But how do you create a swatch palette from within PS?”

    Hi there, ChrisR!

    Great question! It sounds like we could learn a lot from each other. I’m a Photoshop expert but limited in my knowledge on Illustrator.

    1. First, in PS, I make swatches by opening the Swatch folder under WINDOW > SWATCHES.

    2. Then I delete all of the swatches that are available by clicking on each individual swatch and dragging it over the trashcan.

    3. Now I create new swatches by selecting a color and dropping it in the swatch bin.

    4. Once I have all the colors I want in my swatch ASE file I go to the hamburger menu again and select SAVE SWATCHES FOR EXCHANGE. This will create an Adobe Swatch Exchange file (.ASE) that you can use elsewhere in your projects or interchangeably within Adobe programs.

    Let me know if you would like a visual and I can create snapshots of my workflow.



  3. susan unger, June 19, 2009:

    I created a swatch library in Illustrator CS4, and saved it as an ASE so that I can create several new documents using the same swatch library. Along the way, I want to add a few new colors. When I open the library in Illustrator, I see a symbol of a pencil with a red diagonal line through it, and I’m unable to add new swatches. How do I edit the library?


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