Living colour

Hue represents the full gamut of rainbow colours from red through orange, yellow, green, blue and indigo to violet, so if you’re looking for a green it will be there on the slider. Once you’ve selected a hue, it’s easy to fine-tune it by darkening and lightening with the Brightness slider or changing its depth with the Saturation slider. In HSB, creating your desired emerald green takes no time at all. However, HSB is just a way of thinking about colour, which isn’t only a strength but a weakness, too, because there’s no such thing as an HSB monitor, printer or printing press. You’ll need eventually to get back to CMYK percentages.

Living colour

Recent versions of Illustrator give you the best of both worlds, because their CMYK view in the Colours panel includes an HSB-inspired (but RGB-based!) rainbow spectrum strip with hue running horizontally and saturation and brightness vertically. Disappointingly, these values are translated into fractional CMYK percentages, but you can quickly round them off by clicking in turn on the relevant sliders.

Swatch it!

Having created your CMYK colour, the next step is to apply it to your design. Selecting each object in turn and remixing your colour would be grossly inefficient, as well as almost certainly inaccurate, so you should store your new colour permanently, by dragging it onto Illustrator’s Swatches palette from where you can simply click on it to apply it to future objects. However, Illustrator makes rather a meal of this simple process, because to apply a swatch as an outline colour you must first switch between Fill and Stroke modes (shortcut toggle X) – confusing compared with CorelDRAW’s simple left-click for fill and right-click for outline.

Colour specification is rarely a one-off procedure, so once you’ve created a swatch you’ll want to edit it, which you can do by double-clicking and then fine-tuning the CMYK settings. Any changes you make need to be reflected in all the objects to which that swatch has already been applied, but disappointingly, that isn’t Illustrator’s default setting: to create an editable swatch that does update all existing artwork, the simplest solution is to the colour from the Color to the Swatches panel, creating a “spot colour” swatch indicated by a white triangle and spot in its corner. (If you’re producing separations, you might further need to select the Convert All Spot Colours to Process option in Illustrator’s Print dialog.) Alternatively, you can create updatable “global process” colours (indicated by a white triangle alone), but with no interactive shortcut provided you’ll have to use the New Swatch command and select the Global checkbox.

Illustrator’s Swatches panel is where you take full control of the colours used in your design, but this core role isn’t immediately obvious when you start because it won’t be empty, but filled with a default selection of CMYK colour swatches (plus a couple of patterns and gradients). These presets are handy enough when you’re first roughing out your design, but once you’ve chosen your own colours they just confuse things. To cut down the clutter, delete all the unwanted swatches, for which the Swatch palette’s “Select All Unused” command comes in very handy. Alternatively, to make sure that only colours used in your design are represented in the Swatches palette, delete all swatches (apart from Illustrator’s built-in None and Registration), then select your whole artwork and use the “Add Selected Colors” command.

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