Indesign Colour Theme Tool

Posted by: Madeline Lack

This new tool, introduced in Indesign version CC 2014 is located directly above the Hand tool, allows the user to create a limited palette of colours to assist in providing design consistency within a document or series of documents. First select the Color Theme tool and either click on an imported image, like a photograph, or click and drag over a few images or objects on the page. Indesign then compiles the most common colours from the images sampled and displays them into the floating Color Theme panel which appears simultaneously.

You can then click the Add This Theme to Swatches button thus creating a new colour group made up of five new swatches. If you press Q on your keyboard while dragging with the Color Theme tool, InDesign automatically creates the group of swatches. To see the other theme options generated from this original colour, for example Colourful, Bright, Deep and Muted, click on the flyout menu on the panel. If any of these colours are not required, press the Escape key and select a new range, or press the Alt key to temporarily switch to the Pick mode.


A single precise colour can be selected by pressing Shift and clicking on the base colour. These colour themes are created based on Adobe Colour rules of Analogous, Monochromatic, Triad, Complementary, Compound, Shades.

Note that the colours may be defined within the RGB (Red, Green, Blue) colour mode. This is determined by the document’s original setup. For example, if the document was created as a Digital Publishing document, the colours will be defined as RGB by default. If the intent was Print, Indesign assumes they will be printed using the offset colour plate mode of CMYK (Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, Black). To change the colour mode of the palette simply double-click on the Color Theme tool to select the colour space from the Color Theme Options dialog box. The Colour Mood can be adjusted, for example to Muted. Enroll in any Indesign training course in your place to learn more.

The user can then add these colors to the Swatches panel for use within the layout. They can also be saved to the user’s Adobe Creative Cloud Libraries. Within Indesign, go to Window > Color > Adobe Color Themes to access your Creative Cloud Color account. This was formerly the Kuler panel, now called Adobe Color CC. You can also manipulate the color wheel as well as adjust the Color Rule on the left to different settings, like Monochromatic or Complementary. The new theme will be saved in Adobe Color rather than on your computer, which is then accessible directly from within InDesign.


To apply these colours select one from the palette and hover the mouse over an item on your page. The eyedropper icon will show as half-full; simply click to change the item’s fill or stroke colour. Similary, to change text colour hover the mouse over some text, whereupon the eyedropper icon changes to a text icon. Click to apply.

To access the themes in future documents go to the Window drop-down menu, choose Adobe then Adobe Color Themes to open the Color Themes panel which consists of three windows: Create, Explore and My Themes. Explore is a library of pre-loaded Color Themes from Adobe.

To add your themes to the Swatches panel for the current document go to My Themes > Actions > Add to Swatches Panel, where they will appear in a separate new folder.

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