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This article is from April 17, 2012, and is no longer current.

How to See the Hexadecimal Value for a Given Color or Swatch


[Editor’s note: The ability to see, edit, and create colors based on hex values was added in a later version of InDesign. See this article.]

There are plenty of workflows these days that result in content created in InDesign ending up on the internet so it would be nice if InDesign allowed you to create Swatches by setting hexadecimal values, but it doesn’t. However, there is one location within InDesign that does show you the hexadecimal values for a color or Swatch:  the Character Style (or Paragraph Style) Options>Export Tagging dialog.

To see this:
1. Create a new Character Style
2. Go to the Character Color panel and set the Fill Color to the desired Swatch
3. Now go to the Export Tagging panel (available in CS5.5 or later) — you will see the Fill color expressed in all it’s hexadecimal glory!

Behold, the hexadecimal value for your swatch!

You can do the same thing with a Paragraph Style but you since more info appears in the Export Details field you will need to scroll down a little to see it.

Now, this only lets you read the hexadecimal values for the color, there is still no way to create or edit a Swatch by setting hexadecimal values, for that you need would need something like the nifty free add-in from in-tools, CreateHexSwatch.

  • Whoa I never noticed that! Very cool! Many that would’ve made a good Quizzler for the podcast though … :D

  • LOL, I thought the same when reading the post: it would make a nice Quizzler.

  • Eugene Tyson says:

    The way I get the Hex colour is with the Kuler Panel – by selecting the text or object then clicking the “Add CurrentFill as Base” and then it shows the Hex colour.

  • Ashley Mitchell says:

    Hmm, Kuler does do a nice job of showing the hex value but, call me a snob, I just can’t use Kuler because of the name. Not only does it start with a K instead of a C, which puts it into the same category as “Kwik-E-Mart” for me, but whenever I see the name I can’t help but hear it spoken in a 1980’s Valley Girl accent? “Like, dude, have you seen Kuler? It’s, like, so kule. It’s super rad.” But I digress. Kuler actually is an easier way to see the hex value within InDesign.

    However, I noticed Kuler converts your Swatch to RGB before showing the hex value (which seems to make sense for a lot of reasons) but InDesign’s Export Tagging panel converts the Swatch directly to hex without first going through RGB.

    For example, a red color that is spec’d in InDesign as C= 15, M = 100, Y = 100, K = 0 will display the hex value D90000, but if you first convert it to RGB in InDesign (R = 210 G = 35 B = 42) it will appear as hex value D2232A.

    So… what to make of this? Do folks out there think that this is a good thing or a bad thing? Do you think that InDesign should convert directly to hex or should it convert to RGB first and then to hex? What are the downstream ramifications for this when exporting your ID content to epub or html?

  • Eugene Tyson says:

    Isn’t “Kuler” the French or Mauritian word for “colour”?

  • Greg Mouning says:

    FYI, a related post worthy of mention is:

    Create Hexadecimal Color Swatches in InDesign for Interactive Documents

  • Jongware says:

    Ashley, the difference does not lie in “converting straight to hex”. “Hex” is merely a notation; the numbers themselves don’t change.

    I can’t tell from your mail what value gets displayed when, but I suspect one value goes through Color Management and the other does not.

  • Whenever I see the name Kuler I think of Dieter and the
    Schprokets (Mike Meyers/SNL): “Ze Kuler panel makes me happy like a leetle girl” …

  • @Greg: Thanks for that link! Excellent reminder.

  • James Smart says:

    Jesus tap dancing christ, this is the best news Ive had since I built my adult bunkbed.

  • AshleyMitchell says:

    Jongware- By “converting straight to hex” I was getting at the point that regardless of whether the color is defined as RBG or CMYK in InDesign, Kuler will put up the same hex value. However, when you have the color defined as CMYK, InDesign’s Export Tagging dialog will give one number and if the color is defined as RGB it will give another hex number (the number that Kuler always shows).

    So if you are using InDesign to output html or epub content and you are relying on it to spec the hex colors for you, you may want to keep an eye on how your colors are defined since their hex values may vary slightly depending on whether they are RBG or CMYK.

  • Liza says:

    But this doesn’t work in InDesign 6. The Export Details only show info on Tag and Class. Not an ounce of information on the hex value :-/

  • Deepak Gupta says:

    Hex Color value feature is now available in InDesign CC 2014 Oct release.

    Read following links for detailed description release.php


  • Deepak Gupta says:

    Posting the above URL again


  • Steve Hill says:

    Right click on swatch then click swatch options. hex value is there.

    • David Blatner says:

      Steve, yes, that works for any color swatch with an RGB color. (This blog post was originally written in 2012 when that feature was not available.)

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