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Fireworks MX 2004: Custom Color Palettes

Version: Fireworks MX 2004, MX, 4
Level: Easy (but very useful:-)
Objectives: To learn how to create your own custom Fireworks color palettes without being an expert on color
Tools & Techniques: Color swatches (Adding, replacing, loading, saving and exporting)
Posting Date: 02.02.2004

Graphic designers frequently face the challenge of coming up with new looks and designs. Often a client's established branding will drive the "look and feel" of a project, and in those cases, a lot of the up front work is already handled. But for custom projects, designers must come up with their own designs for the project.

Sometimes coming up with a color scheme is a little challenging and all that's needed is just a good starting point. This little technique has launched more color schemes for me and I'd like to share it with you.

We have a couple ways to go about creating custom color palettes in Fireworks and in this example we'll use the "Optimizing" technique. This method is based on sampling existing images or illustrations with a color scheme that you like.

Step 1: Optimizing the Image

  1. Find an image with the colors you like and import it into Fireworks. You can use the entire image or only a small area and crop out the part you don't like.
  2. Select the Preview tab to preview your image as you would if you were optimizing them
  3. Open the Optimize panel and set the to either: Gif, PNG 8, TIF 8, PIC 8 or BMP 8 in the Export file format menu. In this example, I chose PNG 8.

Fireworks will load the compression settings and the color palette is built.

Step 2: Preparing the Colors

Set the number of colors by adjusting the Maximum number of colors option. For very few colors, reduce the number to 16 or 32 colors. This all depends on how rich of a color palette you're looking for. I will typically set it to 256 colors.

Note: The only thing to be aware of is Fireworks fills up the palette with either all colors (256) or with the number of colors you selected (eg. 32 colors) and the remaining all black (256 - 32 = 224). Take a look at this example. You can either delete the extra black colors or leave them if you like.


Step 3: Saving the Colors

  1. Click on the Options menu and select Save Palette...
  2. Select a name and location for your new palette

Step 4: Loading the Colors

You've created your new color palette, now it's time to load them. This step shows you how to replace the current colors in Fireworks with your newly created palette.

  1. Open the Swatches panel (Window > Swatches)
  2. Click the Options menu in the Swatches panel and select Replace swatches...
  3. Navigate to your new color file you just saved and click OK

This replaces the current colors with your new colors

Step 5: Cleaning up the Custom Palette

Your new palette may not be as organized as you would like. Not to worry as we'll clean that up right now.

  1. Click the Options menu in the Swatches panel and select Sort by Color
  2. Next, delete the extra black colors or colors you don't want
  3. Save your palette. Your changes are not permanent until you save the palette.Go to the Options menu and choose Save Swatches... I recommend overwriting your original to avoid version control problems.


You have a couple options for your swatches such as adding to your colors. Rather than replacing one color scheme for another, you can add to them.

To add to an existing color palette:

  1. Open the Swatches panel (Window > Swatches)
  2. Click the Options menu in the Swatches panel and select Add swatches...
  3. Navigate to your new color file you just saved and click OK





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