How to make the most of Color Variables

Whether you’re working on a single webpage or an entire design system, the colors you choose have a huge impact — from usability and accessibility, to brand identity and character. With version 69 of the Mac app, we introduced Color Variables — a new component type that makes it easy to sync and manage colors across your designs.

In this post, we thought we’d share some tips and tricks to help you make the most of Color Variables, as well as some advice on how to adopt them in existing and older documents.

If you’re reading about Color Variables for the first time, don’t worry, we’ll kick off with a quick recap. You can also find out more about them in our documentation.

Updating colors in your design with Color Variables

Any changes you make to a Color Variable will automatically update across all the layers that use it. The same goes for Color Variables in Libraries. Any changes you make to them will appear as an update for all the documents that use it, too.

In this example, Hydrate are changing the color of their Winter Bliss bottles from purple to blue. With Color Variables, they can update their product page with a single change.

You can read more about how to create and edit Color Variables in our documentation.

Organizing your Color Variables

Keeping your Color Variables organized makes editing them a breeze and inserting them with Insert Window even faster. You can use the Components View to rename, group and edit them.

Find out more about the Components View and the Insert Window in our documentation.

Top tip: When you’re starting a new document, instead of choosing placeholder colors at random, why not create them as Color Variables and apply them to all the layers that need them? That way, you can tweak that “inactive grey” until it’s just right and be sure every layer gets the update.

Moving over from Color Presets

Before Color Variables, you could store colors as Global or Document presets. Document presets were exclusive to a specific document. On the other hand, Global presets were available to any document you opened in your copy of the Mac app. However, any edits you made to presets would not sync up across your design.

When you update to version 69, we’ll migrate your Global presets into Color Variables and create a Library for them. We’ll also number them so they stay in the same order they were as presets. You can edit or rename your migrated Global presets by heading to the Libraries tab in Preferences and double-clicking to open the “Migrated Global Colors” Library. Then, head to the Colors tab in the Components View and make your changes.

As for Document colors, you will now find them as Color Variables within the document. Any gradient and image fills will still appear as Document or Global presets.

Working with Layer Styles and Color Variables

Even though Color Variables and Layer Styles are two different types of Components, they can work hand in hand to make your life easier. You can use Color Variables to keep colors in your styles consistent and make updates to all of them with a single change.

As a reminder, with Layer Styles, you can store a set of styles

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