Neenah Swatch Pro Is The First-Ever Paper Extension For Adobe Illustrator

by Rudy Sanchez on 12/17/2019 | 3 Minute Read

For all the advances in design software and technology, gaps in the creative professional’s toolkit remain. In particular, one that has been elusive is high-quality textured swatches that accurately represent paper. 

Designers have had to resort to manual hacks to incorporate the properties of the printing material. Premium paper manufacturer Neenah saw a real need for swatches that include their products’ texture to use in digital design software like Adobe Illustrator.

These workarounds, while better than nothing, are imperfect and time-consuming—something Neenah’s Creative Director, Dallas Franklin, understood through first-hand experience while working on in-house projects – and so unsurprisingly, she is enthusiastic about their latest development, Neenah Swatch Pro, which not only displays a material’s color accurately but its texture as well. Plus, it is the first-ever paper extension for Adobe Illustrator.

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Neenah has made Adobe Exchange files available to designers for more than a decade, but has never before offered digital swatches that also incorporate a paper’s texture. By making it easy to drop a paper texture into a designer’s art files, Neenah empowers creatives to incorporate paper into their digital design process, as well as accurately communicate their project to other stakeholders and their clients.

“What is new about this tool is not only do we give designers the colors, but they also get the textures,” Dallas says. “And that is what's so revolutionary, because before this tool existed, designers would bring a paper texture into a design by either scanning it, using a photocopier, or taking an iPhone photo, then manipulate it in Photoshop and drop it in as their background.” 

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“Designers have been doing these hacks to try and get the texture in, but it’s been a very time-consuming, manual process — just not ideal overall,” Dallas adds.

One of the drawbacks of previous hacks was that photocopied or photographed textures would fail to tile seamlessly, a technical challenge Neenah overcame in creating their new swatches. 

Additionally, the new swatches also take advantage of the Illustrator platform by incorporating information about the paper within the file, something that can be referenced by others, such as the printer. The specific paper selection can also get ordered from within Illustrator, which makes ordering samples easy and fast.

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Dallas says designers that see the new textured swatches drop onto an empty artboard for the first time react very positively; some were genuinely shocked that such a tool hadn’t existed until now. As the in-house designer for Neenah, she has experienced first-hand how much her work process has improved having these new swatches at her disposal, as she previously had to cobble together texture hacks for years.

“I have this library of old textures I’ve either scanned in or pulled off the internet that I’ve been using on all kinds of in-house projects. Having this tool makes my design process so much easier. It’s almost as if I designed this for me,” Dallas gleefully says.

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With Neenah’s new texture swatches, designers can visualize the paper from the start of a project, incorporating the material into the conceptualizing of any particular design, experimenting with different colors and textures, as well as better communicating visually what the final product will look like to their clients. In the end, you save time, cut out all of the arduous work, and can get back to doing what you do best—creating. 

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Neenah’s new swatches are only available for Illustrator at the moment, but Dallas says they are working on versions for Photoshop and InDesign with an expected launch later in 2020. The textures so far available are from Neenah’s most popular collections – Classic® and the Naturals – with plans to expand across more Adobe platforms and Neenah brands while continuously improving the tool along the way.

For more information, visit Neenah’s website, or check out the available swatches on Adobe Exchange.

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Learn more about Neenah Swatch Pro here!

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