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Well, logic suggests that there are objects in the artwork that have been assigned various spot colors. Spot colors would correspond to premixed, color-matched inks on press, as opposed to CMYK values. Illustrator is alerting you to the fact that it cannot save a file with more than 27 different spot colors specified.
There is probably a book to write on how amiss someone's workflow has gone, or how clueless they are about production, when they are sending their printer files with 20 or 30-some spot colors. And frankly, I suspect your own workflow is inherently a bit askew as well, as here you are trying to save a file with that many spot colors, although somehow it was saved before it got to you...apparently not in Illustrator. So I can only speculate that the artwork originated in some other application, perhaps arriving at your desk in PDF...(?)
Resolve it? You're a long way from the true roots of the problem, but if all you need is to save the file without getting an argument from Illustrator, try this:
Choose Edit > Edit Colors > Convert to CMYK
Disclaimer: the colors you print may not meet the expectations of the person who produced the artwork. Of course, it sounds like that could be the case with or without the conversion.
Not sure what type of equipment or technology you are intending to produce this work on but that not the issue here. I don't know of any limit to Illustrator spot color and have saved and printed jobs with more then 27 spot colors. The file may be corrupt, in which case have you tried a Save As with a different file name? If this doesn't fix the file you may have to create a new file in illustrator and copy and paste all content from the corrupt file to the new file with Paste Remembers Layers turned on in the flyout menu of the Layers Panel.
Also check if the color swatch names have any strange specialty, or Asian characters in the names. If so, change the swatch names so they are cleaned up. The last suggestion is to check any plug-ins you have active in Illustrator that might be involved in your workflow. I know there are prepress workflow plug-ins that have spot color limitations, like in Rampage.
This message is for Matt but in response to John as well. Berating the person who created the original file should not be automatic. If the person was experimenting with spot colors by adding them to his/her swatche, this will cause the same problem. And perhaps the final art only used two of those spot colors to produce a two-color job. Step one would be to remove all unused from the swatch library. That may solve the problem before converting everything to CMYK.
Illustrator does have a maximum limit of 27 Spot Colors. This has nothing to do with the equipment, it's Illustrator that has this limit.
As mentioned by Jeff Illustrator does have a maximum limit of 27 Spot Colors. Also, would request you to share your suggestions to our Adobe Illustrator Feedback.
This is the best way of communicating to the Engineering and Product Management teams regarding issues and suggestions so they can be implemented in future releases.
Let me know if you have any further questions.
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A press with 27 or more color stations does not exist, so Adobe putting a limit on there is fine. The most stations I know of are some Flexograohy presses with 14 color stations.
My guess is you are printing to a CMYK press, that mixes combinations of CMYK to get all the colors available. In that case you could select all and choose
Edit >> Edit Colors >> Convert to CMYK.
We really need to know what kind of press you are printing to, to best help you with this. There are also hi-fi color press and digital presses which often uses 7 or 8 colors combined to do process rather than 4.