Working with Color Tools in Illustrator


Lesson Info

Applying Swatches

Some other things that we can do is we can select by color or by variations in color. Like if I decide I like the reds, I want to select all the reds, or maybe all the reds that are within a given range of color, I can do that as well. So a couple different things I can do. I'm gonna zoom in here on this guy. And I'm just gonna go ahead and select this one piece of the berry, whatever that is. I'm gonna grab that, and I can come up under Object and I can choose Select and I can select just-- I'm sorry, under Select, and I can select the same fill color. So I know that I'll pick up all the ones that have the exact same fill color. Notice this guy is off a little. For whatever reason, his color is a little different. I assume these are probably all the same. But I could actually also shift select on him so I have everything. But the great thing is I can select by same fill color, same stroke color. We can also throw in opacity and things like that, but just for the sake of color I could ...

actually just select everything based on a color only. So I'm going to select that, and that's great, and I can make changes to it, but I might want to select all those again. And I can even add in others ones if I want. Maybe I want to add in all these as well. But the select colors gets me all of those selected except that one rogue berry there. I'm gonna go back under Select again, I'm gonna save Save Selection. I'm just gonna call this "Berries". And so next time I just want to select the berries, I'm over here working on these fruits over here and I suddenly just want to select the berries, I'd come up under the Select menu and choose Berries. Now they're there and ready to make changes to, whatever it is I need to, but I like to be able to select things by color, so especially in something like this where I might be separating out the different berries, the different fruits, I might be able to just grab those colors specifically. And in a case like that where I did want to change each of these, that's a lot for me to have to individually select. Now it's not the same as grouping them; I haven't grouped them in any way. I can still select them individually and grab odd things as well as part of that. So it's not like it's grouped. I don't have to drill down through a group to get to them. It's just a way for me to automatically select them right away, so I can select them based on a color. One of the other ways we can select based on color is actually by using the magic wand, which is great. It's almost as magic as it sounds. Basically we can choose things within a range. For instance, I might want to grab all the little pieces of the berry in here, but I know that one guy is off by some color, and these are slightly off as well, but I want to be able to grab all of those. What I can do is I can use the magic wand to find something with a tolerance range. So I'm grabbing one of them and it will grab everything else that's nearby. To do that I need to double click on the magic wand to start, and I need to setup some parameters. I just want to tell it Fill Color. I don't care about the stroke weight, or the opacity, or any blending mode, or anything. I just want it to look up fill color. And I want a tighter tolerance. Let's do 10. Let's see what happens. When I take the magic wand all I want to do is click on an item. When I do that obviously all the ones that are the same showed up because they're exactly the same. Now my tolerance was too tight. Even this guy didn't show up, so it's certainly not gonna grab these guys. I need to make this a little bit looser. I'm gonna hit 20, and I'm gonna click on this item. Still not gonna bring up that. Let's bring it up a little bit more and let's click on this guy. That's still not bringing it up. Let's see how good we can get with him. Let's bring him in-- That really should have been enough, but let's try it anyway. So, for whatever-- Ooh. Let's bring this guy in. So when I select this one it's bringing in all these other ones as well. I can do that. 50 is a pretty high tolerance. Let's grab this guy. You'll notice it grabbed all of the oranges. Now keep in mind, they are specific colors of orange and they may have different transparency applied to them which may be why some of them look red or darker. They might not actually be different colors. But you notice it also grabbed these shapes here because I have a higher tolerance at 50, so it went ahead and grabbed those. It's just looking at how far off in shade those particular items are. I grabbed those red ones as well. Let's grab this instead. I'm just gonna click on one and it brings up all of those and also brings up all of these. Let's see what else we grabbed with that. By grabbing that blue color with a tolerance of 50, it grabbed a lot of different stuff. Let's make a narrower tolerance on that. Let's go back to 20, and grab one of those blue ones. Now it's less, but there's a lot of blue in there so it's gonna grab those as well. It's just grabbing the fill color, and you set how much of a tolerance you allow to grab in those same items. Once I grabbed them I can do different things. I can either make changes to the color, or just go ahead and create a new selection. I do that if I'm working on different items that I want to work with that are not necessarily living on different layers, or that are maybe in different groups so I can't do things like group together, because they live in different groups. I can't put them on different layers because they might live in a group. And I can't turn things on and off with visibility because of the way they're grouped together. So sometimes finding by color, or some of the other items that are here, maybe just stroke color, or even the weight, or the opacity. I can do that with the magic wand, and just by clicking on one it will pick all the other ones. In this case with a tolerance of 20 I picked-- Let's click off and then click back on. I clicked on this item here and it grabbed everything in this berry, and that's it, so that's a good tolerance for picking that, those colors that are there. Let's combine some colors. Let's do that. I am going to-- Let's start with this one here. I'm just going to play with one of my favorite tools, which is the shape builder tool, but I'm also gonna talk about how we work with color in the shape builder tool. I'm gonna do something super simple. I'm just going to make two shapes that are super, super simple, and give them some different colors. Let's choose a different color. All right, let's do that. I want to combine these into one item. I can select both of them and come over here to the shape builder tool and when I do that, the shape builder tool lets me combine items. This is the same as if you've been using the pathfinder tool for a while. You can choose the pathfinder tool on multiple items and then tell it to intersect, or divide, or bring them together, or cut out the bits that overlap. And that's great, but sometimes trying to remember what each one does is difficult, and for me it's more of a just, try one, undo, try one, undo, until I find the one I like. What I love about the shape builder tool is hopefully-- Let's actually just change the color a little bit. That's a little too dark. Just so you can see a little bit better. I'm gonna select both those items. Anything I want to work with, it can be multiple items. Maybe actually let's grab a couple more. We'll just draw some circles over here. I'm going to grab all of those and choose that shape builder tool, and now as I roll over each item I can kind of see that it sees each thing as its own individual object. So I have some choices. I can drag my cursor across the items I want to group together, and let go, and now it sees it as one full shape that's there. What you'll notice-- I just undid, stepped backwards. If I do the same thing, only I choose two different colors, if I go from this green to the red over here, everything becomes green. I'm gonna undo that. If I go the other direction, everything-- Well, also becomes green. It's supposed to become red. Let me undo these. Maybe because I have many green objects that are here. It should actually pick up-- I'm just choosing the one square and the circle. It should be taking red as the dominant color, but it's not. But either way it combines them into one shape, and so now you're working with one fill color as opposed to all these other ones, and they're not separate pieces anymore. Keep in mind that those are now one big object, whatever it is you've combined. The great thing is though you can also exclude certain items as well. If you hold down the option or the alt key you can bring this in here and actually cut those out. So again, not necessarily a color thing, although I like to use that for creating the shapes, and sometimes if I've got things with multiple colors in them, by combining them into one shape then I know I can get everything back to one specific color that's there. Gonna undo that. One of the other things we can use with the shape builder tool is actually hiding under the shape builder tool, which is the live paint bucket. What the live paint bucket does, you have to create a paint group. I haven't created one yet, but it does tell me to click to make a live paint group. What that's going to do is once I do that, and click on that, it's going to create this as a group, everything I have selected, as this paint group. And now it's going to let me color those things. So whatever I visually can see as a separate item, whether it's separate fills and separate strokes, I can come in here and I can color it. If you notice my little swatch icon that's here, it's got the swatches across the top. I can use my arrow keys to cycle through all the colors that are in my swatches. So I'm just cycling through and I can change the color of that stroke. So I can click on that. I can come in there and I can-- You can see that it changed. Not very big. I can come in here and click on this item and I can cycle through those colors-- come on. Let me actually click on that. So I can use that live paint tool to actually change the color of the items that are there by cycling through the tools. But again, that is a paint group. If I ungroup that... Go to Object, go to Live Paint, and release it. Once I do that though, it's going to get rid of everything that I did. Keep in mind that once you've grouped those together those kind of live together. Anything you've done together actually has to stay together, otherwise we're back to our separate individual items with no color applied to them at all. It's just a quick way to cycle through the colors and paint. If you see that as an item-- For instance you can see this as one particular item that's here. The paint bucket will actually let you see that as one instead of actually having to separate it out and make them separate items. So I can actually select those items and change the color. Let's close the magic wand here. In the paint bucket, let's come in here to the paint bucket tool, I can tell it that I want to paint the fills, I want to paint the strokes. Let's do that, let's make sure paint fills is on. And I've got my little swatch preview on. I'm gonna do that. I'm gonna select these two items, I'm gonna click, and then I'm going to cycle through my colors, and I might want this to be one color, and then I want this to be the green, and I want this to be the yellow. But the great thing is, these are still actual individual items that are here. I can actually move this item by double clicking, and actually get into this item. Whoops, let's not do that. Let's grab this guy. To do that, again-- Because I'm in this live paint group they live together, I have to keep those together. If I double click on an item I get into this isolation mode, so then I can actually just select this item and move it around as I need to, and where that overlapped, those colors remain. If you pull that apart, which is what I did accidentally a second ago, now that doesn't actually work that way anymore. I pulled it apart, and put it back, and now it doesn't work because I have broken that link for it to know where the boundary is for it to paint. So I'm gonna undo that until I get back to that. The great thing is I can move that around, and everywhere that overlaps, that painted blue remains that way. I can hit escape when I'm done, and it's set how it needs to be. So that's live paint group. You could also do selections as well and just paint and delete, and all sorts of things. The live paints groups are actually really cool stuff. But again, you can't just move it separately, you gotta take a couple extra steps to do that. So I'm gonna grab this guy and I'm gonna create a new document just to paste in by himself here. I'm gonna make him a little bit bigger. I want to talk about the appearance panel. Because the appearance panel we don't use very often, especially if we were working with fills and strokes. We had our color panel, or we could do a swatch panel, and we go okay, great. We've got a fill of brown, and we've got a stroke of gray, but I actually have a stroke of green dashed line here. How did that happen? Well, if you're working in the swatches panel or the color panel, or just over here on the side, you've got one stroke and one fill available to you and that's it. But the great thing is you can actually have multiple fills and strokes on one object, and where that comes in handy is I've got, like I said, this gray stroke and a green stroke, and if they were two separate items and I wanted change-- Obviously I could change the size and that wouldn't be a big deal. I could change it that way. But let's say I wanted to actually start working with the points and the segments of that item itself and do things like create this. I want to play with the handles and create that. Well I couldn't do that if those were two separate items. I could, I'd have to do them separately and hope that I'd get everything to line up fine, but that wouldn't happen. So I'm gonna use the appearance panel instead, which is this little guy down here. Basically it shows me that I've got a fill and a stroke, but I have two strokes actually. I've got a green stroke and a gray stroke. What it's showing me is the first, the bottom most of each item that I have, so I've got the fill and the stroke here. If I started out with this item-- Let's say I don't have that stroke at all. Let's just take that, and I'm actually gonna delete him. So this is what I created, and I'm gonna create a stroke, and I want my stroke to be a little bit bigger. I could either go to the strokes panel, or using the appearance panel, I can actually get to a lot of things, color included, from this panel. So I'm gonna click the stroke panel, and I'm just gonna make this a little bit thicker, just to start with. I'm gonna make that thicker so I can see it. And then I want is I want that extra stroke of a different color inside that stroke that's here. So what I want to do is go down to the new stroke button and say add new stroke, and it adds the exact same kind of stroke. Now I've got two that look exactly the same, on top of each other. What I want to do is change that. Let's make this one 14 point, and also change the color. I can come in here. I automatically have access to my swatches panel. So let's go ahead and change that, we'll make that just this nice bright green. And I also want to make it dashed. So again I'm gonna click the stroke panel, the little stroke. Anything that's underlined anywhere, you see these little underlines that are here, that means you have access to the mini panel that's available. I'm gonna come in here, let's just make it a dashed line. Now I actually have that dashed line sitting on top. So if you want to create some color effects you could do that as well by adding multiple strokes, you could even do multiple fills. Multiple fills don't make a lot of sense unless you start working with transparency, because you can't really see multiple fills on top of each other. But just know that you have a fill here and then you have this stroke on top. In fact, if I create this stroke and I change the opacity of this stroke-- Let's change the opacity just so you can see it. You can kind of see how that's working. And by default, up until recently, your strokes automatically sat half on the line and half out, so aligned to the center, but now they're coming in so that they're lined even to the inside or the outside. What happens is you've got your stroke line, and then how much the stroke appearance sits on either side. So we want to align that to the center. I can see that stroke is actually transparent. I can even, if I change the opacity of this gray one, will be able to see the fill behind it as well. So we can kind of see how that's build. We've got a fill, we've got a stroke on top, and another stroke on top of that. But the nice thing is I can get to all the colors of those individual items, whether it's the stroke or fill, from the appearance panel, and when I click on it I can actually get right to the swatches panel. In fact I still have my whole panel menu available to me here if I want to be able to see that a little bit bigger as well. If you're working in the appearance panel you can still get to your swatches panel and make the changes that you need to, right from within the appearance panel.

How much can there be to Adobe Illustrator’s color tools? A lot!

Adobe Certified Expert and Illustrator guru, Erica Gamet, will walk you through the basic features to help you understand how to pick colors from existing swatches.

In this class, Erica will cover:

  • How color gets introduced into a document
  • How to choose other colors (palettes)
  • Bringing in colors from other sources
  • How to combine shapes and color

This class is for beginning designers or basic InDesign/Photoshop users that dabble in Illustrator and never really explored color in the application.

Software Used: Adobe Illustrator CC 2018



  • A lot of useful information about work with colors. Solid colors, Gradients, Global Swatches, Color Groups, Object Mosaic for grabbing colors from images, Color Books, Libraries...and so much more! This is a class for those who want to know everything about color management and use of colors in Adobe Illustrator (some information is helpful even for Photoshop and InDesign users). Erica is a great teacher! She has a good articulation. It's important for those like me whose native language is not english. She speaks evenly (neither slowly nor quickly) and to the point. I definitely recommend this class!
  • Erica is a really clear instructor. I found the class really useful and the pace was great. This will make my workflow much quicker and I cannot wait to put what I have learnt into practice.