Easy-to-follow video tutorials help you learn software, creative, and business skills.Become a member
There are two basic ways to apply color to your artwork inside of Illustrator. One way is what I would like to refer to as the Bob Ross method. You use the Color panel here to custom mix primary colors. So as you need a color, you simply mix what you need and then you apply it to your artwork. However, when you do so, it can be quite tedious if you want to repeat and use the color in multiple areas of your document. So that's why there is a second method of applying colors inside of Illustrator and that's what I would call the Crayola method or working with swatches. If you think about that big box of crayons, like 64 or 128 crayons, you already have all these predefined colors. Whenever you want to use, you just pick up that color crayon and you go to town.
Now in the world of Illustrator, you actually have three different types of swatches that you can use. First, I'll show you how to create a swatch and then we'll identify the three different types that you can create. Using the Color panel, you can mix your own particular flavor of color. When you have the color, simply take that color and drag it into your Swatches panel. For now, I'm going to delete this actual swatch. I'm going to work with the ones that already exist in this document. Now the first type of swatch that you can create is what's called a process color swatch. When I say process, it doesn't mean print. It just means that the colors that are used to define that swatch are made up of a combination or mixture of primary colors.
If you are in RGB document, that means that color is made up of different values of Red, Green and Blue. If you are working in a print document, you might use CMYK or Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, and Black. You can easily see the values of any color swatch by just double-clicking on it. Notice over here, the Swatch Options dialog box opens up. By default, Illustrator always gives the actual values of the color as its name, but you can change that if you would like to. Notice over here that Color Type is set to Process Color. I'll go ahead and I'll click OK and let's see exactly how we actually apply these colors. It's simple as selecting artwork on your artboard and just clicking on the swatch.
I'll select a few more flowers here. We'll apply this color here because I want to talk about an important aspect of process color swatches in Illustrator. Once you have applied the color to the artwork on your page, there is no longer any connection between the artwork itself and the swatch that resides in the Swatches panel. As an analogy, let's think about this in the real world. Let's say the Swatches panel here was actually a real can of paint. What I'm seeing here is some graphics that are being painted on to the wall. Now, I can actually mix the color of yellow and my can of paint here and I could dip my brush in that particular can of paint and paint it on the wall, but if I then come back to my can of paint and I add a whole much of blue to it to make it, let's say for example, more of a green color, that doesn't change the paint that I have already put on to the wall itself. In other words, I have no artwork selected now in my document, but I can come over here to the swatch itself and double-click on it and I can change its value.
I will add more cyan to this to give it to a green hue. When I click OK, you can see that the swatch itself is updated but any of the artwork that already had that particular yellow color applied to it, doesn't change to green. So a regular process color swatch in Illustrator is great for applying color but it really has no way to manage that color once you have already applied it. So I'll press Undo to return our swatch back to the yellow color. That takes us to the next type of color that we can create inside of Illustrator, which is what we refer to as a global process swatch. For example, let's take a look at this color right here. I'm going to double-click on this color and I'm now going to simply go over here where it says Color Type. Notice I'm still leaving it set to Process Color, but I'm going to check this box here called Global.
So now I'm defining the second type of a swatch. Before it was simply a Process Color, now it's a Global Process Color. A global process color is a managed swatch. It basically retains the connection between the swatch itself and any artwork that you applied that color to. To demonstrate that, I'll click OK. Notice that over here if I look at the swatch itself, it has a little white triangle in the lower right-hand corner. That right away identifies that particular color swatch as a global process swatch. So now I'll go ahead and I'll select these particular flowers in my document right here and I'll color them all with this swatch. I'll de-select the artwork. If I decide now at any point that I actually want to adjust that particular color, I can double-click on the swatch to bring up the Swatch Options dialog box. I can adjust the values. So for example, let me pull out some of the cyan. When I click OK, you can see that all the artwork that was on the artboard, even though it wasn't selected, has now been updated.
So when you are working with colors, you can see how much more powerful a global process swatch is over a regular process swatch. In fact, taking a closer look at the Color panel will reveal an additional benefit to working with global process colors. Notice if I click on this yellow swatch right over here, I have the regular sliders here for C, M, Y, and K. If I want to, let's say, apply a particular value over here of color, that I want just a little bit of a lighter shade of this color, I don't have to figure out what that particular breakdown might be. However, if I click on one of these colors right over here, I can see that I now have an actual tint slider instead of a CMYK breakdown. So if I wanted a lighter tint of the color applied in this particular case, I might choose to adjust that slider. I still have the same exact CMYK breakdown defined as my swatch here, but I have now calculated a tint value for that color here on my artboard.
Finally, there is a third type of swatch inside of Illustrator, which is called a spot color swatch. For example, I have this background here, which uses this swatch right here. I'm going to double -click on it and I'm going to choose instead of Process Color for the type, I'll choose Spot Color. Spot colors are automatically global in nature and spot colors simply refers to the way that the color are actually being processed upon print time. Now as you may know on a printing press, colors are broken down into their primary colors, for example, C, M, Y, and K. However, a spot color is a custom mixed ink. In fact, the most common type of spot color you might use are Pantone colors. Those are predefined colors that are both a designer and a printer can choose by number. In doing so, they can ensure that they will get the same exact color. Spot colors are also used for special print processes. For example, metallic inks, magnetic inks that are used on checks or to indicate things like varnishes and die cuts.
I will click OK here and you can see that spot colors are identified by a white triangle with a little dot inside of it. Now as I mentioned before, the most common type of spot color that's probably used is Pantone colors. You can actually load a Pantone color by going over here to the Swatches panel, to the Swatch Libraries menu, choosing Color Books and then loading one of the Pantone libraries, one of the most common and probably the Solid Coated library. Now there is a whole bunch of colors inside of the Pantone library. So that may be very difficult to actually kind of scroll through these and find something this way. So I actually changed the view of what I'm looking at here.
I'll click on the little panel menu here and I'll choose to view this in a Small List View. If I want to find a specific color, I'll actually come here and choose to also Show the Find Field. For example, I may want to find Pantone 185, which is a red. So I'll type in over here 185 and that brings up the Pantone 185 color, which I can then add to my document by dragging it into my Swatches panel. Now there happens to be one annoying thing about the actual find field here in the Pantone Solid Coded library and that's it doesn't always find the color that you are looking for. For example, if I type in 485 right here, you can see that Pantone 1485 actually comes up. That's simply a way that Illustrator actually goes ahead and searches for the colors. It searches for a string of the numbers 485 and sometimes the 1485 comes up first. The way to get around that is if you want a specific number type in space 485, and in that case there you can avoid those kinds of issues.
So there you have the three types of swatches inside of Illustrator; process swatches, global process swatches, and spot color swatches.
Get unlimited access to all courses for just $25/month.Become a member
119 Video lessons · 50758 Viewers
117 Video lessons · 38457 Viewers
113 Video lessons · 81490 Viewers
65 Video lessons · 11388 Viewers
Access exercise files from a button right under the course name.
Search within course videos and transcripts, and jump right to the results.
Remove icons showing you already watched videos if you want to start over.
Make the video wide, narrow, full-screen, or pop the player out of the page into its own window.
Click on text in the transcript to jump to that spot in the video. As the video plays, the relevant spot in the transcript will be highlighted.
Your file was successfully uploaded.