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Organizing colors into groups


Illustrator Insider Training: Coloring Artwork

with Mordy Golding

Video: Organizing colors into groups

We all know that it's usually good to be organized. In previous titles here at the Online Training Library, I've sometimes spoken about using layers in an Illustrator document to better organize your artwork so that it's easier to find things and also so that others who are working on your file can have an easier time stepping through the document and finding what they need. In this chapter we are going to focus specifically on organizing color inside of your document, but make no mistake, this is not the same as working with layers where I just have things that are just easier to find.
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  1. 6m 38s
    1. Welcome
      1m 16s
    2. Adobe Illustrator: A colorful history
      3m 25s
    3. Getting the most out of this training
      1m 30s
    4. Using the exercise files
  2. 32m 35s
    1. Getting to know the color models
      9m 5s
    2. Understanding the difference between process and custom colors
      7m 7s
    3. Understanding how the HSB color wheel works
      11m 2s
    4. Working with color harmonies
      5m 21s
  3. 43m 55s
    1. Deconstructing the Color panel
      6m 36s
    2. Working with "phantom" colors
      5m 16s
    3. Defining and using process colors
      6m 15s
    4. Defining and using global process colors
      7m 51s
    5. Defining and using spot colors
      8m 37s
    6. Accessing color libraries
      9m 20s
  4. 46m 22s
    1. Organizing colors into groups
      13m 59s
    2. Creating swatches and groups from artwork
      7m 19s
    3. Removing unused swatches from documents
      3m 48s
    4. Replacing and merging color swatches
      5m 38s
    5. Creating and managing your own color libraries
      6m 10s
    6. Making custom libraries permanent
      2m 50s
    7. Adding custom colors to new documents
      6m 38s
  5. 19m 42s
    1. Accessing Kuler from within Illustrator
      2m 20s
    2. Getting inspiration from the Color Guide panel
      2m 41s
    3. Understanding how the Color Guide works
      3m 58s
    4. Setting limits on the Color Guide
      10m 43s
  6. 40m 54s
    1. Editing color groups with the color wheel
      12m 51s
    2. Breaking down the Recolor Artwork feature
      8m 16s
    3. Understanding what color rows represent
      6m 34s
    4. Protecting black, white, and gray
      6m 24s
    5. Finding colors quickly with the magnifying glass
      3m 28s
    6. Randomly changing colors
      3m 21s
  7. 53m 34s
    1. Making global color adjustments
      3m 48s
    2. Remapping colors in an illustration
      6m 13s
    3. Fixing colors in a document
      8m 57s
    4. Understanding color reduction
      13m 29s
    5. Reducing colors intelligently and precisely
      7m 42s
    6. Changing the colors within patterns
      4m 39s
    7. Using color groups to your advantage
      8m 46s
  8. 21m 24s
    1. Converting color to grayscale
      3m 25s
    2. Converting to grayscale with the Grayscale color group
      4m 45s
    3. Converting grayscale to color
      2m 27s
    4. Finding spot equivalents of process colors
      6m 48s
    5. Producing color matches intelligently
      3m 59s
  9. 16m 26s
    1. Proofing colors for color-blindness
      4m 56s
    2. Understanding book color
      9m 11s
    3. Previewing color separations
      2m 19s
  10. 3m 20s
    1. Taking color further with the Phantasm CS plug-in
      2m 30s
    2. Next steps

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Watch the Online Video Course Illustrator Insider Training: Coloring Artwork
4h 44m Intermediate Jul 20, 2011

Viewers: in countries Watching now:

This installment of Illustrator Insider Training shows an expert's approach to color choice and control in Illustrator. Mordy Golding guides experienced designers and artists through what he sees are the three stages of applying color to artwork: creation, inspiration, and editing. The course also shows how to build art in a way that allows artists to make changes quickly and how to take advantage of the newer features that have been added to Illustrator over the recent versions.

Topics include:
  • Getting to know the color models
  • Defining and using process and spot colors
  • Creating swatches and groups
  • Managing a color library
  • Getting inspiration from Adobe Kuler
  • Setting limits on the Color Guide
  • Protecting black, white, and grey
  • Making global color adjustments
  • Reducing colors
  • Converting to grayscale
  • Proofing colors
  • Previewing color separations
Mordy Golding

Organizing colors into groups

We all know that it's usually good to be organized. In previous titles here at the Online Training Library, I've sometimes spoken about using layers in an Illustrator document to better organize your artwork so that it's easier to find things and also so that others who are working on your file can have an easier time stepping through the document and finding what they need. In this chapter we are going to focus specifically on organizing color inside of your document, but make no mistake, this is not the same as working with layers where I just have things that are just easier to find.

We are going to find out that now inside of Illustrator if we are careful about how we organize our colors, we can unlock a tremendous amount of potential in using the application to do what we need to do more quickly. Let me give you an example of what I mean here. I right now have a file that I am looking at and I've created several of these color palettes. This is actually usual whenever a designer sits down to start working on a project, they may create these different color swatches and develop a color palette. In other words, a range of colors that I might use throughout my project.

Now, as you can see here in this document I've created three rows of squares over here. I basically have a row in the top, which is my main or my primary color palette, and then I've created maybe a secondary color palette, and maybe also an alternate version of that as well. So I have three distinct palettes of colors. The intention here is that these colors might be used together, these colors over here might be used together, the same thing here as well. Now, I've already gone through the steps here of actually creating swatches. In this case, I've actually created global process swatches of all my colors.

So you can see here in my Swatches panel that I have all these global colors that I have created. They actually right now appear in the order that they're used here inside of this document. At first glance this may look very organized. I have colors that I've created on my screen. I've then taken these colors and I've used them to define global process swatches inside of my document. By the way, I'll just as a side note here that I've chosen to use global process colors here, because these are the colors that I am going to be using in my artwork. I am beyond the experimentation phase here.

So I don't want to use regular process swatches. I want to work in a managed workflow where if at any point later on I need to make a change, I can do so very easily, because I've used these global process colors. Even so, I'm faced with a few issues now when working with color inside of this document. Let me explain. I know that I have created these rows of boxes here and that these colors belong together. I've actually organized them here inside of Illustrator according to the way that they actually appear inside of those. However, it's not really easy for me to just quickly glance at the Swatches panel and identify which colors belong to which of these different palettes.

Again, overall right now I want to work with all these colors, but I've also separated these colors into individual palettes. If you're in the world of apparel design, you may refer to these also as colorways. That's where I may have several different colors that are all used inside of a single print or pattern. In fact, if I drag this Swatches panel out here onto to my artboard, I'll see that if I actually resize the panel, the way that those swatches actually appear are going to now change each time I adjust the width of this panel. That's because Illustrator just goes ahead now and fits as many as it can on a line, and then it wraps it to the next line based on the width.

So I really don't have any easy way to just quickly look at the Swatches panel and understand which colors are grouped together. Now, another thing to notice about these colors here is that, upon closer inspection the first two colors that are used in the alternate versions here, this square right here and this one, also appear repeated in this and in this one. So I basically have the same color that appears in multiple palettes of color. However, in my Swatches panel I just have one swatch that represents these two squares.

So I may have a single color that is used in multiple palettes or in multiple colorways, but again, I have no easy way to identify that inside the Swatches panel. These color squares are very nice when I am looking at this document, but I am actually going to start working on some artwork. Do I always need to have these little squares at the bottom of all my artwork? Some people actually do that, and the reason why is because there is just no easy way to look at this Swatches panel and quickly identify which colors actually belong with each other.

But even keeping all these things in mind, there is an even bigger issue at play here. You see, Illustrator is a computer program. It has a tremendous amount of functionality built into it. In fact, as we are going to learn throughout this entire title, there are powerful ways that Illustrator can replace multiple colors at once and help us make changes to colors on many different levels. However, at this point right now Illustrator simply sees the swatches inside of my panel. It knows that these colors are somewhat special to me, but Illustrator has no idea about the relationship itself between these colors.

In other words, I, myself, know by looking at the rectangles that I've now drawn on my artboard that these colors belong together, and that these colors belong together, and the same thing for the bottom row over here. However, Illustrator simply sees a whole bunch of swatches. Illustrator doesn't know that any of these colors have some kind of defined relationship between each other. In other words, there is a miscommunication here. I am not telling Illustrator everything there is to know about how I am actually working with color in this document. If I could somehow just let Illustrator know what I'm thinking about how I am organizing color inside of my document, I could ask Illustrator to do a lot of things for me, things that I would normally have to do manually.

In other words, if I could somehow take all these colors right here that I've specified in this row and tell Illustrator that these colors belong together, and then do the same thing for these other color rows as well, I could help Illustrator understand which colors I want to go with each other. The way that we do that inside of Illustrator is we actually create something called a Color Group. In fact, if you look at the Swatches panel, at the bottom here, this little folder with a plus sign next to it that says New Color Group. Now, I am not going to click on it just yet. I am actually going to click off of this and right now click on the artboard, because I want to make sure that no art is selected when I use this option.

At a very basic level, while these Color Groups are going to help me understand how I'm organizing color inside of Illustrator, more importantly, a color group helps us tell Illustrator which colors belong together. There are several ways to create or define these Color Groups inside of Illustrator. One way is to actually just simply click on the button with nothing selected. This creates a New Color Group and I call this one Primary Colors, for example. Now, I'll click OK and you could see now that a little folder appears inside of my Swatches panel.

Now what I can do is I could take certain colors. For example, I've organized right now the first six colors here to actually be the first six colors in this Swatches panel. So I can click on this swatch right here, hold down my Shift key, and now click on this swatch, that all these six swatches are now selected, and I can now drag them into the folder. That's now how I've created a single Color Group, which is called Primary Colors. In fact, at any time I could take one of these colors and drag them out of the group as well as.

Now, there is another way to create a Color Group. For example, if I already know which colors I want to appear inside of my group, I can actually start by selecting those colors first. The next six swatches that appear over here in my document belong to this set over here of colors, which I can call my Secondary Colors. So I can again click on this one here. By the way, if you wanted to press or select noncontiguous swatches in the Swatches panel, you can press and hold the Command key; if you're on a Windows machine that would be the Ctrl key, and you might be able to click colors that are not necessarily connected with each other.

But in this case you actually want to go ahead now and select all these first six colors. Now with these swatches currently selected, I can come down to the bottom of Swatches panel, click on New Color Group. Now, because I right now have those six swatches selected, Illustrator assumes that I want to create a New Color Group for those six different swatches. So I will call this group Secondary Colors, and I'll click OK, and now you could see that I have a second Color Group inside of this document. So I have one Color Group over here called Primary Colors and one called Secondary Colors.

Now I want to create a third group. I am actually going to go ahead now and just click on this blank area in the Swatches panel to deselect that group and create a new empty group here. I am going to call this one Alternate Colors, click OK. Again, I have this empty group right now and I can drag these colors into that group. See, I can do it one at a time, and you can drag them in as you need to. Now, this group over here, this third group called Alternate Colors, does have these two colors that are also used in this palette of colors.

If you think about it, you never really wanted to have multiple copies of the same color swatch inside of a single document inside of Illustrator, because that would seem to just make no sense. However, since we have this concept now of Color Groups inside of Illustrator, there may be times where I want the same color to appear in different groups. And this is an important concept to understand about how we organize color inside of Illustrator. The same swatch color can actually appear in multiple Color Groups.

As a side note, if you're using spot colors, you can have the same spot color appear in multiple groups and they will not separate onto two separate place, they'll actually still be one plate together, but it's a way for you to organize that exact same spot color and have it appear in multiple groups. So let's see how I would do that. Let me start out by going to this swatch right over here. I am going to just simply click and drag it onto the New Swatch icon, which is going to create a copy of it. I am going to go over here, and I can see now that the word copy was added to the end of the name.

But I don't want that. So I am going to double-click on it. I am simply going to go ahead now and just Delete the word copy from this name and click OK. Now I'll take that swatch and drag it into this Color Group right here. I'll do the same now with this other light green color. I'll drag it to the New Swatch Icon. That will create a duplicate. Let me double-click on it, get rid of the word copy that appears at the end of it, click OK, and drag it into this group. So now I have three groups and in two of these groups I actually have two colors that appear between those groups.

Because I've duplicated those swatches, if I make a change to one of them, it will actually update both swatches and both groups. Let's talk about a few important concepts to know about working with Color Groups inside of Illustrator. First of all, no matter how I resize my Swatches panel, I won't see any kind of reflow. This allows me to take a quick glance at my Swatches panel and see which colors belong together. It's also important to realize that the order in which the colors appear inside of the Color Group actually do make a difference.

For example, if I take a look right now at the colors that I have here in my Alternate Color Group, I see they don't appear in the same order here. I am actually going to change that right now. I am going to take this light blue color and just drag it to the beginning here. You can see you can just quickly drag these around to adjust the order in which these colors appear. So I am going to go ahead now and do that to match the way that I currently have it set up inside of my document. And now you can see that I have aligned the colors in the same order that they're here. This is actually very important to understand, because, especially in the world of, for example, apparel design, I may have the exact same colors that are just used in a different order inside of a pattern.

For example, the background may be one color and the foreground may be another color, but in a different variation of that same pattern I may just swap the background and foreground colors. So the same colors are being used in each of those palettes or colorways. However, the order in which those colors are being used is different. In fact, if I look at my Primary Color Group right now, I am actually going to grab this light blue color and add that to the beginning over here of my Color Group. So now I have the colors, not only defined into groups, but I also have the colors in a very specific order.

So let's take a step back for a moment here. Not only have I now told Illustrator which colors belong together, I've also given Illustrator specific instructions about the order in which these colors are to be used. With that kind of information available, Illustrator can now do a tremendous amount of work for me, saving me a lot of manual time. For example, if Illustrator already knows that all these colors are used in a certain pattern, I could tell Illustrator to swap the colors used in that pattern for completely different set of colors.

Illustrator not only knows which colors to use, it also knows in which order to replace those colors. So what I'm really trying to emphasize here is that when you create Color Groups inside of Illustrator you're not just organizing them for your own use, you're also letting Illustrator know how you want to be able to use those colors so that Illustrator can now automate certain processes for you. If you don't go through the trouble of setting up Color Groups, you'll end up severely limiting what Illustrator can do with those colors. In fact, I'll even tell you that when you're working with smaller jobs, which maybe only use one or two colors, it's even worth it for you to create a color group that contains just one color inside of it.

As we'll find out throughout this entire title, Illustrator looks at colors that are inside of groups differently than colors that are just floating free inside of your Swatches panel. Granted, it's always best if you can set up your Color Groups before you actually start working on illustration. However, many times you may get artwork that's already been created and the person who had worked on that artwork did not organize their colors inside of groups. Well, no worries about that, in the next movie we'll talk about other ways that we can actually create and generate these color groups, even from existing artwork.

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