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It might sound silly, but one of the hardest things to decide when you're creating a design or illustration is how to color it. You may have an idea of how you want to color a few pivotal objects, but then what you do about supporting paths and backgrounds? Colors play off each other so re- coloring one path may lead you to re-color a dozen others, and defining CMYK values, organizing swatches, changing fill, strokes, gradients, that stuff's not fun. It gets to be a real chore. So it would be nice if your software would automate that process, and Illustrator does like you would not believe.
There are essentially three key-areas of color automation, first there are these things called Color Harmonies. Really they're color patterns. You select a key color and Illustrator offers up a bunch of supporting colors according to the pattern you select. I explain how the various harmonies are formed, but while it's interesting it's mostly academic. Really, you just select the pattern of colors that appeals to you. Then there is the Color Guide panel which collects those color patterns and reefs on them, offering up tans and shades and more.
It's like a Swatches panel that populates itself automatically with colors you actually need. Finally, there's the Re-Color Artwork feature which lets you take a few paths or an entire illustration, whatever, and re-color it, either as a whole or on a color by color basis, and you can apply to anything even Gradients and Live Pane objects as I'm about to show you.
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