About Live Paint

Converting your artwork to Live Paint groups allows you to color them freely, as you would a drawing on canvas or paper. You can stroke each path segment with a different color and fill each enclosed path (note, not just closed paths) with a different color, pattern, or gradient.

Live Paint is an intuitive way to create colored drawings. It lets you use the full range of Illustrator’s vector drawing tools, but treats all the paths you draw as though they are on the same flat surface. That is, none of the paths is behind or in front of any other. Instead, the paths divide the drawing surface up into areas, any of which can be colored, regardless of whether the area is bounded by a single path or by segments of multiple paths. The result is that painting objects is like filling in a coloring book or using watercolors to paint a pencil sketch.

Once you’ve made a Live Paint group, each path remains fully editable. When you move or adjust a path’s shape, the colors that had been previously applied don’t just stay where they were, like they do in natural media paintings or image editing programs. Instead, Illustrator automatically reapplies them to the new regions that are formed by the edited paths.

Adjusting Live Paint paths
Adjusting Live Paint paths

A. Original B. Live Paint group C. Paths adjusted, Live Painting reflows 

The paintable parts of Live Paint groups are called edges and faces. An edge is the portion of a path between where it intersects with other paths. A face is the area enclosed by one or more edges. You can stroke edges and fill faces.

Take, for example, a circle with a line drawn across it. As a Live Paint group, the line (edge) dividing the circle creates two faces in the circle. You can fill each face and stroke each edge with a different color using the Live Paint Bucket tool.

Circle and line (left) compared to circle and line after conversion to a Live Paint group and filling faces and stroking edges (right).
Circle and line (left) compared to circle and line after conversion to a Live Paint group and filling faces and stroking edges (right).

Note:

Live Paint takes advantage of multiprocessors, which help Illustrator perform the operations more quickly.

For a video on using Live Paint, see www.adobe.com/go/vid0042.

Live Paint limitations

Fill and paint attributes are attached to faces and edges of a Live Paint group—not to the actual paths that define them, as in other Illustrator objects. Because of this, some features and commands either work differently or are not applicable to paths inside a Live Paint group.

Features and commands that work on an entire Live Paint group, but not on individual faces and edges

  • Transparency

  • Effects

  • Multiple fills and strokes from the Appearance panel

  • Object > Envelope Distort

  • Object > Hide

  • Object > Rasterize

  • Object > Slice > Make

  • Make Opacity Mask (in the Transparency panel menu)

  • Brushes (You can apply brushes to an entire Live Paint group if you add a new stroke to the group using the Appearance panel.)

Features that don’t work on Live Paint groups

  • Gradient meshes

  • Graphs

  • Symbols from the Symbols panel

  • Flares

  • Align Stroke options from the Stroke panel

  • The Magic Wand tool

Object commands that don’t work on Live Paint groups

  • Outline Stroke

  • Expand (You can use the Object > Live Paint > Expand command instead.)

  • Blend

  • Slice

  • Clipping Mask > Make

  • Create Gradient Mesh

Other commands that don’t work on Live Paint groups

  • Pathfinder commands

  • File > Place

  • View > Guides > Make

  • Select > Same >Blending Mode, Fill & Stroke, Opacity, Style, Symbol Instance, or Link Block Series

  • Object > Text Wrap > Make

Create Live Paint groups

When you want to color objects using different colors for each edge, or intersection, convert the artwork into a Live Paint Group.

Certain types of objects, such as type, bitmap images, and brushes, cannot be directly made into Live Paint groups. You first need to convert these objects into paths. For example, if you try to convert an object that uses brushes or effects, the complex visual appearance is lost in the conversion to Live Paint. However, you can retain much of the appearance by first converting the objects to regular paths and then converting the resulting paths to Live Paint.

note: When you convert artwork to a Live Paint group, you cannot return the artwork to its original state. You can expand the group into its individual components, or release the group back to its original paths with no fill and a .5 black stroke.

For a video on using Live Paint, see www.adobe.com/go/vid0042.

Create a Live Paint group

  1. Select one or more paths, compound paths, or both.
  2. Do one of the following:
    • Choose Object > Live Paint > Make.

    • Select the Live Paint Bucket tool  and click the selected object.

Note:

Certain properties may be lost in the conversion to a Live Paint group, such as transparency and effects, while other objects cannot be converted (such as type, bitmap images, and brushes).

Convert objects to Live Paint groups

  • Do any of the following for objects that do not directly convert to Live Paint groups:
    • For type objects, choose Type > Create Outlines. Then make the resulting paths into a Live Paint group.

    • For bitmap images, choose Object > Live Trace > Make And Convert To Live Paint.

    • For other objects, choose Object > Expand. Then make the resulting paths into a Live Paint group.

Expand or release a Live Paint group

Releasing a Live Paint group changes it to one or more ordinary paths with no fill and a .5‑point black stroke. Expanding a Live Paint group changes it to one or more ordinary paths that are visually similar to the Live Paint group, but are now separate filled and stroked paths. You can use the Group Selection tool to select and modify these paths separately.

Live Paint group before (left) and after expanding and dragging to separate faces and edges (right)
Live Paint group before (left) and after expanding and dragging to separate faces and edges (right)

Live Paint group before (left) and after Release command applied (right)
Live Paint group before (left) and after Release command applied (right)

  1. Select the Live Paint group.
  2. Do one of the following:
    • Choose Object > Live Paint > Expand.

    • Choose Object > Live Paint > Release.

Select items in Live Paint groups

Use the Live Paint Selection tool  to select individual faces and edges in a Live Paint group. Use the Selection tool  to select the entire Live Paint group, and the Direct Selection tool  to select paths inside a Live Paint group. When you’re working in a complex document, you can isolate a Live Paint group so that it is easy to select the exact face or edge you want.

Note:

Choose a selection tool depending on what you want to affect in a Live Paint group. For example, use the Live Paint Selection tool to apply different gradients across different faces in a Live Paint group, and use the Selection tool to apply the same gradient across the entire Live Paint group.

Select faces and edges

The Live Paint Selection tool pointer changes to the face pointer  when it’s positioned over a face, the edge pointer  when it’s positioned over an edge, or the x pointer  when it’s positioned outside of a Live Paint group.

  • Select the Live Paint Selection tool, and then:
    • To select an individual face or edge, click a face or edge.

    • To select multiple faces and edges, drag a marquee around the items you want to select. Partial selections are included.

    • To select all contiguous faces that are not separated by a painted edge, double-click a face.

    • To select faces or edges with the same fill or stroke, triple-click an item. Or click once, choose Select > Same, and then choose Fill Color, Stroke Color, or Stroke Weight on the submenu.

    • To add items to, or remove items from, the current selection, Shift-click or Shift-drag a marquee around the items.

Select a Live Paint group

  • Using the Selection tool, click the group.

Select an original path within a Live Paint group

  • Using the Direct Selection tool, click a path inside the Live Paint group.

Isolate a Live Paint group from the rest of the artwork

  • Using the Selection tool, do one of the following:
    • Double-click the group.

    • Select the group, and then click the Isolate Selected Group button  in the Control panel.

Modify Live Paint groups

When you modify a path in a Live Paint group, Illustrator colors the modified or new faces and edges using fills and strokes from the existing group. If the results are not what you expect, you can reapply the colors you want using the Live Paint Bucket tool.

Live Paint group before (left) and after adjusting paths (right)
Live Paint group before (left) and after adjusting paths (right)

When you delete edges, the fill floods across any newly expanded face. For example, if you delete a path that divides a circle in half, the circle is filled with one of the fills previously in the circle. You can sometimes help guide the results. For instance, before deleting a path that divides a circle, first move it so that the fill you want to keep is larger than the fill you want to remove.

Live Paint group before (left) and after selecting and deleting a path (right)
Live Paint group before (left) and after selecting and deleting a path (right)

Note:

Save the fill and stroke colors used in Live Paint groups in the Swatches panel. That way, if a change loses a color you want to keep, you can select its swatch and use the Live Paint Bucket tool to reapply the fill or stroke.

Add paths to a Live Paint group

As you add more paths to the Live Paint group, you can fill and stroke the new faces and edges that are created.

Live Paint group before (left) and after adding a new path and painting the new faces and edges created by it (right)
Live Paint group before (left) and after adding a new path and painting the new faces and edges created by it (right)

  • Do any of the following:
    • Using the Selection tool, double-click a Live Paint group (or click the Isolate Selected Group button in the Control panel) to put the group into isolation mode. Then draw another path. Illustrator adds the new path to the Live Paint group. Click the Exit Isolation Mode button  when you’re done adding new paths.

    • Select a Live Paint group and the paths you want to add to it. Then choose Object > Live Paint > Merge, or click Merge Live Paint in the Control panel.

    • In the Layers panel, drag one or more paths into a Live Paint group.

      note: Paths inside a Live Paint group may not exactly align with similar or identical paths outside the Live Paint group.

Resize an individual object or path

  • Do one of the following:
    • Using the Direct Selection tool, click the path or object to select it. Then choose the Selection tool and click the path or object again to edit it.

    • Using the Selection tool, double-click the Live Paint Group to put it into isolation mode. Then click a path or object to edit it.

Paint with the Live Paint Bucket tool

The Live Paint Bucket tool lets you paint faces and edges of Live Paint groups with the current fill and stroke attributes. The tool pointer displays as either one or three color squares, which represent the selected fill or stroke color and, if you’re using colors from a swatch library, the two colors adjacent to the selected color in the library. You can access the adjacent colors, as well as the colors next to those, and so on, by pressing the left or right arrow key.

  1. Select the Live Paint Bucket tool . Click and hold the Shape builder tool to see and select the Live Paint bucket tool. See Select a tool to learn other methods for selecting tools. See Tools panel overview to locate all the tools.
  2. Specify the fill color or stroke color and size you want.

    Note:

    If you select a color from a the Swatches panel, the pointer changes to display three colors . The selected color is in the middle, and the two adjacent colors are on either side. To use an adjacent color, click the left or right arrow key.

  3. To paint a face, do any of the following:
    • Click a face to fill it. (When the pointer is over a face, it changes to a half-filled paint bucket  and highlight lines surround the inside of the fill.)

    • Drag across multiple faces to paint more than one face at a time.

    • Double-click a face to fill across unstroked edges into adjacent faces (flood fill).

    • Triple-click a face to fill all faces that currently have the same fill.

      Tip: To switch to the Eyedropper tool and sample fills or strokes, Alt‑click (Windows) or Option-click (Mac OS) the fill or stroke you want.

  4. To paint an edge, double-click the Live Paint Bucket tool and select Paint Strokes, or temporarily toggle to the Paint Strokes option, by pressing Shift; and then do any of the following:
    • Click an edge to stroke it. (When the pointer is over an edge, it changes to a paint brush  and the edge is highlighted.)

    • Drag across multiple edges to stroke more than one edge at a time.

    • Double-click an edge to stroke all connected edges of the same color (flood stroke).

    • Triple-click an edge to stroke all edges of the same stroke.

      note: Pressing Shift lets you quickly toggle between painting only strokes and only fills. You can also specify these changes in the Live Paint Bucket Options dialog box. If you currently have both the Paint Fills option and the Paint Strokes option selected, pressing Shift switches to Paint Fills only. (This can be helpful when you are trying to fill a small face surrounded by stroked edges.)

Live Paint Bucket options

The Live Paint Bucket options let you specify how the Live Paint Bucket tool works, choosing whether to paint just fills, just strokes, or both, as well as how to highlight faces and edges as you move the tool over them. You can see these options by double-clicking the Live Paint Bucket tool.

Paint Fills

Paints the faces of Live Paint groups.

Paint Strokes

Paints the edges of Live Paint groups.

Cursor Swatch Preview

Displays when you choose a color from the Swatches panel. The Live Paint Bucket tool pointer appears as three color swatches: the selected fill or stroke color plus the color directly to the left and right of it in the Swatches panel.

Highlight

Outlines the face or edge the cursor is currently over. Faces are highlighted with a thick line and edges are highlighted with a thin line.

Color

Sets the color for the highlight. You can choose a color from the menu or click the paint swatch to specify a custom color.

Width

Specifies how thick to make the highlight.

Close gaps in Live Paint groups

Gaps are small spaces between paths. If paint leaks through and paints faces you did not intend, you probably have a gap in your artwork. You can create a new path that closes the gap, edit existing paths to close the gap, or adjust the gap options in the Live Paint group.

Note:

You can avoid gaps in your Live Paint artwork by overdrawing paths (that is, extending them past each other). You can then select and delete the excess edges that result, or apply a stroke of “None” to them.

Highlight gaps in a Live Paint group

  • Choose View > Show Live Paint Gaps.

This command highlights any gaps found on the currently selected Live Paint group, based on your gap options settings for that group.

Set Live Paint gap options

  • Choose Object > Live Paint > Gap Options and specify any of the following:

    Gap Detection

    When selected, Illustrator recognizes gaps in Live Paint paths and prevents paint from flowing through them. Note that this may slow Illustrator when working on large, complex Live Paint groups. In this case, you can choose Close Gaps With Paths to help speed Illustrator up again.

    Paint Stops At

    Sets the size of the gap paint can’t flow through.

    Custom

    Specifies a custom Paint Stops At gap size.

    Gap Preview Color

    Sets the color for previewing gaps in Live Paint groups. You can choose a color from the menu, or click the color well next to the Gap Preview Color menu to specify a custom color.

    Close Gaps With Paths

    When selected, inserts unpainted paths into your Live Paint group to close gaps (rather than simply preventing paint from flowing though the gaps). Note that since these paths are unpainted, it may appear gaps are still there even though they have been closed.

    Preview

    Displays currently detected gaps in Live Paint groups as colored lines, based on the preview color you chose.

Gap rules for merged Live Paint groups

When you merge Live Paint groups that have different gap settings, Illustrator uses the following rules to handle the gaps:

  • If gap detection is off in all groups in the selection, gaps are closed and gap detection is turned on with Paint Stops At set to Small Gaps.

  • If gap detection is on and the same for all groups in the selection, gaps are closed and the gap setting is preserved.

  • If gap detection is mixed for the selection, gaps are closed and the gap settings of the bottommost Live Paint group are preserved (if gap detection is on for that group). If the bottommost group has gap detection turned off, gap detection is turned on and Paint Stops At is set to Small Gaps.

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