Painting methods

Illustrator provides two methods of painting:

  • Assigning a fill, stroke, or both to an entire object
  • Converting the object to a Live Paint group and assigning fills or strokes to the separate edges and faces of paths within it

Paint an object

After you draw an object, you assign a fill, stroke, or both to it. You can then draw other objects that you can paint similarly, layering each new object on top of the previous ones. The result is something like a collage made out of shapes cut from colored paper, with the look of the artwork depending on which objects are on top in the stack of layered objects.

For a video on using brushes, see Use Brushes.

Paint a Live Paint group

With the Live Paint method, you paint more like you would with a traditional coloring tool, without regard to layers or stacking order, which can make for a more natural workflow. All objects in a Live Paint group are treated as if they are part of the same flat surface. This means you can draw several paths and then color separately each area enclosed by these paths (called a face). You can also assign different stroke colors and weights to portions of a path between intersections (called an edge). The result is that, much like a coloring book, you can fill each face and stroke each edge with a different color. As you move and reshape paths in a Live Paint group, the faces and edges automatically adjust in response.

For a video on using Live Paint, see Live Paint.

Live Paint group
An object consisting of a single path painted with the existing method has a single fill and a single stroke (left). The same object converted to a Live Paint group can be painted with a different fill for each face and a different stroke for each edge (right).

Painting a Live object
Painting an object the traditional way leaves some areas that can't be filled (left). Painting a Live Paint group with gap detection (center) lets you avoid gaps and overprinting (right).

About fills and strokes

A fill is a color, pattern, or gradient inside an object. You can apply fills to open and closed objects and to faces of Live Paint groups.

A stroke can be the visible outline of an object, a path, or the edge of a Live Paint group. You can control the width and color of a stroke. You can also create dashed strokes using Path options, and paint stylized strokes using brushes.

Note: When working with Live Paint groups, you can apply a brush to an edge only if you add a stroke to the group using the Appearance panel.

The current fill and stroke colors appear in the Tools panel.

Fill and Strokes controls
Fill and Stroke controls

Fill and Stroke controls

Controls for setting the fill and stroke are available in the Tools panel, the Control panel, and the Color panel.

Use any of the following controls in the Tools panel to specify color:

Fill button 

Double-click to select a fill color using the Color Picker.

Stroke button 

Double-click to select a stroke color using the Color Picker.

Swap Fill And Stroke button 

Click to swap colors between the fill and stroke.

Default Fill And Stroke button  

Click to return to the default color settings (white fill and black stroke).

Color button  

Click to apply the last-selected solid color to an object with a gradient fill or no stroke or fill.

Gradient button 

Click to change the currently selected fill to the last-selected gradient.

None button 

Click to remove the selected object’s fill or stroke.

You can also specify color and stroke for a selected object by using the following controls in the Control panel:

Fill color

Click to open the Swatches panel or Shift-click to open an alternate color mode panel, and choose a color.

Stroke color

Click to open the Swatches panel or Shift-click to open an alternate color mode panel, and choose a color.

Stroke panel

Click the word Stroke to open the Stroke panel and specify options.

Stroke weight

Choose a stroke weight from the pop‑up menu.

Apply a fill color to an object

You can apply one color, pattern, or gradient to an entire object, or you can use Live Paint groups and apply different colors to different faces within the object.

  1. Select the object using the Selection tool () or the Direct Selection tool ().
  2. Click the Fill box in the Tools panel or the Color panel to indicate that you want to apply a fill rather than a stroke.

    Fill Box
    Fill box active. The Fill box is above the stroke box.

  3. Select a fill color by doing one of the following:
    • Click a color in the Control panel, Color panel, Swatches panel, Gradient panel, or a swatch library.

    • Double-click the Fill box and select a color from the Color Picker.

    • Select the Eyedropper tool and Alt‑click (Windows) or Option-click (Mac OS) an object to apply the current attributes, including the current fill and stroke.

    • Click the None button  to remove the object’s current fill.


    You can quickly apply color to an unselected object by dragging a color from the Fill box, Color panel, Gradient panel, or Swatches panel onto the object. Dragging doesn't work on Live Paint groups.

Video tutorial: Apply Fill and Stroke attributes

Video tutorial: Apply Fill and Stroke attributes
Train Simple

Draw and merge paths using the Blob Brush tool

Use the Blob Brush tool to paint filled shapes that you can intersect and merge with other shapes of the same color.

The Blob Brush tool uses the same default brush options as calligraphic brushes. (See Calligraphic brush options.)

Calligraphy brush - Blob Brush tool
Path created with a Calligraphy brush (left); path created with the Blob Brush tool (right)

To see a video on using the Blob Brush tool, see Using the Blob Brush and Eraser Tools.

Blob Brush tool guidelines

When using the Blob Brush tool, keep the following guidelines in mind:

  • To merge paths, they must be adjacent in stacking order.

  • The Blob Brush tool creates paths with a fill and no stroke. If you want your Blob Brush paths to merge with existing artwork, make sure that the artwork has the same fill color and no stroke.

  • When drawing paths with the Blob Brush tool, new paths merge with the topmost matching path encountered. If the new path touches more than one matching path within the same group or layer, all of the intersecting paths are merged together.

  • To apply paint attributes (such as effects or transparency) to the Blob Brush tool, select the brush and set the attributes in the Appearances panel before you start drawing.

  • Use the Blob Brush tool to merge paths created by other tools. To do so, make sure that the existing artwork doesn't have a stroke. Then set up the Blob Brush tool to have the same fill color, and draw a new path that intersects all of the paths that you want to merge together.

Create merged paths


Paths with strokes can't be merged.

  1. Select the path into which you want to merge a new path.

  2. In the Appearances panel, deselect New Art Has Basic Appearance, so that the Blob Brush tool uses the attributes of the selected artwork.

  3. Select the Blob Brush tool , and make sure it uses the same appearances as the selected artwork.

  4. Draw paths that intersect with the artwork. If the paths don’t merge, make sure that the Blob Brush tool’s attributes exactly match the existing path attributes, and that neither uses a stroke.

Blob Brush tool options

Double-click the Blob Brush tool in the Tools panel and set any of the following options:

Keep Selected

Specifies that when you draw a merged path, all paths are selected and remain selected as you continue to draw. This option is useful for viewing all paths that are included in the merged path.

Merge only with Selection

Specifies that new strokes merge only with the existing selected path. If you select this option, the new stroke is not merged with another intersecting path that is not selected.


Controls how far you have to move your mouse or stylus before Illustrator adds a new anchor point to the path. For example, a Fidelity value of 2.5 means that tool movements of less than 2.5 pixels aren’t registered. Fidelity can range from 0.5 to 20 pixels; the higher the value, the smoother and less complex the path.


Controls the amount of smoothing that Illustrator applies when you use the tool. Smoothness can range from 0% to 100%; the higher the percentage, the smoother the path.


Determines the size of the brush.


Determines the angle of rotation for the brush. Drag the arrowhead in the preview, or enter a value in the Angle text box.


Determines roundness of the brush. Drag a black dot in the preview away from or toward the center, or enter a value in the Roundness text box. The higher the value, the greater the roundness.

Convert strokes to compound paths

Converting a stroke to a compound path lets you modify the outline of the stroke. For example, you can create a stroke with a varied width or divide the stroke into pieces.

  1. Select the object.
  2. Choose Object > Path > Outline Stroke.

    The resulting compound path is grouped with the filled object. To modify the compound path, first ungroup it from the fill or select it using the Group Selection tool.


    Use the Layers panel to identify the contents of a group.

Remove a fill or stroke from an object

  1. Select the object.
  2. Click the Fill box or the Stroke box in the Tools panel to indicate whether you want to remove the object’s fill or its stroke.

  3. Click the None button in the Tools panel, the Color panel, or the Swatches panel.


    You can also click the None icon in the Fill menu or the Stroke Color menu in the Control panel.

    Fill and Stroke boxes
    Fill and Stroke boxes

    A. Fill box B. Stroke box C. None button 

Select objects with the same fill and stroke

You can select objects that have the same attributes, including fill color, stroke color, and stroke weight.


The Select > Same > Fill Color, Stroke Color, and Stroke Weight commands work within a Live Paint group when you select a face or edge with the Live Paint Selection tool. Other Select > Same commands don't work. You can't select the same objects both inside and outside a Live Paint group at the same time.

  • To select objects with the same fill and stroke, select one of the objects, click the Select Similar Objects button  in the Control panel, and choose what you want to base your selection on in the menu that appears.
  • To select all objects with the same fill or stroke color, select an object with that fill or stroke color, or choose the color from the Color panel or Swatches panel. Then choose Select > Same and click Fill Color, Stroke Color, or Fill & Stroke on the submenu.
  • To select all objects with the same stroke weight, select an object with that stroke weight or choose the stroke weight from the Stroke panel. Then choose Select > Same > Stroke Weight.
  • To apply the same selection options using a different object (for example, if you have already selected all red objects using the Select > Same > Fill Color command and now you want to search for all green objects), select a new object and then choose Select > Reselect.

    Tip: To consider the tint of an object when selecting based on color, choose Edit > Preferences > General (Windows) or Illustrator > Preferences > General (Mac OS), and then choose Select Same Tint %. Now if you select an object filled with a 50% tint of PANTONE Yellow C and choose Select > Same > Fill Color, Illustrator selects only those objects filled with a 50% tint of that color. If you deselect this option, Illustrator selects objects with any tint of PANTONE Yellow C.

Create multiple fills and strokes

Use the Appearance panel to create multiple fills and strokes for the same object. Adding multiple fills and strokes to an object is the basis for creating many interesting effects. For example, you can create a second, narrower stroke on top of a wide stroke, or you can apply an effect to one fill but not the other.

  1. Select one or more objects or groups (or target a layer in the Layers panel).
  2. Select Add New Fill or Add New Stroke from the Appearance panel menu. Alternatively, select a fill or stroke in the Appearance panel, and click the Duplicate Selected Item button .
  3. Set the color and other properties for the new fill or stroke.


    It may be necessary to adjust the position of the new fill or stroke in the Appearance panel. For example, if you create two strokes of different widths, make sure that the narrower stroke is above the wider stroke in the Appearance panel.

Create strokes with variable widths

Available from the Tools panel, the Width tool enables you to create a variable-width stroke and save the variable width as a profile that can be applied to other strokes.

When you mouse over a stroke with the Width tool, a hollow diamond appears on the path with handles. You can adjust the stroke width, move the width point, duplicate the width point, and delete the width point.

For multiple strokes, the Width tool adjusts only the active stroke. If you want to adjust a stroke, make sure that you select it as the active stroke in the Appearance panel.

For a video on using the Width tool, see Using variable-width strokes.

To create or modify a width point using the Width Point Edit dialog box, double-click the stroke using the Width tool and edit the values for the width point. If you select the Adjust Adjoining Width Points check box, changes to the selected width point affect neighboring width points as well.

To automatically select the Adjust Adjoining Width Points check box, press Shift and double-click the width point.

The Width tool distinguishes between continuous and discontinuous width points while adjusting variable width.

Width Point Edit dialog box
Width Point Edit dialog box for continuous points

To create a discontinuous width point, do the following:

  1. Create two width points on a stroke with different stroke widths.

    Two width points on a stroke with different stroke widths
    Two width points created

  2. Drag one width point on to the other width point to create a discontinuous width point for the stroke.

    Discontinuous width point
    Discontinuous width point created by dragging one width point on to the other width point

For discontinuous points, the Width Point Edit dialog box shows both sets of side widths.

Width Point Edit dialog box
Width Point Edit dialog box for discontinuous points

The Single Width Only check boxes allow using either incoming or outgoing width leaving a single continuous width point.

Width tool controls

The following table lists the keyboard modifiers to use while working with the Width tool:

Width control tasks

Keyboard modifiers

Create non-uniform widths

Alt+drag (Windows) or Opt+drag (Mac OS)

Create a copy of the width point

Alt+drag the width point (Windows) or Opt+drag the width point (Mac OS)

Copy and move all the points along the path

Alt+Shift+drag (Windows) or Opt+Shift+drag (Mac OS)

Change the position of multiple width points


Select multiple width points


Delete selected width points


Deselect a width point


Do any of the following:

  • Drag the handles outward or inward to adjust the stroke width at that location on the path. Width points created at a corner or at a direct-selected anchor point stick to the anchor point during basic editing of the path.
  • To change the position of the width point, drag the point along the path.
  • To select multiple width points, press Shift and click. In the Width Point Edit dialog box, specify values for Side 1 and Side 2 of multiple points. Any adjustment to the width points affects all the selected width points.
  • To globally adjust the stroke weight for all the width points, specify the stroke weight in the Weight drop-down list of the Stroke panel.

Save width profiles

After defining the stroke width, save the variable-width profile using the Stroke panel or the Control panel.

Width Profile options panel
A. Uniform Width Profile option B. Save Width Profile icon C. Delete Width Profile icon D. Reset Width Profile icon 

Do any of the following:

  • To apply width profiles to selected paths, choose them from the Width Profile drop-down list in the Control panel or Stroke panel. When a stroke with no variable width is selected, the list displays the Uniform option. Select the Uniform option to remove a variable-width profile from an object.
  • To restore the default width profile set, click the Reset Profiles button at the bottom of the Profile drop-down list.


Restoring the default width profile set in the Stroke Options dialog box removes any custom saved profiles.

If you apply a variable-width profile to a stroke, it is indicated with an asterisk (*) in the Appearance panel.

For Art and Pattern brushes, the Width Points/Profile option is automatically selected for size in the Stroke Options dialog box after you edit a brush path with the Variable Width tool or apply a Width Profile preset. To remove any width profile changes, select the Fixed option for size or one of the tablet data channels, such as Pressure, to restore the tablet data options.

For a video on creating variable width profiles, see Using variable-width profiles

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