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.

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 more information about Live Paint in Illustrator, see Live Paint.

Live-Paint
A. An object consisting of paths painted with the existing method has a single fill and a single stroke B. The same object converted to a Live Paint group can be painted with a different fill for each face C. The same object converted to a Live Paint group can be painted with a different stroke for each edge 

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, the Control panel, and the Properties panel.

To see a video on applying fills and strokes, see Apply colors.

Fills and Strokes
A. An object with a fill color B. An object with a stroke color C. An object with a fill color and stroke color 

Fill and Stroke controls

Controls for setting the fill and stroke are available in the Properties panel, 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 Properties panel and 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

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, the Properties panel, or the Color panel to indicate that you want to apply a fill rather than a stroke.

    Fill Box
    Apply a fill color using the Tools panel or the Properties panel.
  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.

    Note:

    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

Apply a stroke color

  1. Select the object. (To select an edge in a Live Paint group, use the Live Paint Selection tool.)

  2. Click the Stroke box in the Tools panel, the Properties panel, the Color panel, or the Control panel. Doing so indicates that you want to apply a stroke rather than a fill.

  3. Select a color from the Color panel, or a swatch from the Swatches panel, the Properties panel, or the Control panel. Alternatively, double-click the Stroke box to select a color using the Color Picker.

    Note:

    If you want to use the current color in the Stroke box, you can simply drag the color from the Stroke box onto the object. Dragging does not work on Live Paint groups.

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.

    convert-to-compound-pathzoom
    A. A stroke applied to an object B. A stroke converted to a compound path containing two sub-paths 

    Note:

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

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
A. Calligraphic brush creates paths with a stroke and no fill B. Blob brush creates paths with a fill and no stroke 

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

Note:

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.

Fidelity

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.

Smoothness

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.

Size

Determines the size of the brush.

Angle

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

Roundness

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.

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.

Select objects with the same fill and stroke
A. One of the objects is selected B. All objects with the same fill color are selected 

Note:

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.

    Note:

    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.

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 or the Properties 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.

    Note:

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

    Fill and Stroke boxes
    A. Apply a fill color and a stroke color B. Remove a stroke from an object C. Remove a fill from an object 

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