About selecting colors

You can select colors for your artwork from a variety of tools, panels, and dialog boxes in Illustrator. How you select color depends on the needs of your artwork. For example, if you want to use specific company-approved colors, you’ll want to select colors from the company-approved swatch library. If you want to match your colors with colors in other artwork, you can use the eyedropper or the Color Picker and enter exact color values.

You can use any of the following features for selecting color:

Swatches panel and swatch library panels

Provide individual colors and color groups. You can choose from preexisting swatches and libraries or create your own. You can also import libraries.

Color Picker

Provides a color spectrum from which you can visually select colors, color value text boxes for manually defining colors, and color swatches.

Eyedropper tool

Samples colors from your artwork when you click.

Color panel

Provides a color spectrum, individual color value sliders (such as a Cyan slider), and color value text boxes. You can specify fill and stroke colors from the Color panel. From the Color panel menu, you can create inverse and complementary colors for the current fill or stroke color, and create a swatch from the selected color.

Color Guide panel

Provides several harmony rules to choose from for creating color groups using a base color that you choose. You can create variations of colors using tints and shades, warm and cool colors, or vivid and muted colors. From this panel, you can open a color group in the Edit Colors/Recolor Artwork dialog box.

Edit Colors/Recolor Artwork dialog box

Part of this dialog box provides tools for precisely defining or adjusting the colors in a color group or artwork. The other part lets you recolor your artwork using the colors from a color group, or reduce or convert your colors for output.

Add Selected Colors command or New Color Group button

Create a color group containing the colors in selected artwork. This command and button are both located in the Swatches panel.

Color Picker overview

The Color Picker lets you select an object’s fill or stroke color by choosing from a color field and spectrum, defining colors numerically, or clicking a swatch.

Color Picker
Color Picker

A. Color field B. HSB color values C. New color rectangle D. Original color rectangle E. Color slider F. Color spectrum G. RGB color values H. Hexadecimal color value I. CMYK color values 

Display the Color Picker

  • Double-click the fill or stroke color selection box in the Tools panel or Color panel.

Change the color spectrum displayed in the Color Picker

  • Click a letter: H (Hue), S (Saturation), B (Brightness), R (Red), G (Green), or B (Blue).

Display only web-safe colors

Web-safe colors are those colors used by all web browsers, regardless of the platform.

  • Select Only Web Colors.

View color swatches instead of the color spectrum

  • Click Color Swatches. Click Color Models to return to view the color spectrum.

Select colors using the Color Picker

Do any of the following:

  1. Click or drag inside the color spectrum. A circular marker indicates the color’s position in the spectrum.

  2. Drag the triangles along the color slider or click inside the color slider.

  3. Enter values in any of the text boxes.

  4. Click Color Swatches, select a swatch, and click OK.

Color panel overview

You use the Color panel (Window > Color) to apply color to an object’s fill and stroke, and also to edit and mix colors. The Color panel can display color values using different color models. By default, only the most commonly used options are visible in the Color panel.

Color panel
Color panel

A. Fill color B. Stroke color C. panel menu D. None box E. Color spectrum bar F. Color slider G. Text box for a color component 

Change the color model

  • Select Grayscale, RGB, HSB, CMYK, or Web Safe RGB from the panel menu.

Show all options in the panel

  • Select Show Options from the panel menu. Alternatively, click the double triangle on the panel’s tab to cycle through the display sizes.

Select colors using the Color panel

  1. Select the color mode you want to use from the panel menu. The mode you select affects only the display of the Color panel; it does not change the color mode of the document.

  2. Do one of the following:

    • Drag or click in a slider.

    • Shift-drag a color slider to move the other sliders in relation to it (except for HSB sliders). This keeps a similar color but with a different tint or intensity.

    • Enter values in any of the text boxes.

    • Click in the color spectrum bar at the bottom of the panel. To select no color, click the None box at the left of the color bar; to select white, click the white swatch at the upper-right corner of the color bar; to select black, click the black swatch at the lower-right corner of the color bar.

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