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change color of a symbol in Illustrator tutorial

change color of symbols in Illustrator tutorial

How to change the color of a symbol in Illustrator CC CS6 CS5 CS4 etc. You can change the color of a symbol in a number of ways in Illustrator.

  1. double click an Illustrator symbol instance (one you wish to change the color of)

  2. select the paths (in the symbol editing mode)

  3. change the color of the symbol

  4. right click and select exit symbol editing mode

The color of the Illustrator symbols can be changed by double clicking the symbol instance (if added to the artboard) or by double clicking the symbol in the symbols panel (this is the same for dynamic symbol as well). You can also select a symbol and change the color by using the Illustrator color guide (window menu) in Illustrator as well as the powerful adjust color balance command found in the edit menu. You can also change the color of parts of the symbol using the direct selection tool (in the toolbar) if the symbol is dynamic. You can also change the color of the symbols by applying the symbol stainer tool. The tool stains the current selected symbol instance or set with the foreground color. This tutorial shows a number of ways of changing the color (fill as well as stroke in most cases) in Illustrator

Static symbol and changing the color of a static symbol in Illustrator

fill color change of color for symbols

There are two types of symbol (if you are using the latest versions): static and dynamic. To change the color (fill or stroke) of a static symbol

  1. create a path

  2. drag into the symbols panel

  3. select static (this is the older version of symbol and in earlier versions there is no choice)

  4. double click the symbol instance (the path is now a symbol instance)

  5. a panel pops up and click OK

  6. select the part of the symbol you want to re-color

  7. go to the swatches or to the toolbar and fill / stroke or top bar

  8. set the fill color by clicking a swatch / toolbar fill / top bar fill (make certain the panel for the color is set to the fill color)

  9. set the stroke color by going to the same panels / toobar but selecting the panel for the stroke

  10. right click and select "exit symbol editing mode'

The symbol instance (and instances) and symbol in the panel will now be updated


Instead of double clicking the symbol instance, you can also double click the symbol in the symbols panel. The dynamic symbols can also be edited in the same way

Color guide and changing color of symbol

color guide and change color of symbols
  1. select symbol instance

  2. window menu

  3. color guide

  4. click bottom line 'edit or apply colors'

  5. select an active colors in the top bar dropdown of the color guide panel such as high contrast 1

  6. click the button in the middle of the color guide 'randomly change color guide order'

  7. click and repeat and you will see the color of the symbol change

  8. click ok


You will now see the symbol instances have been changed and also the symbol

Dynamic symbols and changing color

dynamic symbols and changing color in Illustrator

If you set the symbol to a dynamic symbol (indicated by a little +), you can use direct selection tool to change the color

  1. select one of the paths in the symbol using direct selection tool

  2. go to toolbar and set the fill color

  3. set the stroke color

Symbols and symbol stainer

stainer symbol effect applied
  1. select symbol instance

  2. go to the toolbar and symbol sprayer tool

  3. go to the symbol stainer in the same group

  4. set the fill color (doesn't appear to work with strokes)

  5. double click the symbol stainer tool to change options such as intensity etc

  6. click or paint over the symbol instance with the symbol stainer tool

The symbol instance color is changed or stained. You can re-apply the color at any point by changing the color in the toolbar. You must select the symbol set or symbol instance or a message will appear. You can paint over or just click the item to change the color in Illustrator

Other tutorials

1. Dynamic symbols in Illustrator tutorial

Sources and references

1. Symbols on