How to color symbols using pattern swatches in Illustrator

Learn how to add color to a symbol in Illustrator by adding colorful pattern swatches to the fill or stroke of a symbol. The Adobe Illustrator symbol can be used as is but it can also be filled or strokes with all kinds of colorful pattern swatches in Illustrator CC 2018 2017 2015 2014 CS6 CS5 etc

Color symbols using pattern swatches

how to color symbols using illustrator pattern swatches tutorial
  1. Select a symbol

  2. Display the appearance panel (via the window menu)

  3. Go to the appearance panel in Illustrator and you will see a breakdown in the list for the symbol : symbol, contents, opacity.

  4. Go to the right side menu of the symbol panel and then select the add new fill and the symbol will be filled with a solid black swatch.

  5. OK, now go to the fill entry in the appearance panel and select the dropdown and then select one of the swatches you want to add to the symbol to color the artwork.

You will see the entries for the fill and stroke in between the symbol and contents entries. You will also see an entry for the opacity as well as the blending mode for the fill and the same for the stroke so instead of just using the normal blend for the color fill and the swatch, you can set the blending mode to lighten or darken or difference etc by going to the opacity and displaying the opacity panel and setting the blending mode there (some will have little effect and the stroke will have even less effect if there is nothing behind the design

Symbols for your projects, all royalty free AI format, download


Buy $9.95

200 Background symbols for use with swatches (V6) Background symbols for Illustrator

You can also add stroke pattern swatches to the symbol in Illustrator giving a colorful edge to the symbols

color swatches symbols stroke

The stroke can be added to the symbol and that can also use the same Illustrator swatch or a different swatch. Some combinations will work well and some will be gloriously garrish but it is up to you. The stroke also allows for the swatch to be manipulated a little further with stroke options such as caps and width profiles that can be added and you can access those by clicking the underline stroke entry

  1. Select a symbol

  2. Go to the appearance panel

  3. Go to the right side menu and select add new stroke

  4. Expand the swatches picker for that stroke

  5. Select a swatch

  6. Set the stroke weight

  7. Click the stroke options in the appearance panel

  8. Set profile if you wish

You can also save the symbol and swatches combination to the symbols panel

You can also just select the entire symbol and all the associated swatches and add them to the symbol panel and save it as a new artwork. You can then simply add new fills and new stroke swatches to that and start the process again. I would say, this must however have some impact on the system but if you have a powerful machine who knows how many combinations of color effects and symbols you can combine.

Other tutorials

1. how to replace symbol instances in Illustrator


Return to home page


Commercial use - Royalty free - No time limit, no credit - All by - Secure sales via (c) 1995-2017 Andrew Buckle, Maidstone artist, tel: +44 1622 / 688 375 E-mail: support@ License and usage Privacy Facebook pinterest Twitter Youtube tutorials Instagram Linkedin


The graphic design products are priced in US dollars but they can also be bought in Euros, Yen, UK pounds, etc though please note that there may be additional taxes applicable which will be handled in the secure checkout. If you have any questions or queries about the products, please let us know and I will try and help by e-mail or via youtube etc. You can also add additional products as well as download protection and also purchase a physical CD via the The brushes and patterns etc work in a variety of applications and there are many freebie / samplers available to test them on your system before any purchase but again, if you have any concerns that the brushes etc will work with your favourite application, please let us know. The quickest way is probably to leave a message on our facebook page. The designs can be used as brushes and patterns and shapes etc but they can also be used just as images or layers as well as displacement maps or overlays or masks etc so even if the product is listed as a brush or shape, you can often also use the artwork as a layer and use the layer multiple times in the same project to create all kinds of unique and wonderful designs. The products on this site are copyright of Andrew Buckle but any products and artworks you create with these items are your copyright.