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

Color symbols using pattern swatches

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

  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 instance 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 instance to color the artwork.

Appearance panel : color

You will see the entries for the fill and stroke in between the instance and contents entries. You will also see an entry for the opacity as well as the blending mode for the fill and stroke. You can set the blending modes for the fill and stroke to anything such as darken or difference. You can set the opacity to 50% etc.


You can also change the color of the Illustrator symbols to any pattern / swatch included in the current panel.


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Use direct selection tool with the latest version :

If you have a dynamic symbol then color it with Illustrator swatches using the direct selection tool. If the artwork is an older format static then you will have to convert it to a dynamic artwork to use it with the direct selection tool.


Ok, assuming it is now a dynamic instance. Goto to the toolbar and select the direct selection tool. Click the part of the Illustrator symbol you want to color with the swatch and then go to the swatches panel and click a swatch (pattern or solid color or gradient etc) and then that part of the instance will change to the new color scheme. All the other instances of the dynamic design will be unchanged. You can then select another part of the dynamic symbol and color the Illustrator symbol with a swatch and repeat.


Edit symbol itself : isolation

Another way to color Illustrator symbols with swatches is to just edit the design itself by double clicking the artwork in the symbols panel and then editing the design in isolation. You can select the individual paths of the design and change them all to all kinds of different designs. It should be noted that all instances will be updated with the new designs


Add multiple strokes : type design

You can add multiple strokes and multiple preset tiles to those strokes and they can be the same preset as well as different ones. You can also use the transform menu commands to scale and rotate those tile presets.


Some combinations will work well and some will be gloriously garrish but it is up to you.


The stroke also allows for the applied tile preset 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


Select an instance on the artboard and go to the appearance panel. Go to the right side menu and select add new stroke. Expand the vector tiles picker for that stroke. Select a colorful tile to the artwork. Set the stroke weight. Click the stroke options in the appearance panel and add profiles etc if required


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