How to easily change colour groups to Pantone colours in Illustrator [video] | Pitter Pattern

At the end of last year, I made a few video tutorials for my Pattern Kick customers, explaining some useful tips & tricks to help them make the most of their pattern files. Today I’m sharing one of them with you: How to easily change colour groups to Pantone colours in Illustrator.

This video tutorial will show you, as described in the title, how to convert Illustrator colour groups in your Swatches panel, to Pantone colours. A very useful trick for when you have some artwork ready to send to the printers but didn’t work with Pantone colours from the beginning.

Pantone is a proprietary colour matching system used in a variety of colour-critical industries, including graphic arts, digital technology, textiles, plastics, architecture & contract interiors, and paint. It’s the standard system for identifying, matching and communicating colours, which solves the problems associated with producing accurate colour matches.

If all this it’s making your head spin, you might be able to find the process easier to understand by checking this page: Pantone Colors: What They Are and How to Use Them.

Because I’m very aware that I have a strong accent and it might be difficult to understand me sometimes, I have added the script below the video…

I hope you enjoy this tutorial and, better still, find it useful… Please let me know in the comments below if you have any questions about the process, if you have any topic requests for small tutorials like this one, or if you want to share your own ideas about using Pantone colours in Illustrator… I would love to hear them!

How to change colour groups to Pantone colours in Illustrator

00:00 – Intro

  • Hi guys, on this video I’m gonna show you how to convert your colour groups into Pantone colours automatically.
  • This little tip is great if you like to get your designs ready for print with Pantone colours but you didn’t start designing with them from the beginning.
  • So for example, on this pattern here I used a colour palette that was created with RGB colour swatches.
  • You can see that if I click on one of these swatches, double-click, it will show us that it’s an RGB colour.
  • So let’s say that we want this pattern ready for print now. We really don’t want to send a file to the printers using RGB colours as they probably won’t print as the colours you’re seeing on the screen.
  • We want to make sure that the colours on a physical print match the colours we intended for this design.
  • One way to do this is by converting those RGB swatches to Pantone colours. Then, if you have a Pantone colour book around, you can make sure by looking at your colour book that the colour chosen on the Illustrator file matches the colour in your head.
  • So let’s do this.

01:10 – Change colours to Pantone

  • First, make sure that you have nothing selected on your artboard and then just click on your colour group to select it.
  • Then click on the Edit Colour Group button here to open the Edit Colors window or double-click the colour group folder.
  • Notice that if by mistake you have something selected and click on this button, it will open the Recolour Artwork window which is very similar.
  • We don’t want that. For example, if I’d selected this and then choose this, it will recolour.
  • Ok, let’s go back to the edit colours window so, nothing selected, group selected, Edit Colors.
  • In here, you’re gonna click on this button: Limits the colour group to colours in a swatch library.
  • Then choose the Pantone colour book that you have a copy of or that you want to use.
  • I’ll choose Pantone+ Colour Bridge Coated V3 which is the one I use.
  • Ok, you can see here now that the colours changed to reflect the fact that Pantone’s range is not as big as the RGB colour range.
  • And what Illustrator is doing here is choosing Pantone colours as close to the original colours as it can.
  • Now go up to New Color Group and click to create a new colour group with all your lovely Pantone colours.
  • You’ll see on the right column that it created a new group and you can name it whatever you want.
  • I’ll name mine Pantone.
  • That’s it, you can now click Ok to close the window and when prompted click Yes to save changes to your new colour group.
  • Your new Pantone colour group is in your Swatches panel now. You can see its name by hovering over the little folder. And you can see the names for each Pantone colour by hovering over each colour swatch.

03:34 – Recolouring artwork with pantone colours

  • One important thing to notice here is that tiny little white triangle at the bottom of each swatch.
  • That means that that colour is a Global colour, which is exactly what we want and I’ll explain why in a minute.
  • We can see that if I double-click on one of our RGB colour swatches, the Global option is unchecked.
  • If I double-click on one of our Pantone swatches we can see that the Global option is ticked.
  • Right, so we have our new Pantone colours but our pattern here is still using the old RGB colours. We want to replace them with the new ones.
  • So let’s select our pattern, make a copy of it, make sure you have selected the Pantone colour group in your Swatches panel and then click on the Recolor Artwork button on the top bar.
  • In here choose your Pantone colour group on the right and rearrange the colours on the left so each new colour replaces the same old colour.
  • So I put my red with red, this green with this green, cream with cream, that’s right.
  • You can check out my video about how to use the recolour artwork feature if you want a bit more information about it.
  • So that’s it, you’re done. I’ll save the changes. You have now converted your colours to Pantone colours and recoloured your pattern with them.
  • You can just about see the difference between the 2 patterns but it will make all the difference if you’re thinking about printing your designs.
  • Make sure you check your new Pantone colour swatches against your actual Pantone colour book to make sure everything is as wanted and you’re good to go.

05:42 – Global colours

  • Ok, so one last thing, global colours, as promised.
  • Global colour means that if you change that colour swatch on your Swatches panel, that change will be reflected on all the elements that use that colour in your file.
  • So for example, let’s say that I would like to change this green to an orange colour.
  • First, make sure nothing is selected on your artboard.
  • Then double-click the colour swatch you want to change. I’m gonna change this green.
  • Make sure you tick the Preview box so you can see the changes live on your pattern and tweak it until you find what you want.
  • Ok, so I’m just gonna choose dark orange.
  • Make sure that you rename your colour accordingly, so I’ll name this Orange, and if you need to, find a Pantone equivalent for it.
  • Ok, so you see here that the pattern has been updated. There’s the orange, we changed the green for the orange.
  • If we tried to do the same thing with our old colours, like this green that is not a Global colour, if I double-click and change it to an orange, you can see that the old pattern doesn’t get updated as it’s not a Global colour.
  • So it’s very handy indeed.
  • That’s it guys. We did it.
  • Hope this helps you a little with editing your patterns and I’ll see you soon.

Let me know how you get on and if you found the tutorial useful! And also, are there any other techniques you’d like me to create tutorials for? Pop them in the comments…

I am a designer, originally from Colombia and now living permanently in Cornwall, UK. I graduated in Product Design but since then have mostly worked in graphics for print and web. A few years ago I decided to specialise in Surface Pattern Design and I'm loving it!


  1. Mohammad

    Enjoyed direction and its method to improve in our work.

  2. Nice. Good to know. I like your confidence!

  3. Hi Veronica, a great and easy to follow video!

  4. Hello Veronica, Great video and I have learned a new trick here. MJ

  5. Thank you Veronica!

  6. bobfromca

    Thank you Very Much! Great tutorial. I’ve used Illustrator for many years and did not know how to do this. This will be helpful for converting work for screen printing.

    BTW, love your accent! And you were very easy to understand (I’m from USA).

    • Hey Bob, I’m so sorry I hadn’t replied to your lovely comment, but for some reason, it got flagged as spam and I had missed it :-/ Anyway, so happy that you found the tutorial useful! And soooo glad you liked my accent, it’s actually what kept me from doing tutorials for years, I think it’s horrendous ;-) Hopefully see around again!

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