How to recolour patterns automatically 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 recolour patterns automatically in Illustrator.

This video tutorial will show you how to change the colours of your Illustrator’s patterns and/or artwork with Illustrator’s own ‘Recolor Artwork’ feature. It’s so fast and easy, it makes tedious work a breeze! If you haven’t used it yet, you’ll soon be wondering how you ever managed without it…

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 recolouring artwork in Illustrator… I would love to hear them!



How to recolour patterns automatically in Illustrator

00:00 – Intro

  • Hi guys, today I’m gonna show you how to change the colours of your patterns very easily in Illustrator.

  • This way of recolouring artwork is very handy because it allows you to change the colours of the pattern as a whole instead of having to recolour each element on its own and you’ll see what I mean in a minute.

  • First, we are going to choose an alternative colour palette to the one that is being used on the pattern at the moment.

  • I’m going to choose one with the same amount of colours as the current one, which is five, for the purpose of this exercise.

00:35 – Choosing colours

  • I will choose my new colours from my Creative Cloud library, which is here. Let’s find a nice colour palette, let’s choose this one.

  • I right click on the colour palette and choose ‘Add to swatches’ and the colour palette gets added to our swatches panel. Let’s close Creative Cloud.

00:58 – Recolour Artwork feature

  • Now we’re gonna click on the patterned object you want to recolour to select it, and once selected you have two ways to get to the ‘Recolor Artwork’ option.

  • One is here on the top bar, this little button here that says ‘Recolor Artwork’.

  • The other one is by selecting the colour group you want to use in your swatches panel, here, then the ‘Recolor Artwork’ option will become visible at the bottom of the swatches panel, just here.

  • Just click on it and this will bring up the window we will be using to change the colours of our patterns.

  • You can see the current colours of the pattern on the left column. These are the colours we are using at the moment on the pattern.

  • On the right column you can see the colour groups we have in our swatches panel. This is our current colour group, Hearty Christmas, and this is the new colour group we just chose from the Creative Cloud, Retro Surf.

  • Click on the colour group you want to change your pattern to to select it so I’m just gonna click on Retro Surf.

  • This is gonna instantly change the colours on our pattern by replacing each of our old colours with one of the new ones.

  • You can see which colour replaced which by looking at the left column. The current colours on the left have a new colour assigned to them on the right, so we can see this very clearly here.

  • There are loads of options for changing colours in this window, but I will show you just a couple, you can experiment with the rest later.

02:48 – Recolouring option 1

  • The first one is by clicking here, on the ‘Randomly change colour order’ option. This will cycle through the colours randomly creating new colour combinations automatically for you.

  • You can click here as many times as you want until you find the look you’re going after. Then, when you find it you can click on OK to exit the ‘Recolor Artwork’ window.

  • At this point you’re gonna be asked if you want to save changes to swatch group before closing. This only means that the order of the colours in your colour group will or will not change to reflect the order that you have chosen for the colours here, on the left column. I will click ‘No’ this time.

  • Now you can enjoy your newly recoloured pattern. But let’s backtrack a bit so I can show you another way of doing the recolouring.

03:53 – Recolouring option 2

  • I will undo the colour changes and get back into the ‘Recolor Artwork’ window.

  • The other way to recolour your pattern from this window is by manually selecting which colour replaces which, by dragging each new colour, so let’s choose Retro Surf again, so all these new colours, we’re gonna drag each of them into their respective position, opposite the colour they will be replacing.

  • So let’s think about it… On this pattern I want the cream to be replaced by the red, this green to be replaced by this green, this green to be replaced by this green, this dark red maybe by this green and this light red will be replaced with the new cream.

  • Now we can click on OK again and check our lovely new colour combination. Ok, this is the same, I’ll say ‘No’ this time, there you are.

05:10 – Final notes

  • An important thing to notice here is that the pattern swatch for our old colourway is still there in the panel swatches, here, we haven’t lost it, which is very very handy.

  • The ‘Recolor Artwork’ option created a new pattern swatch for us with the new colourway here. We can see it, if we go inside pattern mode we can see that the pattern elements have been recoloured with the new colours.

  • So keep that in mind, every time you recolour a pattern a new swatch will be created and nothing will be lost, so we’ve got the old one and we’ve got our new one.

  • And this is it, we’re done. Have fun recolouring and any questions please let me know in the comments.

  • See you next time!


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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 on Surface Pattern Design and I'm loving it!

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