Design insights & tutorials.

Quick Global Swatches In Adobe Illustrator


Global swatches in Adobe Illustrator: they’re awesome. If you’re not aware of the power that is a global swatch, they are special color swatches that are applied like regular swatches, but when the swatch is changed, all vector objects using that swatch are also updated. Similar to Symbols in Illustrator, or Instances for you Flash users. Like I said, awesome.

Global swatches come in very handy when tweaking colors in an illustration or design. Obviously you’re keeping your color palette tight, limited and harmonious so using global color swatches is the ideal method for ensuring all your elements are using the exact same color throughout the illustration or design.

Of course, this is only handy if you’re using global swatches from the go. Otherwise you need to go back, select one object using a color, go to Select > Same > Fill Color and then create a global swatch, and then apply that global swatch. Sheesh! But what if I told you you could create global swatches in one fell swoop, and convert all your existing art to the global swatches, and group them all into a color group in one step? I thought you might be interested. Read on for the how-to…

Open Your Image


Open up your .ai file. Obviously (or not so obviously) this technique will only work with vector objects. Here I am using a cool little punk rock alien cartoon character playing bass guitar, which I recently created for a client project.

Select Your Artwork


Select all the artwork for which you want to create global swatches. Here I just used the Selection tool and dragged around the chosen vector art objects.

Create The Color Group


Click the “Create Color Group” button in the Swatches palette/panel. It’s the little folder icon with a plus sign superimposed upon it.

Create The Global Swatches


After clicking the “Create Color Group” button, you’ll be presented with this dialog box. Be sure to click the “Selected Artwork” radio button as well as the “Convert Process To Global” checkbox.

Behold Your New Color Group!


Voila! You now have a new color group with all the selected object colors, and you can see by the white triangle in the corner that they are all indeed Global swatches. Illustrator also handily has converted the colors in your selected artwork to these new global versions of the swatches.

About the Author, George Coghill

George Coghill isa freelance humorous illustrator/cartoonist specializing in mascot cartoon character design & cartoon logos. His cartooning & illustration work can be seen at and at his cartooning and illustration blog. Be sure to follow me on Twitter here!
Discover More by George Coghill


We want to hear what you have to say. Do you agree? Do you have a better way to approach the topic? Let the community know by joining the discussion.

  • Simon H.

    So basically that means you're able to switch the whole color scheme in one click? I gotta try that!

  • Jimmy Smutek

    Ahh, the beauty of simple things!

    I've been using Illustrator since 2003, and 40+ hours a week for the last 3 years and I'm constantly learning new things.

    Great tip!

  • seanansari

    excellent tutorial !!

  • George Coghill

    Yeah, it's pretty excellent.

  • George Coghill

    Been using Ai forever as well, and also love finding out new tips like these.

  • tim_hammond

    Lovin' all these quick tips. It's the little things like this that really speed up your work.

  • Jillian Anderson

    wicked!!! yummy shortcuts

  • Joe Baron

    This is great. There shouldn't any problems when you make any of these swatches in spot color, right?

  • Joe Baron

    Just tried it out. Nothing is affected when using spot colors. This is a really good quick tip.

  • PG

    Sweet! I knew about using global swatches before, but didn't know you could convert all your other non global swatches like this.

  • Phil_Banks

    can i export or save the new swatches separately, and say… e-mail them to a print house?

  • George Coghill

    Thanks for the update on the Spot Color functionality.

  • George Coghill

    You should be able to export the swatches and an .ase file. This technique doesn't create any special swatches, it just a method for creating them quickly and in bulk.

  • ahi

    Yeah, it

  • Matt

    Thanks for this nice work!
    dizi izle

  • fajarfaqih

    Wow! It's simply useful! Thanks for the knowledge !

  • AlexanderMcQueenStore

    thanks post!

  • Andrew

    Great swatches tutorial – awesome design as well. Always forget about the global option… so very useful

  • Jennifer Stolz

    I love you! Thanks ;-)

  • Brent Alexander

    Fantastic. Really helps when colouring a large batch of illustrations.