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.