by infinite_resolution


March 18, 2009

Live Color–Not Just for Designerds

Contributed by Terry Hemphill, Illustrator Product Marketing Manager

Live Color, first introduced in Illustrator CS3, is one of my favorite features, but it seems that almost no one knows it’s there or, if they do discover it, they can’t figure out how to use it. Some think it’s only for selecting color harmonies, and hey, they’re designers, they don’t need software to choose colors for them, right?

For sure, there are many opinions on the implementation and user interface for Live Color, and I’ll admit, I’m hardly the expert on how to use this complex set of tools for choosing, applying and controlling color. I use Live Color simply because I can work with colors globally and adjust them in a design “live,” letting me quickly fine tune colors visually.

Can I at least tease you enough to explore this feature? Hang with me, and I’ll also point you to great tutorials from those who can really show you how to make it work.

  • I don’t need software to choose colors for me
  • Live Color can help you choose color harmonies based on the rules of color theory. in fact, Adobe Kuler is based on a subset of the color tools available in Live Color. But that’s just one small bit of Live Color’s real power. Don’t be put off thinking that’s all it’s about.

  • How do I find Live Color?
  • There are multiple ways to get there, as with almost any feature in Illustrator. For me, I first select the artwork I want to modify, then click on the “Recolor Artwork” icon in the Control Panel. See the screenshot below.


  • OK, I’m here, now what?
  • Now I’m going to turn you over to the experts. I did say this was a tease…

    From Brenda Sutherland, a CS3 tutorial on Recolor Artwork

    Note, the CS3 Video Workshop, where the video above is found, has lots of great content for all the Creative Suite products, but it seems to have disappeared from Hopefully, the Adobe TV team is moving these videos over to a new home there. But in the meantime, you can explore this resource here.

    Here’s Deke McClelland with another take on Live Color, for CS4. Note, Deke mentions the Kuler panel in Illustrator CS4. Illustrator CS3 users can also access the Kuler panel from the Illustrator Main Menu>Adobe Labs>kuler. It was a Beta preview for CS3, and not marketed, so it was bit hidden. And only available in English.

    Hopefully, this will be enough to convince you to give Live Color a spin. Let me know if you’d like to know more about Live Color, and I’ll get the folks who actually helped create these tools to weigh in here on your thoughts and opinions.


    • By utm - 11:30 AM on March 18, 2009  

      Live Color is a great tool. I use it often to try out color schemes on charts and graphics. I’d like to know more about it and how (if it’s even possible) this kind of tool could ever be brought to other Adobe such as InDesign or Photoshop.You can access parts of Live Color technology in a number of CS4 products–Photoshop, InDesign, Flash Professional and Fireworks–through the Kuler panels in those products, which include a Live Color-like color wheel for creating harmonies.–th

    • By Mark - 1:25 PM on March 18, 2009  

      I don’t have time to sit down with the manual or a Real World book and figure it out. And I don’t want to navigate through that Byzantine mess you call a web site at Adobe to find it, I want it right here and now or I’ll never learn Live Color or Kuler.What I need is short, 5 min. video clips like others provide or a text version like InDesign Secrets. End of rant.Rant away 🙂 …but I did include links in this post to just the video training you describe. Check ’em out and let me know if that’s what you’re looking for. –th

    • By Leha Carpenter - 2:43 PM on April 3, 2009  

      I use Live Color a lot, but not the way I was taught to use it. My instructor dwelled in the Edit mode, but I use it mostly in Assign mode. One of the really cool things you can do in Assign mode is to take the set of colors you saved out from your live trace and either adjust them individually, or apply a whole new color group. If you create a drawing, let’s say, and you want to use a color set from a pixel-based image you are using for reference, you can get the colors from the image using Live Trace, then apply them as a set to your drawing using Live Color. Once you’ve applied them, you can adjust individual colors, or which colors work on which shapes.Also, if you want to just brainstorm a design, or a branding concept, Live Color provides a means to do that. Start by pulling in all your color sets from Kuler as color groups in Illustrator, then apply the groups, rearrange color order, tweak colors, add or subtract colors, and get the look you are after. When you have it, you can save it out as a new group.The one mystery in the Assign color panel that I haven’t figured out is why you would want to merge colors into a single row. Looking forward to someone answering that…Hi Leha, Thanks for the thoughtful reply (and your patience in getting your comment added — our blogging system is suffering some serious delays). To see a more practical example of using Live Color, see this post from Ian Giblin:post from Ian Giblin.Thx.–Terry H.

    • By Chana Messer - 4:37 PM on April 3, 2009  

      Love live colors! I use it all the time -and I am an artist and love ot hcoose my own colors.This help so much when you are creating a logo for a client!Cheers for AI! Rockscheck out my post on the Flaire tool.

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