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How to Create an Automatic Color Palette in Adobe Illustrator

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Are you designing a brand or a collection of images and struggling to create a cohesive color palette? In this Adobe Illustrator tutorial, we’ll be explaining how to create an automated color palette and then access it for future designs.

Why You Should Create a Color Palette

As a designer, creative, or simply someone expressing an artistic hobby, you’re likely aware that colors are one of the most important things when creating art and design work. While some people like to be more expressive with their palette with absurd and unplanned color choices, being intentional with your palette is important, too.

If you’re designing for a brand, your color palette may be the difference between attracting the right clients for your intended audience. So picking the right color palette is critical.

Maybe you want an artistic style where people can see your work and know instantly that it’s yours. For this reason, you may choose to only work with a select few colors. You must choose the colors to begin with, and that isn’t as easy as simply plucking them out of thin air.

How to Decide Which Colors to Use

Birdseye view of mood board including red chillies, brown swatches, and black and cream aspects.

You don’t want to choose your color palette randomly. As previously mentioned, an intentional choice can make all the difference to who engages with your work. The easiest way to find colors that work together is through research and creating mood boards.

MAKEUSEOF VIDEO OF THE DAY

We suggest using Pinterest to help with this. You can easily search for competitors and/or artists with similar styles to your own, or be inspired by images that are completely separated from your creative venture.

As well as virtually collecting images online, we suggest taking photos out in the wild and making notes about how certain colors or styles make you feel and why you use or engage with those works.

Whether you create a digital mood board with Pinterest or create a traditional mood board of collected paper swatches and images, this will certainly be the critical beginnings of finding your chosen color scheme.

Related: Apps to Find the Best Color Schemes, Matches, and Palettes

How to Create a Color Palette in Adobe Illustrator

Once you’ve created a mood board, you should get an idea of the sorts of colors you can use in your color palette. To create a color palette, you should find one main color from your mood board. This may be the most prominent color from your choices, or simply the one that works best for your brand.

In Adobe Illustrator, open your digital mood board and use the Eyedropper Tool to swatch your chosen main color. This doesn’t have to be a bold color or one that stands out from the other colors in your mood board; it can simply be the color you wish to be most prominent in your future designs or branding. You can also use the mood board simply for inspiration and open your color wheel to find a color that suits the collection of images you’ve created.


Open a new Artboard. Using the Ellipse Tool (L) or the Rectangle Tool (M), create a circle or rectangle off to one side of the Artboard in your chosen color. Then, on the other side of the Artboard, create another circle or rectangle in either the darkest or the lightest shade within your mood board. To have a wackier color palette, then go for a shade quite opposite to the hue of your first color.

Illustrator screenshot demonstrating Object>
Blend>Make

After placing your two color swatches, select them both using the Selection Tool (V) while holding down Shift on your keyboard. Once selected click Object > Blend > Make.

Illustrator dartboard showing results of Object>
Blend>Make, showing gradient of coloured circles from red to black.

You’ll notice that this creates a gradient from your first color to the last color. By clicking into Blend Options in the Properties panel, or clicking Object > Blend > Blend Options, you can experiment with how many steps of color there are between the first and last swatch.


At this point, you can only select the blended objects together as one. You can change the gradient as one, but you cannot currently individually select one swatch. In order to separate these from one another while retaining their individual colors, click Object > Blend > Expand. Clicking Object > Blend > Release instead will return your gradient swatches to their original two.

Adobe Illustrator color palette with red hues.

To release these swatches further, simply right-click and click Ungroup. Take around 4-6 of the best swatches from the selection and make those into your final color palette. By having created this palette using Illustrator’s blend mode, you ensure that all the colors cohesively blend.

Gradient color palette featuring red to green hues.

If you wanted to create a color palette using two colors that don’t seem related to one another, that is still an option. The gradient blending mode allows you to find intermediate swatches that won’t look out of place with your two main choices, allowing you to create a cohesive color palette quickly.

How to Access Your Color Palette in Illustrator

Once you’ve created your final color palette in Adobe Illustrator, you’ll want to save the palette for future use. There are a few ways you can do this and your choice may depend on which programs you’ll use your color palette in later.

Adobe Color

If you’re continuing to use Adobe Creative Cloud, you can install your palette to Adobe Color, which allows you to access the palette across any other Adobe software. Simply log into Adobe Color using your Creative Cloud credentials in order to save your palette in all Adobe programs.

Screenshot of Adobe.Color site.

Once you’ve opened Adobe Color, click Create > Custom. Once on the custom setting, you can change the individual color codes for each swatch by copying the hex codes from Illustrator. Once your palette is complete, click Save.

Adobe Illustrator Screenshot of saved color palette

You can then open any Adobe program, or head back to Illustrator, to view and access your saved palette. Click Window > Libraries and find the library where you previously saved your palette. Once open, right-click the chosen palette and click Add theme to swatches. Now your new palette will be in your Swatches panel, so you can easily access it for future use.

Canva

Screenshot of Canva showing its color palette

To use your color palette in a non-Adobe program such as Canva requires a similar set of steps.

If you use the free version of Canva, you will likely have to put your palette’s hex codes in every time you open Canva. Keep a saved version of your final color palette as an image so that you will always have access to be able to eyedrop the hex codes.

If you use Canva Pro, you can save the color palette under the Brand Kit in your Canva account. This means you only have to input the hex codes once, and they will always be available each time you log into your account.

Related: How to Brand Your Personal Social Media Accounts

You Can Now Create an Auto-Populated Color Palette

This new skill will save you time and frustration and ensure that any colors you use in your palette harmonize with one another.

By creating the palette in Adobe Illustrator, you will have easy access across the Adobe Suite, and your color palette can easily be imported into other creative software.

Your workflow will seem so much smoother now you don’t have to spend time thinking up a cohesive color palette for every project.


custom-palette-photoshop
How to Create a Custom Color Palette in Adobe Photoshop

Here’s how to create a custom color palette in Adobe Photoshop if you don’t like Photoshop’s default color swatches.

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