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Live Paint

The Live Paint function in Illustrator is a great example of how Adobe caters to designers’ workflow. They create tools that fit right into how we work. After we sketch a concept and Image Trace it, we want to quickly apply colour to the shapes. This is what Live Paint does.

Using Live Paint is like pouring liquid paint into your vectors. It fills areas with colour until it encounters a boundary. We’ll use it to paint our traced artwork.

Formative Activity

Let’s move on to the illustration that we’ve image-traced. To get some colour into our vectors, we’ll select the whole sketch, then click on it with the Paint Bucket tool. This will make our vector art a Live Paint Group.


You can tell by the little asterisks in the bounding box anchor points.

Let’s get a few different colour themes. We’ll open some from Illustrator’s libraries and download some from Adobe Colour.


We’ll go to our Swatches panel and use the provided colours to paint our sketch. We’ll make the colour swatches Global Colours before we apply then in our Illustration. To do so, double-click on the swatch, then check Global Colour in the options dialogue.

First, we need to select the swatches, then click on the folder icon at the bottom of the panel. This will put them in a Colour Group, which will in turn, make them available with our Live Paint Bucket tool.


Now you’re free to use these colours to paint your artwork. You can use the left/right arrows on the keyboard to choose colours while using the Paint Bucket tool. Click away!

Gap Detection

If there are gaps in your drawing that are making paint pour outside the shapes, you can use Illustrator’s Gap Detection settings to close them.

Gap Detection creates an artificial barrier so paint doesn't leak out of open shapes.

Gap Detection has its limits. You may need to use the Direct Select tool to manually close gaps.

Recolour Artwork

Now that we’ve produced a vector version of our sketch with colour in it, we’ll want to show our client different colour themes. This is where Re-colour Artwork comes in.


Use to either create or simply find different colour themes for your sketch. Sync them to Illustrator, then apply them to multiple instances or your original sketch the same way you applied colour the first time around.

If you organize swatches in Colour Groups, they become accessible in the Edit Colours dialogue. We’ll use this to create colour variations for our artwork.

This is an awesomely quick way to create multiple colour variations to present to your client.