How to Make a Color Palette in Adobe Illustrator

Creating a color palette in Illustrator is easy using the Blend Options, Color Picker, Image Trace, and Adobe Color Wheel. 

Hi, I am Rita. I have been using Adobe Illustrator for over five years, and creating a color palette for my designs helps me project the design intent and work faster. For example, I can quickly use the eyedropper tool to sample colors from other designs in seconds. 

In this article, I will show four quick ways to create a color palette in Illustrator.

4 Quick Ways to Create a Color Palette in Illustrator

Creating a color palette in Illustrator gives you a heads-up on the colors you are working with. Let’s look at the four methods.

Method 1: Using the Blend Options

This method is excellent for creating tones/shades of two colors. You can develop different tones/shades of complementary or analogous colors.

Let’s see how this method works in practice. 

Note: All screenshots are from Adobe Illustrator CC Windows Version. Mac and other versions may appear different.

Step 1: Create two base colors. You need two objects to use the Blend tool.

So, we are going to create two shapes and fill them with our base colors. I will use the Ellipse tool to create two circles.

Step 2: Select the two circles, then go to the overhead menu and select Object > Blend > Blend Options. The blend options window will pop up. Adjust the settings to meet your preferences.

You can specify the number of steps you want by inputting it in the “Specified Steps” option.

Remember, if you want four colors, you need to specify two steps since you already have two existing colors. 

Step 3: Go to the overhead menu and select Object > Blend > Make. 

You should see something like this.

Note: My objects appear joined because of the distance between the two objects. You can specify a wider distance between the shapes. 

Step 4: Create a color palette. We’ve not created a color palette even though we have blended the two colors. So, we have only two shapes and not four.

Now, we will create four shapes and then fill them with colors from the blend using the color picker.

Step 5: Add the colors to swatches. Select all shapes to add your color palette to Swatches, and click on New Color Group in the Swatches panel. 

Step 6: Name your palette. A dialogue box will appear when you click “New color group.” Name your palette in the specified field and check Selected Artwork (because you are creating a palette from a selected artwork).

Once you click OK, you will see your color palette in the Swatches panel.

Method 2: Eyedropper Tool

The eye dropper is one of my favorite Illustrator tools and I call it the “cool cheat tool” because it allows you to pick colors from images.

Let’s make a color palette from the plant image below using the Eyedropper tool.

Step 1: Place the shape in Adobe Illustrator. Go to the overhead menu and select File > Place.

Step 2: Create the shapes that will carry the colors. You can use the shape tool to make shapes like circles, rectangles, etc.

I will use little squares for this illustration. 

Remember that the number of colors you want will determine the number of shapes you have to create. I want to make five colors, so I must create five shapes. 

Step 3: Select each square and then use the color picker to choose your preferred color from the image. Do this one by one.

Step 4: Save your color palette using the same method we used in Method 1.

Quick reminder: To save your color palette, select all the colors and click New Color Group from the swatches panel. A dialogue window will open – name your palette, choose Selected Artwork, and click OK.

That’s it!

Method 3: Image Trace

You can use the Image Trace option to create color palettes from an image easily. I will use the same sample image I used for method 2.

Alright, let’s see how this works in a few simple steps. I’ll use the same plant image.

Step 1: Select the image you want to get color from and go to Object > Image Trace > Make.

Step 2: Open the image trace menu by clicking Window > Image Trace. Modify the fields to meet your design needs. 

For example, I will change the Mode to color because my image was in black & white after tracing, and I inputted 6 in the color field (you can also use the slider).

Step 3: Select the object, go to the overhead menu, and click Object > Expand

Once you click Expand, you will see the Expand window dialogue box. Check the Fill and Object fields, then click OK.

Step 4: Save the colors from the expanded image. To do this, select your image and click on New Color Group from the swatches panel (that’s the little folder icon at the bottom of the swatches panel).

Name your color group. Name your color group in the “new color group” display window. Check “Selected Artwork” and click OK to save the colors.

You will see the new color palette in a new folder in the Swatches panel.

Method 4: Adobe Color

This method is one of the most convenient ways to create a color palette in Illustrator because you can directly save the color and access it in your libraries or share it with others (clients, colleagues, etc.).

To use Adobe Color, visit to create your color palette. Let’s see how it works in a few steps.

Step 1: Click Create to make a color palette. 

Choose your preferred color harmony options. I will choose complementary.

Step 2: Adjust the colors. You can adjust the colors to suit your needs in the color wheel using the slider. Keep changing till you are satisfied with the result.

Step 3: Save your palette. Once you are happy with your palette, go to the right-hand side to save it. Fill in the Save To” and Name” Fields.

The save to field allows you to choose where you want to locate your new color palette. The name field helps you identify the specific color palette.

Click Save, and that’s it!

To be sure you saved it, go to Illustrator’s overhead menu and select Window > Libraries. The libraries panel will open, and then you will see your library on the list. Click on it.

Step 4: Right-click on your color palette and select Add theme to swatches. You will now see your swatches appear as a new color group in the swatches menu. You can now use them whenever you please. 

Final Thought

Creating your color palette in Illustrator helps you create a straightforward design workflow. It saves you the hassle of going back and forth with clients on color choices.

All four methods are great, and they all help work effectively and faster. For example, the Blend method allows you to create a color palette using the tones from two colors. With the eyedropper method, you can quickly sample colors from related images.

The Image Trace method allows you to create a color palette directly to your swatches. You can also use the Adobe color when you are running out of ideas and need inspiration.

Which method do you like most? Let us know in the comment section below.

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