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Illustrator CS3's New Color Crunching Commands

When talk of CS3 started circulating, much of the chatter centered around the new features in Photoshop. Don't get me wrong, I love a new selection command, but what really has me hoppin' is found in Illustrator, the vector creation tool that just celebrated its 20th birthday.

Illustrator's new color commands have me doing backflips (alright, attempted backflips). These commands are amazingly handy, especially when the creative juices aren't flowing. In this article we'll check out Illustrator's Color Guide panel and Live Color feature—two new options in Illustrator's growing arsenal of color commands.

The Color Guide Panel: Instant Inspiration!

Like many of us, if you find working with and mixing colors to be tricky business you're in for a treat. In this section, we'll look at the new Color Guide panel, and how we can use it to find inspiration while creating our next masterpiece.

At first glance, the Color Guide panel (Window > Color Guide) looks like the Swatches panel, but that's where it ends. This feature provides boundless color inspiration by using the selected Toolbox color as a base and the Harmony Rule menu to find Complimentary colors, Analogous colors, and more. Let's take a look.

Get Harmonizing

1. Select an object and make a mental note of which color swatch you have active at the bottom of the Toolbox (either Fill or Stroke). For the best results, use a bright color.

Screenshot 1 Color in Illustrator
Screenshot 1: Indicating fill color at bottom of Toolbox

2. At the top-left of the Color Guide panel click the Set Base Color To The Current Color button; choose a rule from the Harmony Rule pull-down menu.
For example, Complimentary, Split Complimentary, or Monochromatic.

Screen 2
Screenshot 2: Opening menu at top of Color Guide panel

When you choose a Harmony Rule, the Color Guide panel fills with swatches based on your selection. If you chose Monochromatic, you'd get swatches of varying tints based on the original base color in the Toolbox.

So does the Color Guide panel make sense? It's generating the base color's complimentary colors, split complimentary colors, monochromatic variations, and so on, automatically. Never again will your work contain clashing colors!

3. To use a color suggested by the Color Guide panel, select the object whose color you'd like to change; then click on the color in the panel.

Screenshot 3
Screenshot 3: Choosing a color swatch from the Color Guide panel

Applying colors from the Color Guide panel works exactly like using the Swatches and you can save the colors as a Color Group for later use. Color Groups, also new to Illustrator CS3, are simply a collection of colors stored in the Swatches panel.

4. To save a set of colors as a Color Group, deselect your artwork; then click on the first color swatch in the Color Guide panel and Shift+click the last to select all the color swatches. Finally, click on the Save Color Group To Swatches Panel button in the panel's bottom-right corner.

The new Color Group loads into the Swatches panel, ready for reuse elsewhere. If you double-click on your new Color Group's folder icon it will open in Illustrator's new Live Color dialog, where you can adjust the colors even more. The Live Color dialog box is where we're headed so close out the dialog box and continue reading the next section.

ALERT Next: Wrangle Live Color!


ALSO SEE: Geoff's excellent Get Better With Illustrator Tips


Geoff Blake is a Toronto-based writer, trainer, designer, and artist, most recently penning Ten Ton Dreamweaver with Peachpit Press. For the past nine years, he's provided a wide range of graphic design, artwork, consulting, training, and web design services, building a solid stable of industry-leading clients. A professional public speaker since 1997, Geoff has taught desktop publishing, web design and graphics courses in both the corporate and post-secondary environments, working closely with some of the largest training providers and colleges in the Toronto area. Currently, he's an expert presenter with Total Training, and regularly contributes to industry-leading magazines, publications, and websites. Visit Geoff online at Ten Ton Books

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