I would like to have the ability to link dynamic colors to elements. Specifically, I'd like to color an element with color 1 in several documents, so that if I decide to change color 1's value from red to blue, all elements colored in my documents with color 1 will turn from red to blue.

This is exactly what you have in CSS+HTML, the HTML code doesn't specify colors, but color variables that are then affected a given color. My question is: how do you create the ilustrator equivalent to the CSS file? (the place where you give values to color variables).

I guess this is very easy to do but I can't find the information online (I'm probably missing the right keywords).

The only solution I found for now is to do it manually by selecting some elements and remapping (inside the selected set of elements) from one color to another. I'm looking for a way to do this in a dynamic way.

PS, It would be interesting to have the same thing with fonts specifications.

  • Ah I found the answer here: youtube.com/watch?v=UZ3uMZrtgME (around 9:12). The solution is to check "convert process to global" when creating a new color group, then once you want to replace a color by another you simply: i) go to swatches, ii) add a new color to the group, iii) select it, iv) press cmd then click the color you want to replace, v) in swatches menu select "merge swatches".
    – cglacet
    Mar 23, 2018 at 10:30
  • I'm still looking for a way to make this work across multiple documents (share swatches).
    – cglacet
    Mar 23, 2018 at 10:32
  • Ah ok, that part is easy, the answer is here
    – cglacet
    Mar 23, 2018 at 10:35

1 Answer 1


It is pretty easy within a single file. You can't really do this across multiple files. At least not that I'm aware of. You can save swatch libraries, and then open those libraries in other files, allowing you to transport swatches between files. However, there's really no such thing as "edit one file and other files change" beyond standard file linking which is more encompassing than merely color use.

To do this in a single file, all you need do is use Global Color Swatches.

Create swatches of your colors.

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With no artwork selected highlight the swatches in the Swatch Panel and using the Swatch Panel Menu, choose Swatch Options...

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When the Swatch Options dialog pops up tick the Global checkbox and then OK.

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Note how the swatches now have a small white triangle in the lower right corner. The triangle indicates a Global Swatch.

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Now simply create your objects, filling them with your global swatches, or recolor what you already have using the global swatches.

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Once the artwork is created/colored, you can easily alter...

With nothing selected, double click one of the global swatches. The Swatch Options for that color will appear. You can then change the color and all artwork using that color will update to reflect the color change.

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Once you have your swatch library, you can use Edit > Edit Colors > Recolor Artwork as well.

This question may be helpful: How to change colour of all elements of a group, at once, in Illustrator

And you can use Color Harmonies as well. It can get pretty in-depth. Here's Adobe's help on using the various color features: https://helpx.adobe.com/illustrator/using/color-groups-harmonies.html There's merely too much to go into here.

  • You are totally right, the export is not linked to the original palette and therefore changes are not passed to the files that imported the palette (the export is a static palette).
    – cglacet
    Mar 23, 2018 at 11:11
  • Yeah, you can move colors between files, but you can't associate multiple files to a separate, independent, color group or file. It would be nice if what you want were possible, I just don't think it is.
    – Scott
    Mar 23, 2018 at 11:13
  • @ChristianG. Developpers undertand file inheritance, but generally most non technical persons do not. Its a support nightmare in a even smallish company with shared assets. Ive been supporting such systems and its not pretty. However if you wish then a script making the syncing could be made.
    – joojaa
    Mar 23, 2018 at 13:52
  • I really think everyone can understand abstractions. I don't know much about Illustrator, but from what I have seen so far (symbols/link/palettes) the problem probably comes from the tool itself. If they had an intuitive (and working) way to manage object/layers/colors/font abstractions, i'm pretty sure many people would be using it. But I can trust you when you say it's a nightmare with the current version of Illustrator.
    – cglacet
    Mar 28, 2018 at 14:02

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