I did a three-color Live Trace, and output the colors to swatches. Now I'd like to assign each of these three (spot) colors to their own layer. I'm sure this is super easy, and I'm just over-looking something, but I could find no obvious command, nor could I drag the swatches to the layers palette. Some googling brought me to this site, although not to an answer. How do I do this? Thanks!

  • Please explain "assign colors to layers"? Do you mean you want all items on that layer to be the chosen color? It can be done, but that's not how vector artwork is traditionally constructed.
    – Scott
    May 12, 2013 at 6:19
  • Is the end goal color separation for printing?
    – JohnB
    May 12, 2013 at 11:25
  • Actually, I just wanted to have some text disappear behind the artwork, but it occurred to me that this could be a way to do seps, as well.
    – sudon't
    May 12, 2013 at 13:16

1 Answer 1


For this process you should start with fully expanded artwork (no strokes), and all objects should have 100% opacity. If you're starting with a live trace, just make sure you've hit Expand.

Step 1: Merge Artwork

Select all the artwork you would like to separate and click the Merge button. This can be found in the Pathfinder panel. This brings all the artwork into the same layer.
This step is probably redundant if you're starting with an expanded live trace.

Step 1: Merge

Step 1: Trim

With all of the artwork still selected, click Trim (found in the same panel as Merge). This will "cut" all of the shapes so they don't overlap.

Step 2: Trim

Step 3: Select Shapes of Same Fill Color

Select a single shape of one of the (not yet separated) colors. Use this command to select the rest of the shapes that have the same Fill color.

Step 3: Select Same Color

Step 4: Separate Color into its Own Layer

There will be a small square on the Layers tab indicating that you have some shapes selected. Click and Drag this square into a new layer. This will bring all selected shapes into the new layer.

Step 4: Separate

Step 5: Repeat Steps 3 and 4 for Each Color

And you're done!

  • After merging, I noticed that I had a lot of small bits and pieces. Can I unite all of these by clicking Unite or is there a better way?
    – Desi
    Apr 30, 2019 at 6:44

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