New to Illustrator, and perhaps I am misunderstanding the purpose of a "swatch".

e.g. My understanding was that if you were doing a 4-color design, and one of those "colors" corresponded to some sort of ink out of RGB/CMYK space (maybe a metallic paint of some kind), the strokes and fills would be tied to the swatch instead of some capture of the color.

Yet when I use a swatch to pick stroke or fill colors for shapes in my drawing, and then edit the color of that swatch... the swatch color changes, but the colors in the drawing remain the same.

Is there a way to have the strokes and fills remember the swatch, so that when the swatch is edited their color will update to reflect the change?

1 Answer 1


Yes. The way you are expecting swatches to work is called 'global' swatches in Illustrator. Swatches are not global by default. You can make any colour swatch global by double-clicking it in the swatch panel, then ticking the 'global' box.

swatch options dialogue box

The swatch will get a small white marker in the panel to indicate that it's global.

When a global swatch is applied to your artwork, the artwork will reflect changes to the global swatch. Remember to apply the swatch to the artwork after you've made it global or this won't work.

  • Perfect, thanks! (Oddly enough, I saw that "Global" tick box but just assumed it meant it added it to some kind of palette that was available to all your projects! It seems to me that whether you want to "link to" a swatch or "snapshot" its color is the decision of the fill and stroke using it, not a property of the swatch. But... if I were the one writing Illustrator, there's a lot I'd do differently!) Sep 18, 2013 at 12:09

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