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I want to make a design where there will be a lot of randomly placed icons. A few of them will be a different color to visually form the shade of some large object.

Kind of like this effect, but with random icons instead of individual elements:

enter image description here

I tried to make it using symbol sprayer tool, but I find it quite tedious to prepare all the symbols beforehead, and to carefully spray them not to overlap and to get them distributed evenly.

Next thing I tried to do was to use pattern tool, but what I found after expanding the appearance of the object with pattern fill was that Illustrator actually just duplicated the pattern object and made it a mess to work with individual objects again (e.g. select them collectively and change the color). And also the pattern didn't look good...

Is there any other way to do this?

Where I am so far:

enter image description here

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