In Illustrator, I want to use a color that is a placeholder so that later I can change it in one place, and everything using that color will be changed. Simply knowing what AI calls this feature might be enough to find it in the online help! I’m pretty sure I saw this some time ago.

More generally, can I create a group of theme colors, and change them as a set? What about colors based on theme colors as a starting point, but (e.g.) made lighter or otherwise transformed?

3 Answers 3


These are called Swatches

  • create any number of swatches that you need via the Swatches palette, which also has an option to create groups of swatches (marked J below)
  • make sure you tick Global for each one - this allows you to edit one swatch and automatically update every object using that color

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  • 2
    Protip: if you have global colors and want to swap them out to other colors you can alt drag a new color on top. This allows you relatively quickly swap the color theme.
    – joojaa
    Commented Jan 4, 2017 at 9:18
  • Ok, “global swatches”. What about being able to change them as a group between prepared options?
    – JDługosz
    Commented Jan 4, 2017 at 9:45
  • You can have multiple groups. But don't think you can update your entire artwork by switching to a new group. There is no '1-click skin changer' if that's what you need.
    – Lucian
    Commented Jan 4, 2017 at 9:55
  • 1
    @JDługosz it could be done with a script but no thst why I told the protip
    – joojaa
    Commented Jan 4, 2017 at 14:02

As was already mentioned, you're looking to use global swatches to act as "placeholder colours."

To change colours as a set, create a color group with the same number of colours as there are in the artwork. Select your artwork and double-click the folder to the left of the color group in the Swatches panel (assuming you're in a thumbnail view). That will bring up the recolor artwork dialog, which will let you map the old colours to your new colours.

Alternatively, you can simply use the Recolor Artwork dialog (click Edit at the top rather than Assign) and adjust the brightness slider to quickly get new tints or shades.


There are Color Groups in Illustrator. Using Color Groups in the Swatches Panel you can switch between groups easily.

This works best if each group has the same number of swatches in it. The animation below is using Illustrator CS6, but it's relatively the same in CC versions.

Merely set up color groups containing swatches you'd like to use. Note they must be flat swatches - no gradients and no patterns.

Then select the artwork and choose Edit > Edit Colors > Recolor Artwork. From there, just click the group on the right.

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  • This appears to be the same answer as Geoff's.
    – JDługosz
    Commented Jun 5, 2017 at 14:07
  • Possibly, I didn't read other answers. I tried to answer the question.
    – Scott
    Commented Jun 5, 2017 at 14:32

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