Adjust Color Balance in Illustrator

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By Andrew Buckle, Updated : 2022

Using the adjust color balance (ACB) panel in Illustrator, You can rapidly change the color of all kinds of designs such as swatches, paths, repeats, meshes, gradients and more. Tutorial showing how to make paths etc more red or more green etc using the Illustrator adjust color balance in CC 2021 2020 2019 etc




1. Basics

The paths / pattern swatches etc can be re-colored in a number of ways such as using the color libraries but you you can also use the powerful adjust color balance feature to change the color of many different designs, single path or multiple paths and much more. It is a destructive effect, so the only solution to reverse it is undo.

2. Where

The command can be found in the edit menu. Select a path, apply pattern swatch (or not) by using the swatches panel and go to the edit menu and then edit colors and the ACB command and you can then change the red, green etc or cyan, magenta etc as the panel depends on the current mode which maybe RGB or CMYK.

3. Panel itself

The panel has the option for the mode so if you are currently in RGB, you can only select gray scale or RGB from this drop down. If in CMYK, you can only select the gray scale and CMYK. There is a convert option if you decide you want to convert to gray scale via this panel. Below the convert you will find the red, green and blue etc sliders and you can change the percentages for these such as less red or more green etc. You can also select or deselect what you want to manipulate so if you don't want to change the stroke, just deselect it. If there is no stroke, this will make no difference. You can also preview the result.

4. Gray scale

If you have a selected path (filled with swatches or not), you may wish to turn the artwork into a black and white (gray scale) vector pattern then you can use the convert command. Select a path or multiple paths and apply the command and select the convert check box and then set to gray scale (if available) and change the black setting to left or right (left for lightness). You can turn any colorful path into a gray scale design.

5. Green design - Make it more green (You won't Like me if I get)

You can turn any colorful path into a red design (or a green design or blue design etc). Select a path and / or swatch and then go to command and select the preview on and go to the red slider and then slide to the red to the extreme right or the green to the extreme right

6. Re-color patterns

You can always edit the original source swatch by double clicking the swatch in the panel and then selecting paths in the pattern editor and then using the adjust color balance, such as changing the color from green to blue etc. The advantage is that you can always tweak the artwork using the ACB command and then use the save a copy command to capture the new colorful pattern after each change and create multiple colorful pattern swatches from a single swatch (as well as edit and transform the artwork). Display swatches panel by going to the window menu. Double click a swatch in the panel. Select the paths in the pattern editor and then use the ACB command to re-color the work. Click the "save a copy" and then done.

7. Duplicate swatch before using the tool

As the pattern swatch in the panel is updated with the new color. You can always duplicate the original pattern. Go to the swatches panel and select the pattern swatch and right side menu and duplicate swatch and edit the swatch using the ACB command

8. Re-color selected gradients

Select a path filled with a gradient and you can go to the command in the edit menu and modify the color of the gradient, making it more red or green etc. You will notice that all the stops will change at the same time, stops that are white will not change but all the other stops in the gradient will be modified by the percentage set for the red, green and blue etc. You can also re-color a freeform gradient with the command, all the stops in the freeform will be changed by the percentages set though stops of white will not be changed. Again, this is a destructive effect and the only way to reverse it will be an undo.

9. Type can also be modified as well

You can select any number of characters and change the fill by the set percentages. This only works for the entire type block or the selected characters. The characters not selected will not be changed by the command.

10. Strokes

You can also use the same panel to modify the stroke, just set the stroke option in the panel to ON and the stroke will change. The fill can be set to on as well but if you don't want the fill to change then turn it off.

11. Images can be edited

You can also use the ACB command with a selected imported / placed image so if you want your image to a little bit more red or yellow, just use the ACB command though the features to manipulate the RGB images etc are limited compared to Photoshop. You can also use the convert feature to convert the RGB or CMYK image into gray scale.


You can convert to gray scale

You can lighten or darken the paths

You can increase the green or blue etc percentages

Works on the selected paths, all the other paths are ignored

You can also use the command with freeform gradients

You can manipulate all kinds of gradients

You can modify selected type characters

Use with brushes and more