Dynamic Symbols In Illustrator

Youtube video on subject


Select a path or paths to be used as a dynamic symbol in Adobe Illustrator. Drag to the symbols panel. Select the dynamic symbol option. Give the preset a name and Click OK. Use with the direct selection tool to recolor etc. The new feature (and this was introduced a few versions of AI ago) means a single preset can initially be red but combined with the direct selection tool, the preset can now be quickly turned into blue or green etc and this can be applied to the fill or the stroke. The preset is unchanged in the presets panel other than a little + appears now with the icon.

direct selection tool To change color

You can select the items as before by using the selection tool. You can also select the individual parts of the preset by selecting the individual parts using the direct selection tool. Create a number of paths and set fills for the artwork (blue, green etc). Select the paths using the selection tool and drag into the presets panel and save as the new default. Go to the direct selection tool. Click one of paths with the direct selection tool.


Change the color by clicking the a swatch in the swatches panel. Repeat with different paths in the new preset. If you have a new shape with say a green outer rim and a red inner core and you use the direct selection tool and select the green path then the color of the fill will change to green and if you select the red part of the new shape then the color in the fill will change to red. You can then change the red to orange or any other color. Any change you make with the direct selection tool to the color will not change the master which will remain in the preset panel untouched. You can select the master again and drag it to the document / art board and you can then select the different color filled paths and again you can change the red to blue or the green to yellow etc and this will be independent to the first instance and again, the master will be unchanged.

Fill / Stroke

You can change the preset fill color as well as the stroke color as well as the stroke width such as making it 10pt for one instance and 20pt for another instance (again, the master preset in the presets panel is unchanged) via the stroke panel and by setting the stroke in the toolbar. Sadly, this does not seem to work with the text / type so if you have a set of characters in the artwork this can be selected but trying to change the black text to white text seems to fail (in this version, who knows if that feature will appear at a later time?). If you display the stroke panel with all the options such as width profile then you can change the width profile for each of the instances again without affecting the master preset, you can also do the same with any dash settings added


If you have an object made up of three parts then just use the direct selection tool to select one of the parts and then go to the brushes panel and select a brush from the presets. You can select another path within that instance and set the brush stroke for that. As the brushes can be made up of text and images, you can change the image and text via the brushes. You can also change the size of the brush stroke as well as the color.


You can select via the direct selection tool any of the parts and change the opacity from 100% to 50% etc for one instance and 100% to 25% for another instance and again, the master preset will still be untouched. If you have an instance with multiple paths and you change the opacity of the top path then the opacity is only for that and if the top part is on top of another then any underlying paths are still blocked by any lower items in the instance. You can also use the blending modes as well such as darken and difference with each of the instances and so one part can be lighten and another instance can be darken (it can get pretty complex and messy in the appearance panel perhaps)

Position and Effects

You can add live effects to the individual parts as well. You can use the transform live effect to move the individual parts, again without affecting the master. You can add all kinds of other effects such as blurs etc to the individual parts so you can have a slight blur in one instance and a large blur in another.

How to edit the master preset

You can double click the master and change the vector shape in numerous ways and change the font, change the color etc of the type and then exit out of the editing mode. All the instance will then be updated accordingly so all the items will be set to the fill / stroke as well as before and all the transformations will be added as before.

Complex designs

In many of the examples I have been using only a couple of color paths but the new shapes can be used to re-color individual parts of a composite path with 1000s of pieces such as perhaps a complex interface or perhaps a map etc. The same basic map or interface can remain but you can then display different setups with different colors and strokes.

Using compound paths

If you have a path that you have combined into a compound path and then try the same direct selection / trick then it appears not to work. A workaround being to split the artwork up and this can be done via the live paint tool where the artwork can be individual colored again (perhaps if the original is in black, in subtle variations of black) and then un-grouped and that can be saved to the preset panel for use with the new feature.