How to Recolor Your Artwork with AI in Illustrator

June 24, 2023

Tory Barber

Showing the before and after of a recoloured vector image

How to Add AI to Illustrator

This tutorial assumes you already have access to Illustrator. If you don’t already have the program, what are you doing here? Stop reading and get the program first ya silly!

Quick shameless plug  🙂

If you’re considering purchasing Illustrator in order to test this out, feel free to use this link to do so. Full disclosure, this is an affiliate link and I’ll get a small kick-back for your purchase that I can use to help grow this website!

Simply update your Creative Cloud so you’re sure you have the latest Illustrator update.

Update Illustrator to V27.6.1. or further

That’s it, you’re done! Now you’re ready get moving recoloring all your vectors!


Note: Adobe does offer an AI recolor feature for free, online with their Firefly tools if you don’t have Illustrator. You’ll just need to sign up for an Adobe ID first.


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Use Generative Recolor in Illustrator

Adobe has placed the new Generative Recolor feature in the “Recolor Artwork” Panel.

Select the vectors you’d like to recolor then navigate to Edit > Edit Colors > Recolor Artwork…

Edit colors menu Illustrator

Alternatively, you can press the “Recolor” Button in the Quick Links section of your Properties panel.

However, this button may not appear if your artwork is maksed.

Recolor button in quick links panel

No matter how you navigate there, the Recolor Panel will pop up.

The first tab shows the standard recolor feature where you can manually click and drag the color wheel to change the pallet.

You are looking for the second tab, Generative Recolor.

recolor panel popup with generative recolor highlighted

Write a prompt (or select one of the many sample prompts Adove provides) and then press Generate (or enter).

Generative recolor prompt and sample prompt areas

Once the prompt is processed, 4 color options will populate in the Variations section.

Generative recolor variations

You can click around in the variations to see the color applied to your artwork (rather than relying on a tiny thumbnail).

If none of the variations fit what you’re looking for, simply adjust your prompt and generate 4 more options.

All the variations you generate will stay in the variations sections, even when you generate a new prompt.

However, be careful. Generative Recolor is Destructive.

Once you click out of the Recolor Panel, all your variations are deleted, and your original pallet’s been overwritten with your last selected generation.

For now, the best way to get around this is just A LOT of copy and pasting.

Generative Recolor only recolors what is selected.

You can copy and paste your original artwork (or a particular pallet you like) off-screen, and then select the shapes on the main artboard to continue generating.

All vector artwork remains completely editable, and the changed pallet is simply added via color codes.

Prompt Inspiration!

Monthly style guides with hundreds of prompts.

an elfish princess generated by Midjourney

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a candid photo of a father and daughter generated in Midjourney

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Fashion Illustrations Prompts

    Prompting Tips & Tricks

    Generative Recolor in Illustrator is built off the Firefly feature of the same name online.

    Because of this, I’d make many of the same general recommendations I made in my Firefly Prompting Guide:

    1. Don’t Use Artist Names
    2. Use Adobe Stock for Inspiration
    3. Don’t Use Branded Words
    4. Have Fun!

    I go into these ideas in much more detail in my Firefrly Prompting Guide, so jump over and give that a quick read if you’d like to know more.

    How to Prompt in Adobe Firefly

    A complete tutorial

    Read More

    Chromatic Zebra made out of paint

    That being said, prompting for images and prompting for color pallets are two different processes.

    I have noticed some prompting tendencies specific to Generative Recolor:

    1. Add Colour Names to Get Specific Results

    If you know you’re looking for pallets of a specific color, don’t be afraid to add the name of that color to your prompt.

    For an example, “Bubble Gum Pink” will get you more pink pallets than “Bubble Gum”.

    Prompt: Bubble Gum Pink

    Bubble gum pink ai recolored

    Prompt: Bubble Gum

    Bubble gum ai recolored

      See how adding the word “pink” focuses the AI on just pink pallets, while the AI provides more variation without it?

      This is because we’ve left more to the AI’s interpretation.

      When I think of a bubble gum color pallet, my mind is immediately taken to Hubba Bubba baby blue and bright pink.

      The AI, however, doesn’t have the same life experiences as me. In fact, the AI behind Generative Recolour wouldn’t even know Hubba Bubba gum at ALL due to Adobe’s privacy regulations.

      For all the AI knows, Bubble gum colors could be green because so much gum is mint flavored.

      AI sees the world differently than us since it experiences the world differently than us. Understanding the AI’s perspective will always be your best-promoting tool.

      If you want a specific color, be clear with the AI and add its name.

        2. Use Open-ended Emotion Keywords to Increase Variation

        Hold on to your potatoes Dr. Jones, because I’m about to make the complete opposite point as above.

          If you don’t know the exact color you’re looking for, keep your prompts more general so the AI will provide more variation in your results.

          The more your keywords lean into emotions and feelings, the more interesting results you’ll get.

          Don’t be afraid to get creative with it!

          Look at the results I got from using Taylor Swift lyrics:

          generative recolor in Illustrator variety

            Look at the variation in these pallets!

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            About Me

            Hi I’m Tory!I’m a Graphic Designer, Web Developer, and AI OBSESSED artist from good ol’ Canada, eh!I record all the things I learn as I dive deeper into the Generative AI rabbit hole so I can teach people like you!

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