In this guide, you will go through the process of how to change the color of an image in Illustrator with simple steps. Everything will be covered, such as how to adjust the color balance to give a different color scheme. So let’s get going.
Raster Images Vs Vector Images
There are two types of images, one is raster images and the other is vector images. A raster image can be a JPEG, PNG image, or Bitmap image.
You can’t separate the elements you see in the images unless you create one raster image with various other raster images.
Raster images also become more pixelated and blurry as you expand them. As for vector images, you can edit them using Illustrator in any way you want and they stay sharp and clear no matter how much they are expanded.
Photo: Rolling Stones via Adobe Stock, Hot Chilli Burger
Adobe Illustrator has been widely adopted as a graphic design application to create vector graphics or vector-based software.
You won’t normally open up Illustrator to work on raster images. Adobe Photoshop is usually the go-to software for changing the color of an image because it has the the advanced tools to do that. It’s great at times when you can’t change color of object in Illustrator.
But, I’ve done countless designs in Illustrator, and I know that it’s common for you to have artwork that is made up of both raster and vector images.
It’s more convenient to edit the raster image in Illustrator than to switch back and forth between Illustrator and Photoshop. But recent updates by Adobe have made this easier, read on to find out more.
How to Change the Color of an Image in Illustrator
Color Modes in Illustrator
It’s important to understand Illustrator’s color modes before moving on to learn how to change color of PNG image in Illustrator.
An Illustrator document has two different color modes: RGB and CMYK. Both color modes have a mix of different colors to give you a single color scheme.
Note that although the document can only be in either RGB or CMYK mode, the colors that make up your artwork can come from color books like Pantone or Toyo Color Finder.
Red, green, and blue colors are used to create a variety of colors in the RGB additive color model. Digital media, including websites, computer screens, and mobile devices, are where it is most frequently employed.
The CMYK color model, on the other hand, uses the hues cyan, magenta, yellow, and black to produce a broad spectrum of colors. It is mostly utilized for printed materials like business cards, flyers, and brochures.
When working with a document in Illustrator, it is important to choose the right color mode based on your end goal.
If you are creating this document for web use, use RGB mode. If you need it for printing, use CMYK mode.
To do that, go to File on the top menu and select Document Color Mode in the drop-down menu. Then choose between CMYK and RGB colors. Or go to File > Document Color Mode > CMYK or RGB.
How to Change the Color of an Image in Illustrator
Embed Your Image Before Changing Color
When you first import the image to your new document, your original image is a linked image. Since you will be making edits to the color of the image, you should embed the image so that you have a backup image with the original color.
Also, some of the methods here only work on embedded images. Follow these steps to embed your image:
Step 1: Duplicate Your Image
Before you make changes to your image color, the first step is to duplicate your image. You can duplicate your image by selecting it and dragging your image while pressing the Option key on your keyboard.
Or select Edit in the top menu and select Copy in the drop-down menu. Then, go to Edit again and select Paste in the drop-down menu. Or right-click to select Copy and right-click again to select Paste in the pop-up menu.
You can also use keyboard shortcuts, by pressing Command + C to copy the image
Then, press Command + V to paste the duplicated image on your document on a Mac.
On Windows, press Ctrl + C to copy the image.
Press Ctrl + V to paste the image.
With your duplicated image, put one of them outside the artboard as a backup.
Step 2: Open the Control Panel
With your Illustrator file opened, import your image and place it on your artboard. Next, open the Control Panel by going to Window on the top menu and selecting Control in the drop-down menu. Or select Window > Control.
Step 3: Embed Your Image
Select the image by clicking on it once. Then, go to the Control Panel which should be found dock on top. Next, click on the button that says “Embed“.
Now that you have embedded your image, you can change its colors using the best methods in this guide.
1. Adjusting the Color Balance of an Image
One of the easiest ways to change the color of an image in Illustrator is by adjusting the color balance. The Adjust Color Balance Tool lets you alter the intensity of major colors in an image. To do that, follow these steps:
Step 1: Open the Adjust Color Dialog Box
Open the Illustrator document with your selected image. Then, select Window in the top menu and select Edit in the drop-down menu.
Then, select Edit Colors and Adjust Color Balance in the other drop-down menu. Or go to Edit > Edit Colors > Adjust Color Balance.
The Adjust Color dialog box opens up.
Step 2: Select Color Mode
Make sure the Preview box is checked so that any change you make will be reflected on your image in real-time.
Step 3: Adjust Color Sliders
The next step is to use the color sliders to adjust the colors in the image.
Photo: Pixel-Shot via Adobe Stock, air balloon on color background
Click the OK button when you are satisfied with the color adjustments. Go to the next method to learn how to fill color in an image in Illustrator.
2. Change Image To Grayscale
Another easy way is to convert the original color of the image to grayscale first. Bear in mind, the colors in a grayscale image are made up of a wide range of gray tones. Follow the steps below to learn how to color a grayscale image in Illustrator:
Step 1: Convert Image to Grayscale
First, have your duplicated image ready on your artboard. Select the image, then, go to Edit on the top menu and select Edit Colors and then select Convert to Grayscale on the drop-down menu.
Your image changes to grayscale immediately.
Step 2: Change the Color of the Grayscale Image
Next, open the Swatches Panel by selecting Window and selecting Swatches from the drop-down menu. Or go to Window > Swatches. Then, click your image one time to make sure it’s been selected.
Pick any color of your choice from the Swatches Panel to change the image color.
3. Applying a Color Filter to an Image
This method uses a specific color filter for your image. A color filter is a layer of color applied to an image that changes the overall appearance of the image. To apply a color filter to an image, follow these steps:
Step 1: Make a Shape
First, open the image you wish to have the color changed.
Then, create a shape that’s the same shape and size as your image. Use the Rectangle Tool if your image is rectangular in shape, otherwise, a Pen Tool will work better for you to customize a shape layer to match your image.
Place this new shape layer above your image.
Step 2: Open the Properties Panel
Set the fill color you want for this new shape layer. It could be any color by default. To change the color, first, open the Properties Panel by going to Window in the top menu and selecting Properties in the drop-down menu.
Or go to Window > Properties.
Step 3: Apply the Color Filter or Color Overlay Effect.
Next, click on the new shape layer to select it. Then, under the Appearance section in the Properties Panel, select the colored square in the Fill sub-section. Select your desired color from the color palette that pops up.
Then, click on Opacity and select Normal in the Blending Mode section. In the drop-down menu, select Hue or Color. for a soft filter or overlay effect. You will see that the color of your image has changed with the help of the shape layer.
The new layer’s opacity and color can be changed as needed.
4. Change Image Color in Photoshop
Okay, I know going to Adobe Photoshop and opening up the image can be a chore. But Illustrator has made it easier to do this.
Before doing anything, make sure you have the updated Photoshop software installed on your computer. Here are the steps to change the color in Photoshop seamlessly:
Step 1: Duplicate the Original Image File
First, duplicate the image file so that you have a spare or backup image with the original color. In Mac, right-click on the image file and select Duplicate.
For Windows, select the file and use keyboard shortcuts by pressing Ctrl + C to copy the file, then, click on another location in the folder and press Ctrl + V to duplicate the file.
In this method, you can’t use an embedded image, because the color change will not happen in Illustrator. The image with the new color can later be embedded only after the color is changed in Photoshop.
Step 2: Edit in Photoshop
Next, open one of the duplicated files in Illustrator. Then, open the Control Panel by selecting Window > Control from the top menu.
Select the original or unembedded Image by clicking it once, and select Edit in Photoshop in the Control Panel.
Step 3: Save the Image with New Color
Photoshop opens up your image automatically. You don’t have to look for the folder to drag the image to Photoshop. Illustrator helps you to link up the image file to Photoshop without extra steps.
Next, make the color changes to your image in Photoshop. Once done, simply save the changes and go back to your Illustrator file, and you will see that the image with the new color is applied.
Final Thoughts: How to Change The Color of An Image In Illustrator
Although it might appear difficult, changing an image’s color with Illustrator is actually fairly easy. You can quickly alter the color of a full image or add a tint to an image by following the instructions provided in this article.
These methods will enable you to obtain your desired outcomes, whether you’re a designer, an illustrator, or just someone who wants to add some color to their photographs.
Keep in mind that you shouldn’t restrict yourself to changing the color of an image in Illustrator only. If you wish to make advanced color changes, Adobe Photoshop has a wider range of tools to provide more digital imaging features.
With both software, you can make more eye-catching designs that are distinctive and visually appealing by playing with various colors, tints, and gradients. You can quickly become an expert at changing an image’s color with a little effort and imagination.
Change Image Color In Illustrator FAQs
Why can’t I change the color of an image in Illustrator?
Do check the format of your image before you try to change the colors. It’s best that the image is a PNG format in high-resolution DPI or PPI, clear and sharp. Next, check that you’ve embedded the image and that the layer is not locked in Illustrator.
How do I change the color of a PNG icon in Illustrator?
You can convert the PNG icon to a vector image first in Illustrator by using the function called Image Trace. After tracing it, Expand the paths. Now you can change the colors and edit the PNG icon.
Can you change the color of a vector image in Illustrator?
Yes, Adobe Illustrator is well-known for creating vector images. You can change the color of a vector image by selecting the path layer of any part of the vector image with the Selection Tool. Then fill it with any color from the Swatch Panel.