2 Easy Ways To Invert Or Reverse Colors In Illustrator

In this guide, you will learn simple ways on how to reverse colors in Illustrator. You can reverse colors for anything in Illustrator, be it vector graphics, rasterized images, or text.

how to reverse colors in Illustrator

How To Reverse Colors In Illustrator

An easy way to reverse colors in Illustrator for text, vectors, and images is by selecting your artwork and going to Edit > Edit Colors > Invert Colors. Your item’s color is now reversed or inverted to something directly opposite to the original colors.

If you want more information and more options, here are the various ways and simple steps to reverse colors in Illustrator in detail:

Method 1: Invert Colors

In this method, you will be able to reverse your image colors with just a couple of clicks. It’s the most convenient way to do it, but there isn’t any way to customize and choose your colors.

As for artwork with more than a few colors, the effect you get is a set of direct opposite colors from the original image. Here are the steps to do this:

Step 1: Prepare the Image

Before using the Invert Colors function to reverse your image colors, you will have to embed your image to apply the function. As for text and vector graphics, you can skip this step and move on to Step 2.

First, place your raster image onto your Illustrator document by dragging it from your hard disk folder to your document if you are on a Mac operating system. Or go to the top bar menu, select File > Place, and select your image from the pop-up dialog box.

File > Place image or file – how to reverse colors in illustrator

To embed your image, click on your image once. Then, click on the Embed button on the Control panel at the top of your Illustrator file.

embed button in control panel – how to reverse colors in illustrator

Or open the Properties panel on the right-hand side, scroll down to the Quick Actions section, and click on the Embed button.

how to embed images with embed button in quick actions – how to reverse colors in illustrator

The cross that was used to be seen on your embedded image has now disappeared.

embedded image without a cross when you select the image – how to reverse colors in illustrator
Your image is now embedded in Illustrator and not linked to the image file

Now you are ready to reverse colors for your image in Illustrator.

What happens if you don’t embed your image before reversing colors? The invert function will be grayed out or unclickable in the drop-down menu.

invert colors grayed out – how to reverse colors in illustrator
You can’t invert colors on linked images

Step 2: Reverse Colors

Next, click once on the entire image to select it. If you want to reverse the color of a vector graphic, click on the specific part of the vector.

As for text, click once on the selected text box.

In this example, I have selected all the items on my artboard to have the colors reversed.

select all objects in Illustrator

Then, go to the top menu, select Edit > Edit Colors > Invert Colors.

invert colors function in Illustrator

You will see that your whole image or selected objects and text have their colors inverted.

reverse colors in illustrator

If you wish to have the color of the image revert back to the original one, simply repeat the same step to apply the Invert Colors function again.

Note that the Invert Colors function works well to reverse white to black and black to white. However, if you wish to reverse other colors like areas with white to change to red and other areas with red to change to white, check out the next method.

Method 2: Recolor Artwork

You may want to use the second method of Recolor Artwork when you have a simple vector artwork of a few different colors and would like them to switch around with each other.

In this example, the cat graphic has a majority of red fill with little white areas like the whiskers, eyes, and mouth. I will now reverse this such that any part of the cat that is red becomes white and anything white becomes red.

how to invert colors in illustrator

Step 1: Create Color Swatches

The first step is to create the colors you want to appear in the Swatches panel. If you already have the colors on the panel, there’s no need to recreate them. Skip to the next step.

Open the Swatches panel by going to the top menu bar and selecting Window > Swatches.

open swatches panel via Window > Swatches in Illustrator

Next, click on the menu button on the top right-hand corner of the Swatches panel and select New Swatch

add new swatch in illustrator

In the New Swatch dialog box, toggle the colors under Color Mode to create the first color you want to appear in your graphic. Next, press OK.

new swatch dialog box – how to reverse colors in illustrator

Or select the Eyedropper tool from the Toolbar, and click once on one part of your vector graphic to pick out the color you want. The color will appear in the Swatches panel.

use eyedropper tool to pick out the color from graphic in illustrator

Then, drag the color swatch onto the palette. Do the same for any other color that you want.

drag color swatch onto the Swatches panel in illustrator

In my example, I only want to add red and white colors to my Swatches panel. I will repeat this step for white color.

If you wish to include more colors, repeat this step until all the colors you want on your graphic are in the Swatches panel.

Step 2: Create a Color Group

This step is to house your colors in one group so that you can select those colors you want to change to in one click. In my example, I would like to only swap the black with white and white with black. If your situation is similar, you can skip to the next step.

Next, go to the bottom of the Swatches panel and click on the New Color Group button that has the folder icon. 

New color group in Adobe Illustrator

Name your New Color Group and click the OK button.

name new color group and click the OK button in Adobe Illustrator

You will see a new folder appear under the color palette and other color groups.

Next, press down the Shift key and click on the colors you’ve created to select all and drag them into the New Color Group folder at the same time.

drag and drop colors into new color group in adobe illustrator
Drag and drop red color swatch into the color group folder

You’ve now grouped the colors in one folder.

Step 3: Recolor Artwork

Next, select all the elements that make up the graphic by going to the top menu bar and selecting Select > Select All. Or, use keyboard shortcuts Command + A on a Mac.

select all keyboard shortcut command + A

Or Ctrl + A on a Windows.

select all keyboard shortcut ctrl + A on windows

If you don’t want to select all graphics, you can hold down the Shift key while you click on the individual graphics. Or click and drag your cursor over them.

In this example, I will only select the cat graphic and leave out the background, because I can easily change the background color individually since there is only one object to change.

Next, go to the Edit menu on the top bar. Select Edit > Edit Colors > Recolor Artwork to open up the Recolor Artwork options dialog box.

recolor artwork in adobe illustrator

Go to the bottom of the dialog box and click on the Advanced Options button. 

recolor artwork advanced options in adobe illustrator

Another dialog box opens up with more options. 

Go to the section where it says “Colors“. The default value is “Auto“. Now, change the value to “1“.

select 1 color under colors in Recolor artwork dialog box

This helps to change all colors in your vector graphic into a single color.

Remember the New Color Group you created in the previous step? You will see that in the right column under Color Groups. Click on it once to select it.

select color group from color groups section in recolor artwork Illustrator

Meantime, your graphic will change as you adjust the Recolor Artwork settings, and you can preview it in real-time.

Next, if you see that one of the Current Colors in the left column does not have a New Color, click on the long colored bar and drag the color over to the New section.

click and drag red from current to new column in recolor artwork of illustrator

In my example, I will click on any part of the long red bar and drag the cursor to the New section. This will replace the white-colored bar in the New section.

Next, do the same for the white bar, click and drag your cursor from the long white bar of the Current Colors column to the New column. If nothing happens, just click the same spot in the New column one time.

click and drag white to new column in recolor artwork of illustrator

After this action, a notification appears to ask “Do you want to add a New Color to the current harmony?”. Click the Yes button.

do you want to add a new color to the current harmony – how to reverse colors in illustrator

Now you will see both short red and white-colored bars on the right-hand side of the long white-colored bar.

red and white colored bars on the new column in recolor artwork – how to reverse colors in illustrator

Now you have the colors you want in the New column. Next is to swap the places of both colors so that the red will take the place of the white and the white will take the place of the red color in the graphic.

To do that, simply click on one of the colors in the New column, either red or white. Then, drag to the other color bar in the New column. In my example, I will drag the red bar down to the white bar.

drag colors to swap in recolor artwork of illustrator

Then click the OK button on the bottom right-hand corner of the dialog box.

A notification will pop up to say “Save changes to swatch group “Color Group 1″ before closing?” Click the Yes button.

Step 4: Add a Colored Background

In this example, my background used to be red color. The cat graphic used to have a white outline around it. Having reversed it, the outline is now red, which can’t be seen because it’s the same color as the background.

how to invert colors in illustrator

I have to change that by selecting it and picking another color from the Swatches panel. Or deleting it.

If you want to add a new colored background, you can pick the Rectangle, Ellipse, or Polygon tool to create a shape. You can also use the drawing tools like the Pen tool to create a custom shape.

Then, make sure the shape is selected. Go to the Swatches panel and select the color of your shape. You can choose a darker color like black. Place the black background layer at the back of the vector graphic. 

You will now see the colors of your graphic have been reversed or swapped with each other.

How To Reverse Colors In Illustrator FAQs

How Do You Reverse White To Black In Illustrator?

The easiest way to reverse white to black in Illustrator for a vector graphic is to first select all the layers.

Select the Edit menu in the top menu bar and select Edit Colors in the drop-down menu and Invert Colors in the second drop-down menu.

Anything that is white in the graphic will turn to black and anything black is reversed to white.

Invert colors to reverse black color to white in Adobe Illustrator

Why Can’t I Invert Colors In Illustrator?

You can’t invert colors in Illustrator because your image is still linked to the image file.

Before you can invert the image colors, open the Control panel by selecting Window in the top menu bar and selecting Control panel.

Then, select your image, go to the Control panel above your Illustrator file, and click the Embed button.

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