Color by Numbers in Illustrator

For this tutorial, you will need the image/es you want to turn into a “Paint by Numbers”. This technique is intended for simple images.

1 - In Illustrator “Open” the image you want to work with.

2 - You may need to re-size the image to fit your “Document”. With the image still selected, double-click on the “Scale Tool” (S) and input the percentage that suits you the most. Click “OK”.

3 - Make sure that the “Image Trace Panel” is active by going to Window > Image Trace. Open the “Image Trace Panel” and click on the small arrow on the left side of the “Advanced” Tab to show more options.

4 - You can experiment with various “Preset” and “Mode” settings like 6 colors and “Color” mode. You may get a Pop-Up telling you that the “Tracing may proceed slowly”, click “OK”.

5 - If you notice that the image doesn’t look accurate, increase the number of colors in the “Settings” tab. We chose 16.

6 - Once you are happy with the colors, click the “Expand” button on the Top Menu.

7 - Right-click on top of the resulting paths and select “Ungroup”.

8 - With everything still selected, click on the small arrow next to the “Fill” in the Top Menu and select “New Color Group” from de drop-down menu. Name the group and click “OK”. This will create a group with all the colors in the “Swatches Panel”.

9 - Select the “Rectangle Tool” (M), click inside your canvas and create a 10 x 10 mm square. Place it on the top-left corner of the document, just close to the image and fill it with the first color swatch from the group you created.

10 - With the square still selected, head to the “Appearance Panel”, click on the “Illustrator Effects” icon at the bottom of the panel and navigate to Distort & Transform > Transform. Use a 12 mm “Horizontal Move” and make 15 copies (the amount may vary depending on the number of colors you are using).

11 - Go to Object > Expand appearance, then right-click on top and choose “Ungroup”.

12 - Then, change the “Fill” color of the remaining squares using the rest of the swatches of the “Group”.

13 - Select all the “Artwork”, “Copy” it (Command/Control + C). Create a “New Layer” by clicking on the small button at the bottom of the “Layers Panel” and with the new layer selected, “Paste in Place” (Shift + Command/Control + V).

14 - Right-click on top and choose “Group”. Hide” the top layer by clicking on the Small eye icon on the left side of its Thumbnail.

15 - Select the first color square and go to Select > Same > Fill Color to select all the portions of the image that have the same fill. Right-click on top and choose “Group”.

16 - Repeat with the rest of the colors. To make sure everything is selected properly, click on the small arrow on the top-left side of the “Layer” to show its contents and check if there are any loose “Paths”.

17 - Use the “Direct Selection Tool” (A) to only select the “Color Squares” (click and drag on top of them while holding the “Shift” key). “Copy” them (Command/Control + C), turn ON the top layer and select it, then “Paste in Place” (Shift + Command/Control + V). Move your duplicate squares down using the shift key and dragging them down, or use the “Arrow Keys”.

18 - Click on the small arrow next to the “Fill” in the Top Menu, then click the “Library” button on the bottom-left side of the panel and select Patterns > Basic Graphics > Basic Graphic_Textures from de drop-down menu.

19 - Hide the bottom “Layer” and “Lock” it by clicking on the small “Padlock” on the left side of its Thumbnail.

20 - Select the first color square and go to Select > Same > Fill Color to select all the portions of the image that have the same fill again and replace the color with one of the “Graphic Textures”. Repeat with the rest of the colors.

21 - Select all the “Artwork” (click and drag on top of them while holding the “Shift” key) and add a Black “Stroke” with a “Weight” of 0.25 pt. Turn “ON” the layer and use the “Direct Selection Tool” (A) to only select the “Color Squares” (click and drag on top of them while holding the “Shift” key). “Cut” them (Command/Control + X), make sure you select the Top Layer and “Paste in Place” (Shift + Command/Control + V).

22 - Hide the “Color Layer” to get the final image to work with. You can hide the Top Layer and bring out the one with the colors to print as reference.

by @lornacane

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