Using Live Paint Tools in Illustrator (Complete)

An in-depth tutorial guide to show how to use Live Paint tools in Illustrator. This Guide will cover all the available options of the Live Paint tools (Live Paint Bucket and Live Paint Selection) with working.

In this tutorial, I am going to show you how to use Live Paint tools of the Adobe Illustrator. Live paint tools (Live Paint Bucket, Live Paint Selection) are one of the handy and coolest tools in Illustrator but I noticed that many beginner level users always face problems using these tools. At last they give up try using the tool and never touch them again. If you are one of them then this tutorial is a must read for you.

This tutorial will take you through the working and all the available options of the Live Paint tools. After reading this tutorial, you will be able to utilize the cool and time saving features of the live paint tools. Let’s get started.

Step 1: Working of The Live Paint Bucket tool.

Scene Setup

Here, I have three shapes / objects that are overlapping each other. Notice that I have only three objects but overlapping them in a given manner is creating five areas. Let’s try our first Live Paint tool which is Live Paint Bucket (K) and see what happens.


Creating Live Paint Group

Before start painting the selected objects, Live Paint Bucket needs to tie them in a group so, whenever you use the Live Paint Bucket on the selected objects, it automatically creates a group out of them which is also called the Live Paint Group.

You can also create a Live paint group from the selected objects through Object > Live Paint > Make (Alt + Ctrl + X).

Step 3

Now, we can easily use Live Paint Bucket tool on Live paint group that we just made. With the Live Paint Bucket selected, choose a color and click on the area that you want to fill.

Using Live Paint Bucket

Live Paint tool’s filling method is quite different from the normal. It treats the overlapping areas as separate shape and allow us to fill the overlapping areas with different colors easily.

How to differentiate between Live Paint group and a Normal group?

Live Paint differentiation

You can easily differentiate between Live Paint groups and normal group of objects with their bounding boxes.

Live Paint Gaps and Gap Options

Live Paint Gaps are the spaces between the anchor points of the objects inside a Live Paint group. These gaps are the important part of the Live Paint and can be used in special cases like, while working with open paths.
We have some options available regarding gaps under Object > Live Paint > Gap Options…

Live Paint Gaps options

Inside Gap Options dialog, we have Gap Detection option turned on by default. From Paint stops at dropdown, you can choose the gap size (Small, Medium, Large or Custom) depending upon the objects you are working with.

How Live Paint’s Gap Detection works?

If you are using any of these gap sizes then, you have to be careful that the gap should not be greater than the value of that gap size otherwise Live Paint bucket will fail to detect it. (See Image)

Gap Detection working

Inside Gap Options dialog, you can see the number of gaps detected by the Live Paint tool depending upon the current settings.

Closing the Live Paint Gaps

You can close these gaps by clicking on Close gaps with paths button under Gap options dialog. After clicking on the button, Illustrator will give you a warning dialog. Click Yes to continue.

Close Gaps with Paths

Now, you can notice that a small path with no fill and stroke has been created to close the gap.

Note: After attempting the above process, you may have to enable the Gap Detection again inside the Gap options dialog as Illustrator turned off the Gap Detection while closing the gap.

How to fill Patterns and gradients using Live Paint Bucket tool?

Filling Patterns and Gradients

Besides solid colors, you can also fill your objects with patterns and gradients while using Live Paint Bucket.
Select a pattern or a gradient from the Swatches panel and fill the area that you want with the help of Live Paint Bucket tool.

Using Live Paint Selection tool (Shift + L).

Live Paint Selection tool is a sub-tool of the Live paint Bucket which is use to select the elements of the Live paint group. You can select fills, strokes and even live paint gaps and recolor or delete them if you want.

Using Live Paint Selection Tool

Note: You can also edit the selection options of the Live Paint Selection tool through Live Paint Selection Options dialog. These options can be accessed by double clicking the tool.

Merging / Adding more objects to the Live Paint group.

Adding Objects to the Live Paint group

You can easily add more objects to the existing Live Paint group. All you need to do is select the Live Paint group and the object that you wish to add to that group then go to Object > Live Paint > Merge.

Using Release and Expand commands on a Live Paint Group

Live Paint Release and Expand

Release command destroys the live paint group and reduces the object’s appearance to .5 stroke and no fill.
Expand breaks apart the Live Paint group into the normal group while keeping its appearance as it is. You may ungroup the group after expand, if you want to treat every object individually.

Live Paint Other options

Live Paint Bucket options

Besides these options, Live Paint Bucket tool has some more options that can be accessed by double clicking on it.
Under Live Paint Bucket options, you can choose what you want Live Paint bucket to paint; Fill or Stroke or both.
Cursor Swatch Preview is to enable / disable the preview of color swatch on the pointer.

Live Paint Highlight options

Highlight option highlights the area underneath the pointer. You can change the color and the width of the highlight through Color and Width options.

That’s all about the Live Paint tools. I hope you enjoyed reading this tutorial and learn something new from it. Thanks.