What to Do When Illustrator Fill Color Isn’t Showing

When working with images, there are bound to be times when you hit a wall and can’t seem to get that seamless look you were going for. You may have spent an hour trying to incorporate one color into another, only to discover that it’s not showing up as you’d like. What can you do when the fill color isn’t showing up?

If Illustrator is not using the correct color palette, you can try refreshing it. If that doesn’t work, you can also check if Illustrator is using the correct color palette by looking at its properties. If you still cannot find a specific color in its properties, you can experiment with other colors from the palette to see if they work better.

These frustrating moments can leave you feeling like an illustrator who just can’t seem to nail that first color moment. Fortunately, there are ways to avoid these situations and still get the art you’re responsible for into production as fast as possible. Let’s look at some things you can do to make sure that your next color fill is exactly what you want it to be.

What To Do When Illustrator Fill Color Isn’t Showing

One of the most common causes of color problems in your work is a problem with the color fill in Illustrator. The color fill in Illustrator can be either a solid color or a gradient. If you’re using a solid color fill, your color might be in the wrong spot. If you’re using a gradient fill, it might not be one of the colors that Illustrator is looking for.

If you can’t find the color in the Properties panel, check if there are any more of these issues:

  • Are there any missing colors? You can check to make sure your gradients aren’t missing colors by going to Object, Fill, and choosing Color Range. You’ll see all of your gradients and where they are in relation to each other.
  • Are there any missing swatches? You can also check if your swatches are missing by going to Window and Swatches. Make sure that all of the swatches have been created and that they have all been added to their respective panels, such as Color or Pattern Libraries. If you see any missing swatches, this could cause problems when trying to find a new color. If that doesn’t work either, try going to Window and Swatches, clicking on the swatch you’re looking for, and then clicking Refresh.

Try Toning Down the Contrast

Illustrator has a lot of control over the colors that you see onscreen. If your colors are too saturated, they will look bad onscreen. If your colors are too dark, they will be hard to see when printing or in the viewer. To adjust the saturation, go to Window > Color > Saturation and choose an amount between zero and 100 percent. Then use the sliders to tweak things until you’re happy with how they look.

Try adjusting your color range by going to Window, Colors, and finally Saturation, choosing a value between zero and 100 percent. Then use the sliders to tweak things until you’re happy with how they look.

Try changing the color space from RGB to CMYK or vice versa, selecting Window, Colors, and Mode. If you’re having trouble finding a new color for something (like for a new button), it might be because your existing colors are too saturated/dark/bright for that specific color.

Use More Illustrator Paint

If the problem is too much color, not enough paint, or both, you can try painting more with the paintbrush. One way to do this is to select the Paint Brush option in the Options Bar above the art.

This will give you a lot more control over the fill of the brush strokes. If you want the color fill to be more vibrant, select the Vivid option. If you want more complexity within the stroke, select the effects menu, and then gradient to see more options.

Change Your Brush Path

If you’re using a solid color, try using a curved brush path. If you’re using gradients, try a flat brush path. This is because if you use a straight line to paint with and then use the gradient tool to apply that gradient, the resulting gradient will be more muted than it would be if there were some kind of curvature in the line.

If you’re having trouble finding new colors for things like buttons and icons, it might be because you’re painting too much with the same colors. Try painting with more colors, more often.

The darker your background is, the less saturated your color will be when applied to other parts of your image. This means that while it’s easy to see how dark values can make things look good in isolation (like on top of a blue or black background), they can actually make things look weak when applied over lighter values (like on top of white).

Change Your Transparency

If you notice that the color problem is because of too much transparency, you can try reducing the opacity of your layer. This will give you more control over how opaque your strokes are.

There are many options for opacity in Illustrator, so we recommend going to the Options Bar above your art and looking at the Transparency section. You can use this to lower and raise your opacity (and other settings related to transparency) until you get it just right.


Color problems are common in illustrations, but they don’t have to stop you from getting your work finished. There are ways to tackle color problems and still get your art into production as fast as possible. The best way to avoid these problems is to be aware of them and take steps to solve them. If you need an alternative to quickly get out art, Placeit.net offers fast online editing based on 90,000+ templates.

Remember that when you’re working in Illustrator, you can even try to remove color from an object by erasing its fill and replacing it with a stroke of your choosing. This will make the object appear completely white and leave you with a much more seamless look.