How to Invert Colors in Adobe Illustrator

This page may contain links from our sponsors. Here’s how we make money.

Color plays a significant role in design. It's one of the many languages of design that can evoke mood and emotion in viewers. Adobe Illustrator has a vast field for exploring and playing with color. As you're working, there may be times when you want to invert colors in Illustrator.

When we talk about inverting colors in an image, there are two important aspects to consider in Illustrator: vector objects and raster images. However, color inversion can only be applied if the object or the image is editable in Illustrator. In this article, we'll learn how to invert colors in Illustrator for both vector objects and rasterized images.

Before we begin the tutorial, let's briefly understand what vector objects are and what rasterized images are.

We'll be using the images below in this tutorial. Download them from Vecteezy if you'd like to follow along:

Vector Graphics/Objects

Vector graphics are composed of shapes and lines based on mathematical formulas. To simplify, vector graphics are drawings made from a series of connected dots. When you select a vector object in Illustrator, you'll see anchor points or paths. Resolution is not an issue with vector images. They do not lose their quality or become blurred when resized, so they can be scaled to infinity.

Raster Based Image

Raster files are composed of pixels (like photos). Therefore, when you zoom into a rasterized image, you see individual pixels. So, you can tell if the image is vector or raster by increasing the size. If the image becomes pixelated when zooming in, it's a raster image.

How to Invert the Color of a Vector Image

If you want to invert the color of a whole vector image at once, follow these instructions:

  • Select the image/object.
  • Go to the Edit menu on the overhead toolbar.
  • Select Edit Colors from the drop-down menu.
  • Choose Invert Colors from the extended menu.
Butterfly vector illustrations
Butterfly vector illustrations after their colors have been inverted in Illustrator

You can also select a particular part of the object and invert the color individually using the color panel.

Step 1

Select the object using the Selection Tool located in the left-side toolbar.

Colorful butterfly illustrations on the Illustrator artboard

Step 2

Right-click on the object and select ungroup from the right-click drop-down menu. Alternatively, you can ungroup the object using the keyboard shortcut key U.

Ungrouping the objects

Step 3

Using the Direct Selection Tool, select the part you want to invert the colors.

Selecting one of the illustrations with the direct selection tool

Step 4

Go to the color panel located on the right-side toolbar. If you cannot find it there, go to the Window menu in the overhead toolbar and select Color from the drop-down menu.

Opening the color panel

Step 5

From the Color Panel, open the hidden menu (by clicking on the hamburger icon) and select Invert.

Using the hidden menu to invert colors
Butterfly illustration after the colors have been inverted in Illustrator

How to Invert the Color of a Raster Image

Unlike vector images, the color of a rasterized image can only be inverted in one way. However, before you invert the color, ensure the rasterized image is embedded and not linked.

Embedding an Image

If you want to invert the color of a rasterized image, you need to embed it first. You can embed an image in two ways: either using the Links Panel or the Quick Action panel. The quickest way to embed an image is through the Quick Action panel.

  • Select the image you want to embed.
  • Go to the Quick Action panel in the right toolbar and select Embed.
A raster image of flowers in Illustrator
Embedding the image

After embedding the image, you can proceed to invert the color. The steps are outlined below.

Step 1

Select the selection tool from the left-side toolbar and select the embedded image.

Selecting the image

Step 2

Once the image is selected, go to the overhead toolbar and open the Edit menu.

The Edit menu

Step 3

From the drop-down menu, select Edit Colors and choose Invert from the extended menu.

Edit Colors and Invert Colors
Flower image after the colors have been inverted

When inverting the color of a rasterized image, the entire image, including the background, will be changed. In this case, the white background was inverted. Now, if you ever want to revert it back to its original state, you can repeat the steps mentioned above.

Final Thoughts on Inverting Colors in Illustrator

You can invert the color of both vector and raster images using the Edit menu. I hope this article has helped you learn how to invert colors of images in Illustrator.