12 January 2012

Illustrator Quick Tip: How To Copy Appearances Between Objects

Often you have an image with several shapes in it, all which need to have the same Appearance (this just means the combination of Fills and Strokes applied to an object, and it’s found in the Appearance panel). Most of the time you aren’t quite sure what the appearance should be ahead of time, or you need to change the appearance – either way, you will need to copy the appearance of one shape over to several other shapes.

Even if the appearance is easy, let’s say a single Fill color and Stroke, this will take up too much time if you go to each shape and change its appearance manually in the Appearance panel.

If you have a complicated Appearance, like a gradient fill, a texture fill on top, and a drop shadow, it would take even longer.

Illustrator copy appearances white clouds

All of these need the same Appearance

For example, see the clouds to the left.

I created the shapes with a simple white fill, and then played around with the appearance.


Fortunately, it's easy to copy this Appearance over to the other shapes.

Finally, I decided that the appearance needed to be as shown to the left, with a gradient fill and a white transparent gradient fill with an Offset Path Effect applied (to create a gradient stroke effect).

Then I needed to apply that Appearance to the other shapes.

Doing this manually would be a huge pain!

Fortunately there is an easy way in Illustrator to copy Appearances between shapes.

Illustrator copy the appearance of objects

Easy as pie, thankfully!

Go over to your Layers Panel, and find the shapes. Here, the three objects with white thumbnails are our clouds.

See the circle to the right of each shape name? That is its Appearance circle.

In (1), you can see that one of the paths has a filled-in grey circle, and the other two cloud shapes have a white circle. The filled-in circle means that the Appearance is more than just a simple Fill and Stroke. We want to copy this Appearance to the other two paths

To copy the Appearance of the third path to the other paths, simply hold down Option and drag from the filled-in circle to another circle (2). Do this for any shapes you want the Appearance copied to.

The Appearances will now be the same (3).

If you do not hold down Option, you will simply move the Appearance from one shape to another rather than copying it.

As you can see below, all three clouds now have the same Appearance – and it took only seconds to make the change!

Now you can easily copy the appearance to as many shapes as you want!

Category: Illustrator, Tutorials

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  1. Matthias says:

    Great ! I’ve, thanks to that, discovered that you have the exact same behavior with the fx icon in the Photoshop’s layers.

  2. matt says:

    Re: How To Copy Appearances Between Objects

    This was a great help, thanks!

  3. yabayee says:

    Genius! Thank you so much for this.

  4. Zav says:

    Awesome. Just what I needed. I think it’s not surprising that I bump into your web page after already purchasing your husband’s iOS material.

    Thanks for the tips. Saved me loads of time.

  5. Darren says:

    Great help! Thank you very much. I’m working on some elements for a new site and this is exactly what I was looking for.

  6. Darren says:

    Great help! Thank you very much. I’m working on some elements for a new site and this is exactly what I was looking for.

  7. totally amazing, I can’t believe I’ve never tried to do that those little dots have always been a mystery to me. Thank you so much for sharing this, it was a huge time saver :D

  8. Kristen says:

    Thanks so much! Been a designer for years and YEARS and never new that. Saves me so much time.

  9. Romet says:

    You can’t drag it to a different file though.
    However, you can open up a random graphic style library, add your current style there, save it and use it in the other document.

  10. Adam C. says:

    Awesome! I have been trying to do this for a while. This is going to save me a lot of time. MUCH APPRECIATED!

  11. Hanh says:

    Hi Vicki,

    Great and simple tute! Thanks!

  12. Jazzigula says:

    Many thanks! Great hidden feature :)

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