How to Change Background Color in Adobe Illustrator

Which background color do you want to change exactly? The workspace user interface, artboard background, or grid color? There are totally different things. But I have a solution for each one of your requests. 

Quick spoiler. Draw a rectangle if you want to change the artboard background color, change the brightness if you want to have a different user interface background color, and as for the gird, you’ll be changing the view color.

Let’s get into the detailed steps!   

Note: the screenshots from this tutorial are taken from the Adobe Illustrator CC 2022 Mac version. Windows or other versions can look different. Windows users change the Command key to Ctrl.

Method 1: Change Document Interface Background Color

The newer version of Adobe Illustrator has the default dark gray document background, if you’re used to the older or CS versions which had a light background, you can change the color from the Preferences menu. 

Step 1: Go to the overhead menu and select Illustrator > Preferences > User Interface

There are four interface colors you can choose from the Brightness options. 

If you haven’t noticed already, currently, my background color is the darkest one.

Step 2: Choose one of the Brightness options you want, click on it and you’ll see how it looks on your document background. 

Click OK after you choose a color.

Method 2: Change Artboard Background Color 

The easiest way to do add or change an artboard background color is by changing the color of a rectangle. 

Step 1: Select the Rectangle Tool (M) and draw a rectangle the same size as your artboard. The color would be the Fill color you used previously. 

Step 2: Select the rectangle, double click on Fill to open the color picker, or choose a color from the Swatches panel to change the color. 

You can lock the rectangle if you don’t want to move it by accident. Simply select the rectangle and press Command + 2 to lock the shape (background). If you want to make it a background layer and lock it, go to the Layers panel and lock the layer

Method 3: Change Transparency Grid Background Color

The white background you’re seeing doesn’t exist! Actually, the white background you see when you create a document is transparent. You can turn on the transparency grid view to see it. 

Step 1: Go to the overhead menu and select View > Show Transparency Grid (Shift + Command + D). 

See? Your background is transparent. Imagine when you have white text on a “white” background, it would be impossible to see it, that’s why we need to work on the grid mode sometimes. 

Step 2: Go to the overhead menu again and select File > Document Setup. You’ll see Transparency and Overprint Options and you can select the colors of the grids. 

Step 3: Click on the color box and choose a fill color. After you choose a color, click on the close window button and you can see that now the grid changes its color. 

Use the Eyedropper to choose the same color for both color options. 

Step 4: Check Simulate Colored Paper and click OK

Now the transparency grid will become this color you choose. You can press Shift + Command + D to hide the transparency grid and still see the color background. 

However, you’ll only be able to see the background color on the document itself. When you export the artboard, the background color wouldn’t show. 

For example, when I export the file to png, the background color is still transparent. 

This method can only change the background color of the transparency grid, not the artboard.

Final Words

Some of you might be confused by the transparency grid color background and the artboard color background. Just remember that if you want the add or change the color of the artboard background, the ultimate way is to draw a rectangle, same size as the artboard and edit its color. 

About June Escalada
Graduated from Creative Advertising major, worked more than eight years as a graphic designer focusing in branding and Illustration. Yes, Adobe Illustrator is my best friend and I’m passionate about art and design.

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