Skip to Content

Is there a paint bucket tool in Illustrator?

The paint bucket tool is a common feature in many graphic design and image editing programs that allows you to easily fill enclosed shapes with color. But does Illustrator, Adobe’s popular vector graphics editor, include this handy tool? Let’s take a look at the facts.

The Short Answer

No, Illustrator does not have a dedicated paint bucket tool like you would find in a raster image editor such as Photoshop. However, there are a couple of methods you can use in Illustrator to achieve a similar effect as a paint bucket tool.

What is the Paint Bucket Tool?

For those unfamiliar, a paint bucket tool allows you to click inside an enclosed shape or area of an image and instantly fill it with the currently selected foreground color or pattern. Some key features of a typical paint bucket tool include:

  • Fills any enclosed area you click within
  • Works on both vector and raster images
  • Has options like tolerance for how far it spreads color
  • Can detect and avoid filling similar colors
  • Has different filling algorithms (e.g. flood fill, gradient fill)

This tool originated in early computer paint programs in the 1980s and eventually became a standard tool in most raster graphic editors. It provides a quick way to colorize line art or fill designated areas of an image. Popular raster editors with paint bucket tools include Photoshop, GIMP, PaintShop Pro, and Microsoft Paint.

Why Illustrator Lacks a Paint Bucket

So why doesn’t Illustrator have its own paint bucket tool? There are a couple reasons for this:

  • Illustrator is primarily a vector graphics program, not raster. Vector images don’t contain discrete pixels like a raster bitmap. Instead, they use mathematical formulas to represent shapes, paths, and colors.
  • The raster paint bucket tool fills based on similarly colored pixels. But vector images in AI don’t have pixels.
  • Illustrator is focused more on art/illustration, technical drawings, logos, etc. There’s less need for a quick color fill tool.
  • Adobe already includes a full-featured paint bucket in Photoshop for raster editing needs.

While a dedicated paint bucket tool doesn’t really fit Illustrator’s vector graphics workflow, Adobe has developed some alternative tools that provide similar functionality…

Illustrator’s Paint Bucket Alternatives

Instead of a standard paint bucket tool, Illustrator has a couple different features that allow you to achieve the same filling effect on vector objects:

1. The ‘Live Paint Bucket’ Tool

The Live Paint Bucket tool is probably the closest equivalent to a traditional paint bucket in Illustrator. It allows you to fill paths and shapes with color in a similar fashion. To use it:

  1. Select the Live Paint Bucket tool from the toolbox (or press K).
  2. Draw some vector shapes or paths. Make sure paths overlap and have gaps.
  3. With the shapes selected, go to Object > Live Paint > Make.
  4. Choose a fill color and click inside any closed shape to fill it and its surrounding paths.

The Live Paint Bucket detects intersections between paths and fills each enclosed segment. It works similar to a raster paint bucket. You can close gaps, create strokes, and edit colors after filling. It’s great for coloring illustrations, patterns, and complex vector art.

2. The ‘Shape Builder’ Tool

Another option is the Shape Builder tool. To use it:

  1. Draw some intersecting vector shapes or lines.
  2. Select the Shape Builder tool from the toolbar (or Shift+M).
  3. Click and drag across shapes to combine them into a filled object.
  4. Release to fill with the active color (or transparent if no fill).

The Shape Builder lets you combine vector shapes by filling the regions they enclose. Click across multiple shapes to merge them. While not exactly like a traditional paint bucket, it allows you to colorize and fill vector shapes in a somewhat similar way.

Other Ways to Fill Objects in Illustrator

In addition to the Live Paint and Shape Builder tools, Illustrator provides other ways to colorize and fill shapes, including:

  • Select one or more shapes, then click the Fill color in the toolbar to fill.
  • Draw a shape with the Rectangle, Ellipse, Polygon, etc. tools, and it will automatically fill.
  • Select shapes and use the Pathfinder panel to combine them by merging, subtracting, intersecting, etc.
  • For more complex fills, use the Gradient tool or create Graphic Styles.


So in summary, while Illustrator does not have a dedicated paint bucket tool like in other graphic editors, you have a few different options to achieve similar results:

  • Use the Live Paint Bucket tool to fill paths and shapes with color.
  • Try the Shape Builder tool to combine vector objects into filled shapes.
  • Leverage other fill methods like the Fill color, pathfinders, gradients, and more.

The key difference is that instead of filling rasterized pixels, you are working with vector shapes and paths. This allows you to achieve that paint bucket effect while keeping your artwork scalable and editable. So while not a standard raster-based paint bucket, Illustrator gives you some great tools to get creative and fill your vector illustrations with color.

Vector Graphics Editor Has Paint Bucket Tool?
Adobe Illustrator No
Adobe Photoshop Yes
CorelDRAW Yes
Affinity Designer Yes
Inkscape Yes

This table summarizes whether popular vector graphic editors include a native paint bucket tool. As you can see, Illustrator is the only major program listed that lacks this feature. But as discussed, it does provide functional alternatives tailored to its vector workflow.

In conclusion, while Illustrator does not contain a raster-style paint bucket tool, you can replicate similar filling functionality through the Live Paint Bucket, Shape Builder, solid fills, and other methods. The key difference is these tools are designed for filling vector shapes rather than rasterized pixels. Once you know the alternatives, it’s easy to efficiently colorize your vector artworks in Illustrator.