Creating seamless patterns in Illustrator
2007 at 02.11 pm posted by Veerle Pieters
One of the frequest questions I get from readers is how you create seamless patterns in Illustrator. Today I’ll explain how I create such patterns and how you can scale and rotate them using different settings in the Scale tool options.
Draw your pattern
First we start by drawing a square. Select the Rectangle tool and draw a sqaure holding down the shift key. With the square still selected, hit command/control + 5 to make a guide from the square (View > Guides > Make Guides). Make sure guides are on so you see the square. Go to View > Guides > Show Guides (or hit command/control + semicolon). This square guide is the placeholder for our pattern swatch.
Create an illustration inside the square to be used as basis for the pattern. I've chosen for an ornament (see image on the left) which I'll use as central element for my pattern swatch. In the top left corner I have also a smaller ornament to make the pattern more interesting.
Reflect the corner ornament
You probably don't see this in the picture, but in the very top left corner I've used a quarter of a circle. If I have a quarter of a circle in each corner of the square, I'll get a perfect circle once the pattern is ready and applied.
First make sure Smart Guides are turned on. Go to View > Smart Guides and make sure you see the check mark (use command/control + u to switch Smart Guide on or off). Select the ornament in in the corner and select the Reflect tool from the toolbox. Hold down the alt/option key and click precisely in the center of the square. With Smart Guides on you'll see the word 'center' if you are in the right spot. In the Reflect options window, make sure Preview is checked. Select Vertical as Axis and click Copy to duplicate the corner element. Double check if the corner is precisely positioned. Zoom in and correct if needed. With Smart Guides on this should go pretty easy. This double checking is important and needed if you want your pattern to be absolutely prefect. If the corner is not 100% perfectly placed on the guides, the pattern will show a tiny little gap or other imperfections in the circle. So this is absolutely crucial.
Reflect again and rotate the center ornament
Select both corner ornaments and alt/option click in the center of the square again. Select Horizontal Axis and hit Copy to duplicate and reflect both corners vertically.
Now select the central ornament and select the Rotate tool from the toolbox. Alt/option click in the center of the square. Enter 180 degrees in the Angle field and check preview. Hit the copy button to rotate and duplicate the ornament. Again, double check the corners so they are absolutely perfectly placed in each corner.
It's hard to tell what the actual result will be once the pattern is applied. So I've created a variation of the first one just to have a bit of choice. The 2nd one has bigger ornaments in the corner and the central ornament is smaller.
Create a pattern swatches
Select all corners and central ornaments by dragging a selection around the square. Now drag the selection into the Swatches palette. Now you have created a pattern swatch.
Draw a big rectangle and give it the pattern fill you've just created.
Above you'll see the end result of the 2nd pattern.
Scaling a pattern
You can scale a pattern within an object, or you can scale the object without scaling the pattern.
Rotating a pattern
The same goes for rotating. You can rotate a pattern without rotating the object or you can rotate the object without rotating the pattern. Of course you can scale or rotate both pattern and object together as well.
That's it ;) Hope you've enjoyed this one again and learned a thing or two ;)
Want to learn more?
A good and not expensive source to learn more about Illustrator, Photoshop, or web design is by joining the Tuts+ sites. You get access to the source files for just $9 a month. So your ONE membership gives you access to members-only content for ALL the Plus sites. I've written a tutorial for the Vector Tuts section.