Tutorial-Seamless, layered, repeating patterns in Adobe Illustrator CS4

I read a very nice walk-through at Illustration Info on creating a “Doodle Style Tutorial”. I thought I would apply the basic idea to creating a pattern swatch in Illustrator. I’ve read tutorials similar to what I’m going to share, but this method is very simple and has the benefit of being extensible.

Once you have your basic illustrations, draw a colored square (so you can see it clearly) behind the artwork. Spread the artwork out so various pieces extend past the square. Since this will be a repeating pattern, try not to clump the artwork to avoid creating unintended focal points.

Next, go into Outline Mode under the “View” menu (Mac=Cmd + Y, PC= Ctrl + Y). Select all the artwork and create 4 copies, using the edges of the color-filled box to help you perfectly align the 4 copies into a 2 x 2 square. Examine the elements of the illustration that extend outside of the box and into adjacent boxes. Make sure none of the illustrations overlap. If you have to move any illustration elements, be sure to select all instance of that element and move them simultaneously.

Return to “Preview Mode” (Mac=Cmd + Y, PC= Ctrl + Y). Delete all but one of the color squares. Group all the line work. Select all art (Mac=Cmd+A, PC=Ctrl+A) and use the Align palette to horizontally and vertically align the box and line work to their centers.

Change the color and stroke of the box to none.Send the box behind all the linework. Select all art and drag it into the swatches palette. Congratulations, you’ve just created a pattern fill. To change the size or angle of the pattern without changing the shape you have applied it to, select the object with the Direct Select tool (white arrow), then hit “R” (rotate), S (scale) and drag in the shape while holding the tilda (~) on your keyboard.

Once you have your basic pattern, try layering it using the Appearance panel. Draw a shape and give it a fill color. In the Appearance panel, add another fill and select your pattern from the Swatches palette. Experiment with changing the blending mode and transparency. Add another fill using your pattern. Change the size and rotation using the tips from the previous step. Alter the blending mode. Once that’s done, drag the shape into the Graphic Styles panel. Now you can quickly apply those setting to other shapes. You can keep doing this, changing the background color of your shape, adding effects to the fills in the appearance panel, adding new fills with other patterns you make until the cows come home.

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One Response to “Tutorial-Seamless, layered, repeating patterns in Adobe Illustrator CS4”

  1. tylyn Says:

    Dude! Love the tutorial! You should make more of these guys, so cool, and so useful for those of us who are still very much learning illustrator. Brilliant.

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