Learn to use the new Pattern Maker in Illustrator CS6 to make repeating patterns.

This video covers the tools in the dialog and how to save the pattern. Make half drop repeats, brick and hexagonal patterns in a few seconds.


Hello, I’m Helen Bradley. Welcome to this video tutorial. In this tutorial I’m going to show you how to make a repeating pattern in Illustrator CS6.

To make a repeating pattern in Illustrator we’re first going to need a shape to work with. So, I’m going to create just a little square shape to use, and I’m going to add a fill color to it. I’ll select a pink fill and then a blue border so we can see what we’re working with. And I’ll make it about a 5 point border. So that’s my shape that I’m going to work with. And I want it to be sort of like a flower shape so I’ll choose Effect, Distort and Transform, Pucker and Bloat. And I’m going to Bloat it to 200 percent and just click Ok. So, this is my shape that I’m going to be working with.

To make a repeating pattern all you need to do is choose Object and then Pattern and then Make. And we now have a pattern piece added to the Swatches panel so I’ll just click Ok. And that is as easy as it is to create a pattern in Illustrator. But of course now that we can see our pattern we may want to make some changes to it.

So firstly we can change the number of copies to say 3 by 3 but I have a 5 by 5 grid in place so I can see things clearly. Dim Copies allows you to dim the duplicate or the repeating pattern so that you can see which is your original piece and which is the repeating pattern I have that now set at 100 percent so the copies are not dimmed. Let’s go back to dimming them.

Now these settings here can be a little bit confusing when you first encounter them. What these Width and Height are is this blue box so that’s the box in which my pattern is created. So if I lock these together and if then I decrease them say to 150 these are going to be scaled proportionately because I have it locked. So I’m just going to press Tab. Now the box is squeezed up and you can see that my pattern is now going to overlap. And I can control how it overlaps by using these icons here. So I can show various pieces of my pattern. If I want it to be on top over here and underneath here for example I can adjust that. But if I take this up to larger than my pattern piece, and I know that this is going to be larger than my pattern piece, I’ve typed in 250 and pressed Tab.

Now you can see that we’ve built in extra space around our pattern piece so there is more room here for perhaps adding other elements. Here is the type of pattern. At the moment we have grid but we could do Brick By Row and then we can offset the brick by a certain amount, one third, three quarters and so on. There’s Brick By Column and the offset is in a different direction. There’s also Hex By Column and Hex By Row. And for this pattern piece I think Hex By Column looks pretty good so I’m going to settle on that. Now if I wanted to add a bit of extra horizontal spacing I could do so but I’ll need to size my tile to the art and then add it in because you can see that right now these are grayed out. But if I size the tile to the size of my art I can then add some extra spacing. At the moment this is unlocked so that’s 10 points of horizontal spacing and now 20 points of vertical spacing. But I prefer not to size my tile to the art so I’m just going to leave that as it is.

Now one of the other things that we can do in this pattern area is we can add extra bits to it. So this is actually looking a little bit small for me so let’s just take it up a little bit larger so I’ve got some extra room in here. And I’m going to select the Ellipse Tool and I’m just going to hold the Shift key as I draw in here a circle. And you can see that the circle has now become part of the pattern. So if I select on the circle here, hold the Alt key as I drag a duplicate away, I now have two circles. And they’re part of the repeating pattern. I’m going to hold my Shift key as I select over both, now hold Alt as I drag a duplicate away and here we have a total repeating pattern. But we’ve been able to add pieces to it because we were actually working in this Pattern Make feature in Illustrator when we did it. Now these can also be adjusted so we’ll see that in a minute. But for now let’s just click Done. And that has saved our pattern to the pattern Swatches in Illustrator.

So let’s just go and get our pattern piece and we’ll tuck it away here off the art board for a minute. I’m going to select a rectangle and draw a rectangle here and let’s turn off the Stroke and let’s fill it with our new pattern. And there it is. Now you might see a missing pixel through your pattern. Don’t worry. That won’t be there when you actually come to print it. It’s just a resolution issue. Now I have this shape here and I might say well that pattern is fine but it looks a bit big for the shape. So I’m going to choose Object, Transform and then Scale and I’m going to disable Transform Object so that will then scale the pattern down to 25 percent of its original size but not the object and then just click Ok. So there is my pattern filled shape.

Now this shape is, this pattern is in the Illustrator swatches. It is only going to exist for this document. So if you want to keep it go up here, select the dropdown list here and click Save Swatch Library as AI. So this means that you can get it back later on. I’m just going to call this flower55 and click Save. And so now that swatch will be available later on that I can come and get it if I want to reuse the swatch in another Illustrator document.

Now we’ve already seen how we can add shapes to our pattern. But what happens if we look at this and decide that the shapes are ok but the color is not? So what I’m going to do here is go to the Layers panel here and go and locate the actual pieces that are part of this pattern. So I’m going to select this piece here and with this piece selected I can now go and make changes to it. So I’m going to give it a green fill color and then I’ll go here and select the next piece. And this is now targeted and I’ll go and grab a different fill color for it. And let’s go and select this one. We’ll give it the same green fill color as we used previously. And then let’s target this one here and we’ll give it a yellow fill color.

So if you come back and look at your shape and say well yes the pattern looks really good but the colors are not right it’s very easy to open up the layers panel here and to make adjustments to it. So for example if we didn’t like the pink here I can grab the pink path here and you can see that the pink path here for the inside shape has been separated from the path that is the stroke. And then I can just select to apply a different fill color to this particular piece here. And it hasn’t adjusted the stroke. The stroke needs to be separately selected. Here is the blue stroke color here and we could perhaps make it a darker blue. So once I’ve got that looking the way I want it to I can just double check by filling it back in.

And if I say yes that’s fine, that’s exactly what I want, and now this has been created as a new pattern. But if it wasn’t, if I’d already created this as a pattern in the pink color and I wanted to also save a green version what I can do is click Save a Copy and I’m going to call this flower 45 and it will then be saved as a different pattern swatch so it won’t be created over the top of the original. And when I’m done I’ll just click Done.

So now I have two pattern swatches so I’m just going to click the shape here. You can see here now that we could fill it with this green pattern swatch or we can go back to the original pink one. If we go to green again we would probably want to scale this down. So we’ll go to Object, Transform, Scale, again transforming only the pattern, not the object itself. So there you have the ability to create repeating patterns very, very easily in Illustrator CS6.

Helen Bradley