19 AUG

How to create, scale and edit fill patterns in Adobe Illustrator

Patterns are a useful tool for creating a design within a shape without having to duplicate the item and use a clipping path increasing the file size.

Follow these simple steps to create your pattern. We have used a simple geometric bird design in this tutorial that you are free to download.

1. Create the pattern you wish to duplicate and turn into your fill pattern

This can be any shape or size you want to fill your area. If you want a seamless background make sure your shape is symmetrical. When you are happy with the shape or design, drag the whole shape into your swatches panel to create a new fill.

You can also use seamless patterns created in Photoshop. Open the psd, png, or jpg file in Illustrator and then drag it to the Swatches panel. Use it as a fill the same as any pattern. Start with a high resolution image for best results.

How to create fill patterns in Adobe Illustrator - Image One

2. Fill your shape

Select the object you wish to fill, and click on the new fill you have created in your swatches panel.

How to create fill patterns in Adobe Illustrator - Image Two

3. Scale, move or rotate your pattern

You can easily transform the pattern within your shape, by moving, scaling or rotating it. Select the shape containing the fill pattern. Go to the Object Menu and click Transform, here you can select move, rotate, reflect, scale or shear.

Select the transform option you want to use. When the transform box appears, ensure you click Patterns in the options, this way you are only scaling the pattern and not the object.

How to create fill patterns in Adobe Illustrator - Image Three

4. Edit the pattern swatch or customize an existing swatch

To edit the pattern swatch, click and drag the swatch onto your art board. Once you have finished editing your pattern, you can either replace the swatch you have edited by clicking alt and dragging it over the previous swatch, or you can create a new swatch by simply dragging the pattern into the swatches menu as before.

Download the pattern in Illustrator Format

How to create fill patterns in Adobe Illustrator - Image Four

Written by Jenny Hadfield

Jenny is a designer at Evoluted and enjoys doing well thought out designs for print and web. She likes real ale, proper pubs and motorbikes. She isn't very good at FIFA... Read more posts by Jenny Hadfield

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  1. Anne

    May 16, 2012 at 10:32 pm

    I have not used Illustrator in a long time. Is patterns a new feature on Illustrator? Does the grid always appear in the back ground???

    • team

      Jenny Hurman

      May 21, 2012 at 11:33 am

      Hi Anne,

      Illustrator patterns have been around for a long time in illustrator now and are a really useful and time saving tool. The grid can be turned off by selecting View > Hide Grid.
      If you haven’t used Illustrator in a while, there are many online tutorials such as this one to help refresh your skills.


      • Jentse

        June 10, 2012 at 9:33 pm

        Hi Jenny,
        Thanks, this is a very helpful tutorial! I am having a problem though; when I try to drag the placed image to the swatches palette, Illustrator just makes the ‘ping’ error noise and doesn’t add it to the swatches. It happens with images of different file size and aspect ratios (also perfectly square ones).
        Can you help me by telling what it is that’s causing the problem? I’m really stuck now since I cannot use the swatches I want.

        Thanks a lot!
        regards, Jentse

        • team

          Jenny Hurman

          June 11, 2012 at 10:57 am

          Hi Jentse,

          Before you drag your image to the swatches panel, make sure you have clicked embed image. To do this click on your image and click embed, which should be on the top left main toolbar. This should hopefully resolve your problem.



  2. Clint

    April 16, 2014 at 9:46 pm


    Quick question on patterns. Are patterns limited to not being able to have Overprint applied to them?


    • team

      Jenny Hadfield

      April 17, 2014 at 9:02 am

      Hi Clint,

      Thanks for your question.
      As far as I can tell you can’t add overprint to a pattern fill. However if your pattern is made from a vector shape rather than an image, you could expand the whole layer making it a fill shape, then you can add overprint.



  3. sara

    May 27, 2014 at 11:22 pm

    Hi Jenny,

    Thanks for your tutorial!

    When I copy my shape into another Illustrator file, the pattern shifts quite drastically… Is there a way to fix the swatch fill once I’ve adjusted the scale and placement to what I like? That way it doesn’t shift when I copy and paste it the entire object…

    Thanks for your help.

    • team

      Jenny Hadfield

      June 24, 2014 at 10:39 am

      Hi There,

      I’d suggest when you paste the object, select paste in place from the edit menu. If this doesn’t work I would expand the pattern to become a shape. To do this go to Object and click Expand.

      Hopefully this should solve the problem.



  4. Vale

    November 12, 2014 at 6:02 pm

    Hello, i’m using illustrator cs6, is there a way to copy an object from an artboard to a different one , without breaking its pattern? copying it as a locked pattern i mean? cause it moves inside the object and the result changes from the original artboard… can you help me please? ty

    • team

      Jenny Hadfield

      November 12, 2014 at 6:25 pm

      Hi Vale,

      That’s a tough one! I can’t seem to replicate the problem, the pattern always stays fixed within the object for me, when I move it or copy and paste it.
      Have you tried copying the shape, then going to the different art board and using the paste in place option? (in the edit menu)
      My only other thought if the pattern is made from vector shapes you could go to object menu and expand it so it becomes a shape in its own right?

      Hope this helps!



  5. kirstyross85

    May 06, 2016 at 8:59 pm

    Thanks so much for an easy to follow tutorial, I knew I must have been missing something obvious, and I have never discovered how to create a swatch – thank you.

  6. Gabriel Wickenberg

    September 17, 2016 at 5:01 pm


    Can a pattern be made from a picture, or does it have to be from objects made in illustrator?

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