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

19 August, 2011

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

Since joining Evoluted in 2011, Jenny’s extensive design experience has helped hundreds of our clients to obtain great results. Comfortable working on illustration, branding and print projects - as well as websites and apps - her skillset has been enhanced thanks to an intriguing career path.

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6 Comments

Anne
16th October 2017 at 9:16am

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???

Post reply
Jenny Hurman
16th October 2017 at 9:16am

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.

Thanks

Post reply
Jentse
16th October 2017 at 9:16am

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

Post reply
Jenny Hurman
16th October 2017 at 9:16am

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.

Thanks

Jen

Clint
16th October 2017 at 9:16am

Jen,

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

Thanks,
Clint

Post reply
Jenny Hadfield
16th October 2017 at 9:16am

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.

Thanks

Jen

Post reply
sara
16th October 2017 at 9:16am

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.

Post reply
Jenny Hadfield
16th October 2017 at 9:16am

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.

Thanks

Jenny

Post reply
Vale
16th October 2017 at 9:16am

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

Post reply
Jenny Hadfield
16th October 2017 at 9:16am

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!

Thanks

Jen

Post reply
kirstyross85
16th October 2017 at 9:16am

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.

Post reply
Gabriel Wickenberg
16th October 2017 at 9:16am

Hi!

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

Post reply

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