Guide: Using Repeating Patterns In Adobe Illustrator

15 May, 2017

Using repeating patterns is a great way to add design and texture to any of your work, but can be tricky to get right. The keys are to make sure everything lines up - and that it looks good.

There are many ways to build repeating patterns. Here is a quick and easy way to make your own, using Adobe Illustrator.

Step 1

Create the elements you’d like to use in your pattern. Set them to one side, ready to drop into your artwork. Create a square (400 px x 400 px is usually a good size to work with). This will be the boundaries of our pattern.

Step 2

Start laying out your elements, around the edge of your repeating pattern. You want to only do the top and left sides (we will repeat these to the opposite sides). Bare in mind that anything you put in the corners will have to be applied to all corners.

Step 3

We will begin by repeating the left hand side to the right. Select all the objects on the left and copy (cmd+c) and paste over the top (cmd+f). This will create a copy of the objects directly over the top of the current ones.

We want to move these objects to the right. We know our pattern box is 400 px, so we should move our objects 400 px to the right, so they are in the same position for the repeat on the right. To do this, right click the selected objects (the ones on top only) and choose transform > move. In the horizontal field, type 400px, and vertical 0 px.

Now, select all objects that overlap the top line. As before, copy (cmd+c) and paste over the top (cmd+f). Right click, select Transform > Move. This time, we want to move them 0px horizontal and 400 px vertical.

You should now have all sides covered with the same shapes.

Step 4

Fill in the middle however you would like.

Step 5

Illustrator needs to know where the boundaries are for our repeating pattern. The easiest way to do this is to select your background box, copy (cmd+c) and paste over the top (cmd+f); then send it to the back of all of your artwork (cmd+shift+[. You then make this box have no outline and no fill.

Step 6

Select all of your work (including background and transparent box) and drag to your swatches panel. You will now see it appear as a swatch, in the panel.

Step 7

Draw a box and fill it with your new pattern, in the swatch panel. Your pattern will now repeat seamlessly. You can adjust how large the repeat pattern is by right-clicking on the box then selecting Transform > Scale. Adjust the uniform scale percentage to make larger or smaller.

1 Comment

Ayshea Siddall
16th October 2017 at 9:17am

I have tried to make patterns in the past, sometimes they turned out OK and sometimes not!

Really useful advice, I think I will try this out now I know how to do it. I have been practising my Illustrator and InDesign skills as I'm going back to college to top up my HND to a Degree. This is something else I can practise doing.

Post reply

Leave a comment

Replying to: - Cancel