Whether you work as a fashion, surface or graphic designer, you need to know how to make and use repeating patterns in Illustrator. They’re one of the most powerful features that Illustrator has to offer, so if you’re still fighting with certain things out or you haven’t ever tried to make one, get started now with my roundup of 20 tutorials all focused on creating repeating patterns in Illustrator (and a bit of Photoshop).
Maybe you’ve experienced some common frustrations:
Or maybe you’ve got some pattern design techniques down but know there’s more to learn – and I guarantee you, there is. Organized by topic, take a look at all the repeating pattern tutorials I’ve done over the years. There are more than enough options for you to find exactly what you need.
Repeating Patterns in Illustrator CS6 & Newer Using the Pattern Making Tool (Video Tutorial)
Repeating Patterns in Illustrator CS6 & Newer Using the Pattern Making Tool (Written Tutorial)
If you’re working in CS6 or newer, the best new feature release (IMHO) was the Pattern Making Tool. It makes pattern making, editing and visualizing a breeze and is light years beyond the old way of making patterns in Illustrator.
Design A Half Drop Repeating Pattern in Illustrator CS6 or Newer
Half drop patterns were a really big pain before the introduction of the Pattern Making Tool in CS6. Within seconds, turn your pattern into a half drop, quarter drop, or whatever fraction you want.
Create Repeating Patterns in Illustrator CS5 & Earlier
If you’re working in CS5 or earlier and need to make a lot of patterns, you have my personal sympathies. The process is a bit tedious and doesn’t give you any live preview of what the pattern may look like. Editing is kind of a pain as well, but if CS5 or older is what you’ve got, this is the simplest way to make a pattern.
Create a Repeating Pattern in Photoshop Using Illustrator Vector Smart Objects
You may prefer to work in Photoshop to create and use your pattern, but want or need vector objects inside the pattern. Using Vector Smart Objects you can easily do this.
Create A Space Dye Texture Pattern in Illustrator From A Photograph or Scan
Working from a scanned space dye texture, I’ll show you how to convert it to vector so you can easily change the colors and get it into a nice seamless repeat.
Create a Denim Pattern Using Illustrator & Photoshop
Use this trick to quickly create textured patterns from photos such as denim using both Illustrator and a bit of Photoshop to create a nice seamless edge.
Create A Quilted Down Effect with A Pattern (or Pattern Brush) in Illustrator
Please, whatever you do, DO NOT manually draw quilting inside your garment. It’s tedious to create and nearly impossible to edit – use this technique instead to create a repeating pattern or a pattern brush. It’ll save you and your coworkers from many headaches.
Color Patterns in Illustrator
This is by far the quickest way to color patterns in Illustrator – you don’t have to make a new pattern, or even edit the existing one. Every time you make a new colorway of your pattern, a new swatch will be made of that color particular color palette, allowing you to do mock up tons of options in a matter of minutes.
Color Tonal Patterns in Illustrator
I’ve seen many designers manually edit colors inside patterns, but there’s a much faster way to do this and a really cool trick when you’re working with tonal patterns, such as heather textures. Learn how to create multiple colorways of tonal patterns in less than 30 seconds.
Plaid Repeating Patterns in Illustrator
Simply made up of multiple rectangles going horizontal and vertical, plaids are really easy to make in Illustrator.
Twill Plaid Repeating Pattern in Illustrator & Photoshop
If you want to create a more realistic looking plaid, it’s best to work with a combination of Illustrator & Photoshop. This tutorial takes you through making a twill plaid, but can easily be modified for any weave structure.
Rotate & Scale Patterns in Illustrator
If you’re short on time and don’t need detailed instructions, this is an abbreviated tutorial with just a few quick steps and screenshots to show you how to rotate and scale patterns independently inside objects.
Edit Patterns in Illustrator: Rotate, Scale & Move Patterns Inside Objects
You don’t have to create an entirely new pattern if you want to change the size, scale or position of it within your artwork. This tutorial will show you how to easily manage and edit patterns inside objects.
Pull Out One Pattern Tile from A Repeating Pattern in Illustrator
Many sites like Spoonflower require you to submit one pattern tile. Using this technique, you’ll be sure to grab just one repeat, and not too much or too little causing mismatched edges or white lines throughout your pattern.
Break Patterns Apart in Illustrator to Pull Out Motifs
Did you inherit or download a pattern and you want to use some of the designs inside of it? This tutorial shows you how to break the pattern apart so you can pull the motifs out and use them on their own.
Creating Specs for Repeating Patterns in Illustrator for Manufacturing & Production
Is your pattern all ready to go to production? Create accurate specs for your factory to use to ensure the scale and colors are all interpreted correctly.
Patterns Cannot Contain Anything Painted With A Pattern
If you want to overlay or combine two patterns, you’ve probably seen this error. This tutorial will show you two ways to work around this so you can combine a polka dot pattern and a floral print, or overlay a grunge texture on any pattern.
Warp Patterns Inside Your Garment to Create a 3D Effect in Illustrator
To get a more realistic effect of how patterns wrap around a 3-dimensional object such as a body, use Envelope Distort. It’s a bit fussy and requires a little bit of patience, but the results are quite nice. If you have experience with gradient mesh, this technique will be easier to follow.