Post Category: Shop Talk

Making Patterns in Illustrator

By Kirsten Winkelbauer

Patterns are incredibly useful tools in design work – they can add visual interest to another piece, or can be used as standalone designs for things like apparel and product packaging. Making patterns in Illustrator is really simple, and only takes a few steps!

You need to start with the elements that you want to use in your design. The easiest option is to repeat a single design element, but you can also experiment with more complex designs.

For the first example, we’ll be making a pattern of this pumpkin. After the design is done, resize it to be as small or large as you want it, and then make sure the entire shape and all of its elements are selected (if you have a lot of strokes and shapes, make sure you group all of them together just to make things easier).

Orange pumpkin edited in photoshop

Tiny orange pumpkin in corner of canvas

Next, simply click on Object > Pattern > Make. You’ll be brought to the pattern-making interface, and a pop up window will let you know that the pattern you’re making will be saved into your Swatches panel.

Make a pumpkin pattern

Open a new window in Photoshop

At this point, you can adjust the layout and spacing of the pattern. The default option is a grid, but you can also make the pattern offset in different ways, using the options in the “Tile” menu. You can also change how much space is between each pumpkin by adjusting the width and the height.

Grid of pumpkins

Grid is the default pattern setting

menu with orange pumpkins

There are several other options for how the pattern can tile

Menu with orange pumpkin selected

You can type in a number manually, or adjust with the arrows on your keyboard

Once you’re satisfied with how everything looks, just name your pattern and click “Done.” You can also make variations of the same pattern by clicking “Save A Copy” and editing different versions.

Save your orange pumpkin design in photoshop

Now when you go to your Swatches panel, you will see your pattern saved there and you can use it like any other color swatch. This means any shape you make, you can fill with your sad pumpkins!

Photo shop menu with color panel

New elements in photoshop window

Completed pumpkin pattern in photoshop

Making a pattern with more than one design is almost as easy, but you have to take a little more care with how you lay them out in your document initially. For example, now I’ll be adding this little bat to my pumpkin design.

Bat design in photoshop window with pumpkin

Place the bat design on the canvas

However I layout these two elements will be how they’re repeated in the pattern – that means if they’re very far apart, they’ll remain that same distance apart in the final pattern. Alternately, if they’re very close together, they’ll remain close together.

Spacing between the pumpkin and the bat design

Think about how much empty space you want around each element

Less spacing between the bat and pumpkin pattern

For smaller elements, too big of a gap creates a lot of empty space, so be thoughtful

You might have to experiment with manually adjusting the different elements to make them work well, but once you’re satisfied, you just follow the same steps to make and save your new pattern. Have fun with it!

Pattern with bats and orange pumpkins

Mixed pattern of orange pumpkins and bats in photoshop

Make sure to check out some of the amazing pattern designs available by Redbubble artists, and share your own in the comments below!