Getting Started with Illustrator Patterns: A Step-by-Step Guide

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Getting Started with Illustrator Patterns: A Step-by-Step Guide

If you're new to Adobe Illustrator and want to create beautiful patterns for your designs, you've come to the right place! In this guide, we'll take you through the process of creating and using patterns in Illustrator, step by step.

Adobe Illustrator Pattern Swatch Basics

Are you ready to dive into the world of creating pattern swatches in Adobe Illustrator? Let's get started with understanding the basic settings of making pattern swatches in Adobe Illustrator.

Grid Tile.

Each tile's center is lined up both horizontally and vertically with the center of its neighboring tiles. This creates a grid pattern, where the edges of the tiles intersect at right angles to make a pattern repeat within a square.Grid Repeat Pattern Swatch Option

Hex by column.

So these tiles are hexagonal (fancy word for six-sided shape) and stack together with the centers of all the tiles in each column are perfectly lined up vertically. While the centers of the tiles in alternate columns are all lined up horizontally! Hex by Column Pattern Making Adobe Illustrator

Hex by row.

These tiles are also hexagonal in shape, and are arranged in rows with the centers of the tiles in the rows are horizontally aligned. The centers of the tiles in alternate rows are vertically aligned.Hex by Row Pattern Making Adobe Illustrator

Brick by Row.

These tiles are rectangular-shaped and the centers of the tiles in each row are all lined up perfectly horizontal. But, the centers of the tiles in alternate columns are all lined up vertically!Brick by Row Pattern Making Adobe Illustrator

Brick by Column.

These tiles are also rectangular in shape, but are arranged in columns. The centers of tiles in columns are vertically aligned while the centers of tiles in alternate columns are horizontally aligned.Brick by Column Pattern Making Adobe Illustrator

Brick Offset

Basically, this setting helps you determine how much your tiles will be out of alignment with each other.

Brick Offset by Row

This setting is for those rows of tiles we were talking about earlier. You can use it to decide how far apart the centers of adjacent rows of tiles will be.

Brick Offset by Column

Now, this setting is all about the columns of tiles, you can use it to decide how far apart the centers of adjacent columns of tiles will be.

Width / Height

Here's where you can adjust the size of your tiles. You can make them bigger or smaller than the artwork you're using to make your pattern. But watch out - if you make them too big, you'll end up with empty space between your tiles. And if you make them too small, your artwork might overlap between tiles.

Size Tile to Art

Selecting this option will make your tiles automatically shrink to the size of your artwork.

Move Tile with Art

If you want to make sure your tiles always move with your artwork, this is the setting for you.

H Spacing / V Spacing

These settings let you decide how much space you want between your tiles, horizontally and vertically.


When your tiles overlap, you can use this setting to decide which ones will appear in front.


This setting lets you decide how many rows and columns of tiles you want to see while you're working on your pattern.

Dim Copies to

You can adjust the opacity of your tile previews with this setting so you can focus on the working tile but still see how the repeat will look.

Show Tile Edge

If you want to see a bounding box around your tiles, this is the setting for you.

Show Swatch Bounds

And last but not least, this setting shows you a unit of your pattern that's repeated to make the whole thing. It's like a little sneak peek of what's to come!

Setting up Your Workspace for Pattern Creation

  1. Open a new workspace in Adobe Illustrator and choose your artboard specifications such as size and color settings (RGB or CMYK).
    I recommend starting with an artboard that's large enough to work with, such as 1000 x 1000 pixels. If you are working solely with vectors the sizing is less important than if you are working with rasters, however it's still going to make things easier for you if you know the requirements for your patterns final outcome before you start. But if you don’t know yet, a square 1000x1000 pixels is an okay place to start.
    Create a new Document in Adobe Illustrator to start creating seamless repeating patterns
  2. Create the elements for your pattern. You can use any combination of shapes, lines, and the image trace tool to create your pattern. Remember that the pattern will repeat, so try to create elements that will seamlessly blend together.
  3. Select all elements that will be within the pattern and then select Object > Pattern > Make to enter the Pattern Design space, here is where you will make all the adjustments and settings that you learned about above in the Pattern Basics section.Object Pattern Make In Adobe Illustrator
  4. Make a Pattern Swatch Collection and save to a custom Swatches Library to use in other projects.

Fun fact, you don't have to create seamless repeating patterns only using square artboards. That's right, you can create pattern swatches on a rectangular artboard too! Just remember to follow the same principles when it comes to placing your elements. As long as your pattern repeats seamlessly, you can use it as a pattern swatch on any shape or size of artboard. So don't be afraid to think outside of the square and let your creativity run wild!

Using Your Pattern Swatches

Now that you've created your beautiful pattern swatches, it's time to put them to use! Follow these simple steps to apply your patterns to any shape in your project:

  1. Open a new document or an existing project where you want to use your pattern.
  2. Use the Selection tool to choose the object where you want to apply your pattern swatch. You can apply patterns to any shape you’ve created in Adobe Illustrator.
  3. With your object selected, apply your pattern by simply clicking on the pattern swatch you created in the Swatches panel. Voila! Your pattern is now applied to your selected object.
  4. Adjust the pattern scale. If you find that the repeat pattern is either too big or small for this particular shape, adjust as needed by right clicking the shape and selecting transform > Scale > adjust the uniform scale and under options make sure that transform Pattern is selected and transform object is deselected.

Modifying and Editing Your Patterns

Now, let's talk about how you can edit your patterns in Adobe Illustrator for infinite variations.

  1. Open your pattern in the Swatches panel. To edit your pattern, double-click on the pattern swatch in the Swatches panel. This will open the pattern in the pattern make window/ workspace.
  2. Edit your elements. Make any changes to the elements in your pattern that you want. You can add, remove, or adjust elements as needed.
  3. Save your changes. Once you're happy with your changes, save your pattern swatch by clicking the "Done" button in the top toolbar. Or if you want to keep the original and make a variation of the pattern select save a copy instead.

Creating and using patterns in Adobe Illustrator is a fun and easy way to add unique touches to your designs. By following these simple steps, you can create beautiful patterns that seamlessly repeat and enhance your designs. Have fun experimenting with different shapes, colors, and elements to create patterns that are uniquely yours! Don’t forget that you can make variations by learning to use the recolor tool in Adobe Illustrator to get much more out of a single design.