Since a lot of you come here for pattern design, I’ve decided to create a series of tutorials that will show you how to create surface patterns and apply them to your graphics. In this first tutorial, we will create a polka dot pattern in Illustrator using the Pattern Maker tool. This tool is only available in Illustrator CS6 and CC.
Do you remember how many steps we had to take to create a polka dot pattern in Photoshop? Well, in Illustrator you can create a simple repeating pattern in a couple of minutes. Let’s get to work:
Create a new document
In this tutorial, you will learn how to make a polka dot pattern swatch that you can use as a background for your blog’s graphics or for your artworks. That’s why you can use any artboard size you want.
I’m going to create a background for this post’s featured image, so I’m starting with an 800x1200px artboard at 72ppi.
Set up your workspace
We will work mostly with the Swatches and Layers panels, so we can either use a custom workspace or the Painting workspace.
Go to Essentials in the upper right corner of your screen and select Painting from the drop-down menu. This will open up a few useful panels.
Create a motif
The next step is to create a circle. You can do this using the Ellipse Tool (L) or the Paintbrush Tool (B).
Select your favorite fill color and set the stroke color to none. If you are using the Ellipse Tool, click on your artboard and enter the height and width of your circle, or click and drag until you have the size you want. Holding down Shift while creating the shape will help you create a perfect circle.
Create a pattern swatch
There are two ways to create a pattern swatch. You can either select your circle and go to Object > Pattern > Make or drag it to the Swatches panel. Your pattern will be added to your Swatches and if you want to edit it, you can double-click on the swatch.
Once you add the pattern to the Swatches library, you can delete the circle from your artboard.
Edit your pattern
When you create a pattern swatch, the Pattern Options menu will appear. This menu will let you change the name of the pattern swatch, tile type, size of the motif and spacing between shapes.
If you want to add space between the polka dots, check Size Tile to Art and enter horizontal and vertical spacing values. I’m using a 30x30px circle and 30px between the dots.
If you don’t like the default grid tile type, you can use one of the other four tile types: brick by row, brick by column, hex by column, and hex by row.
You can save the different pattern swatches by pressing Save a Copy or clicking Done when you are happy with the pattern.
How to use the polka dot pattern
I want to use this pattern as a background for the blog post title. To create a polka dot background, set the polka dot pattern as the fill color and create a rectangle using the Rectangle Tool (M) that’s as large as your artboard.
To align it to your artboard, select the rectangle and click on the icons for Horizontal Align Center and Vertical Align Center.
The pattern we created has a transparent background, so at this step, you can save it as a transparent background PNG.
If you want to add a full-color background, select your polka dot rectangle and press Ctrl+C (Command+C) to copy the background and Ctrl+B (Command+B) to paste it and send it to the back. Make sure the background layer is selected in the Layers panel (it has a blue square next to the name of the layer) and set the fill color to the color you want for the background.
Don’t forget to save your pattern from File > Save.
If you export your pattern as a JPEG, make sure the anti-aliasing is set to Art Optimized so you won’t see any annoying white lines on your pattern.
You’ve just created your first polka dot pattern in Illustrator
Awesome work! You can save your pattern swatches from the Swatches Libraries Menu and apply them to any shape you want.
If you are tired of polka dots, you can use any other shape you want, like a hexagon, triangle, diamond or even one of your doodles.
Have fun creating this simple pattern and follow my blog for more surface pattern design tutorials.