In this tutorial, I’m going to show you how to make beautiful seamless patterns using the pattern tool in Illustrator. The pattern tool only works with Adobe Illustrator CS6 and newer. If you have CS5 or older, you can try my other method of making seamless patterns. That’s the method I use for most of my patterns, but you can make wonderful patterns with the pattern tool in just a few minutes.
Download the free winter vector set
The free floral vector illustrations are part of my new Winter Flowers patterns and illustrations collection. They are perfect for winter holiday patterns and greeting cards.
They are free for personal use only, but you can find patterns for commercial use in the shop. Please do not sell or redistribute them as they are. If you want to share them with your readers, you can do so by posting a link to this site.
Learn how to use the pattern tool in YouTube
Please subscribe to Elan Creative Co’s channel if you want to see more Photoshop and Illustrator tutorials.
How to use the pattern tool in Illustrator
Open Illustrator and create a new document. I usually start with a square artboard that is 6x6in at 300ppi.
Add the illustration you want to use to the artboard. If you want to use the Winter Flowers illustrations, open the file, copy the items, and paste them into the new document.
Create a motif
Next, I’m going to create a simple pattern tile using the branches. I want to make a random repeating pattern, so I’m going to arrange them on the artboard, and rotate some of them to create movement. Don’t worry if some of them are outside the artboard, but make sure the items you want in the pattern touch the artboard.
I don’t want a simple pattern, so I’m going to fill in the white space with berries and leaves.
I won’t use all the elements because I don’t want it to be too cluttered. Delete the elements that you don’t want to use.
Open the pattern tool
I won’t add a background to the pattern right now because backgrounds don’t always work well with the pattern tool and they can cut off some of the illustrations.
Use the Selection tool (V) to select all the graphics and go to Object > Pattern > Make.
This will open the pattern tool and you have the following options:
- Name: rename the pattern swatch
- Tile Type: choose between one of the 5 tile types; I’m going to use Grid for this pattern
- Width & Height: the size of your pattern tile
- Copies: the number of copies of the pattern tile that you see on screen
- Dim copies to: you can dim the pattern tiles to 50% so you can see the main pattern tile
- Show tile edges: enable it so you can view the edges of the main pattern tile
I want my pattern tile to be the same size as my artboard, so we have to uncheck Size Tile to Art if it’s checked, and enter the width and height of the artboard (6x6in). This will help us save tileable copies of our patterns.
When you change the size of the pattern tile, some of the illustrations will overlap. You have to delete, rotate, or resize some of them and rearrange the illustrations until you are happy with the way your pattern looks.
To test the pattern, dim the copies to 100% and search for items that are cut off, overlap, or for large white spaces.
To save the pattern, click Done.
Add a background
The pattern swatch will now appear in the Swatches Panel (Window > Swatches). Pattern swatches are easy to use and work just like color swatches.
Using the Rectangle Tool (M), create a rectangle that’s the same size as your pattern tile (6x6in) and fill it with the pattern.
This pattern tile should be seamless. Copy the pattern tile by pressing Ctrl + C (Edit > Copy) and paste it in the back by pressing Ctrl + B (Edit > Paste in Back).
Change the color of the second rectangle to the background color you want.
Use the Selection tool (V) to select both rectangles and go to Object > Expand.
Now open the Pathfinder menu (Window > Pathfinder) with both items selected and click on Crop. This will merge the two items and you can save them as a pattern swatch.
Select the group and go to Object > Pattern > Make or drag the pattern to the Swatches panel.
Click Done to save another copy of the pattern.