How to Make a Repeating Seamless Pattern in Illustrator

Creating a seamless pattern in Adobe Illustrator is particularly useful when designing things like phone cases, home decor items and website elements.

Luckily, it’s also very easy to get the hang of! Follow along as Cassandra of Peony and Ink gives the step-by-step instructions on how to make it happen.

How to Make a Seamless Pattern in Illustrator

How to create a pattern in Illustrator

In the tutorial below, we will guide you step-by-step through the process of creating a seamless repeating pattern in Adobe Illustrator. This method explains the basic methods for creating a pattern that can be applied to virtually any design motif that you create.

Step 1 – Create Your Document

In a new document, select the rectangle tool and create a 600px x 600px box. The size doesn’t matter as much as it needing to be square, it will make creating your pattern easier!

How to Make a Seamless Pattern in Illustrator

Step 2 – Creating Your Pattern

Start arranging your elements. You can arrange the interior elements any way you’d like, but the edges need to mirror each other to make your pattern seamless.

Start with one of your edges (I began at the bottom), and place your elements with parts outside of the square. Select each element, then right click and select Transform > Move.

How to Make a Seamless Pattern in Illustrator

Since the height of our square is 600px, set your vertical position to -600px and the horizontal to 0. The positioning may seem a little counter-intuitive at first, but because we are starting with our bottom edge (600px) and we want to move it to the top (0px), we need to subtract 600px to get there. If you started at the top, your edge would be at 0px, and you would need to add 600px to move to the bottom edge.

Check the preview box so you can make sure you are moving in the right direction and then click Copy.

Do the same with your sides, only this time you will be changing the horizontal position and setting the vertical position to zero.

Once you have your edges done, you can rearrange anything in the middle, but not the edges. If you move an edge element, your pattern will no longer be seamless.

Step 3 – Make Clipping Mask

Click the square in the background and click Edit>Copy, then Edit>Paste in Front, and bring that copy to the front (Object>Arrange>Bring to Front). Next, select everything and make a clipping mask by right clicking and hitting Make Clipping Mask.

How to Make a Seamless Pattern in Illustrator

Step 4 – Make Your Pattern

With everything still selected, go to Object>Pattern>Make which will open the Pattern Options window. For a simple pattern like this, you don’t need to do much (if anything) to the default options, just make sure you have your Tile Type set to Grid, or else your pattern is going to go all crazy!

How to Make a Seamless Pattern in Illustrator

Step 5 – Save Your Pattern

Name your pattern and click Done at the top. Now your pattern will be in your Swatches palette.

Step 6 – Apply Your Pattern

To apply your pattern, click on your rectangle tool and draw a rectangle of any size, then click your pattern in the Swatches palette (make sure you are changing the fill and not the stroke!).

Step 7 – Resize Your Pattern

If you’d like to resize either your pattern, your shape or both, right click on your shape and go to Transform>Scale. Here you will have a few different options.

How to Enlarge or Shrink Your Illustrator Pattern

Make sure all options are checked except Transform Objects. Then enter in your percentage to increase or decrease your pattern in the Uniform option. Check the Preview box, and you can play with the percentage until you are happy with how everything looks.

How to Make a Seamless Pattern in Illustrator

To Enlarge or Shrink Your Object

Select all options except Transform Pattern.

How to Make a Seamless Pattern in Illustrator

To Enlarge or Shrink Your Object and Pattern Proportionally

Check all options.

How to Make a Seamless Pattern in Illustrator

Step 9

If you’d like to edit your pattern, double-click the pattern swatch and it will open up the Pattern Options window. Here you can change colours, move elements around, and add or delete elements. If you want to save a copy of your pattern, instead of replacing your original pattern, make sure to click Save a Copy and not Done.

Hopefully, this helps demystify the process to create seamless patterns!

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graphic by jacqueline colley

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By Cassandra Lea

Cassandra is a crafter, designer, and watercolor mess maker living in Seattle with her husband, two dogs, and a cat. She blogs about all things DIY and crafting in a small space, and how sometimes she has to use her dogs as tables.

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