Illustrator Patterns

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The process of creating prints for the textiles industry, using Adobe Illustrator’s pattern making function, is very easy! Whilst it was always a straight-forward process, the new Pattern Maker function, first introduced in version CS6, has made it even simpler. Such repeat patterns can be used in various contexts, from garment design to representing materials or textures on a floor plan.

Previous to version CS6 the method was to first create a few shapes and, using the Selection tool, drag them into the Swatches panel. This would result in a new pattern being saved within the document. In textiles design we would draw up the garment and, selecting the object’s Fill, apply the pattern by clicking on the new pattern swatch.

We may wish to then scale the pattern within the garment – to do so we double-click on the Scale tool, and in the dialog box which opens, uncheck Scale Objects, change the scale to 50% or 200%, etc, and tick Preview, then OK. In the same manner, for prints cut on a bias we rotate the pattern by double-clicking on Illustrator’s Rotate tool.

Moving the pattern within the garment shape is also possible via the top Object drop-down menu, and choosing Transform and Move. We next use the keyboard’s arrow buttons to nudge the pattern into place pixel by pixel. By pressing down on the Shift key the pattern will be nudged along by 10 pixels at a time.

The process has been made even simple, however, in Illustrator versions CS6 and CC (Creative Cloud), with the introduction of the Pattern Maker function. The initial pattern is created in the same way using the same drawing tools as before. But we next select the shapes and go to the top Object drop-down menu, and select Pattern and Make. Several options for tiling, size, offset, and overlap will become available in the dialog box at this point.

The great advantage with the new method is that we are given a preview of how the new pattern will look on the screen. We can then move, scale, rotate, or change colours, or add additional items, and the pattern preview will be updated automatically. The Swatches panel shows the new swatch as in the older method. If we wish to edit this pattern later, we simply double-click on the swatch to reopen the Pattern Maker dialog. This is a great step forward in the interactive production of repeat patterns, making the older method seem clunky in comparison.

Another great way of creating interesting patterns is by placing an image onto the artboard via the File menu, then performing an Image Trace on it. We select one of the Preset tracing options as a starting point, then modify the Tolerance and various options to achieve the required result. We may then use the Eraser tool to edit and simplify the design. We could also change the various colours selecting shapes with either the Magic Wand or the Direct Selection tool. It’s also possible to create a repeat print by snapping objects to a non-printing Grid. An example of this would be to reproduce traditional Moroccan textile design.

Tom Gillan has been training Adobe Illustrator to corporate clients in Sydney for seven years. You can learn more about Adobe Illustrator Courses when you visit this link.

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