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Deke's Techniques is a collection of short Photoshop and Illustrator projects and creative effects that can be completed in ten minutes or less. The series is taught by computer graphics guru Deke McClelland, and presented in his signature step-by-step style. The intent is to reveal how various Photoshop and Illustrator features can be combined and leveraged in real-world examples so that they can be applied to creative projects right away.
Hey gang! This is Deke McClelland. How's it going? Welcome to Deke's Techniques! That's the first order of business, the welcoming. The second is to tell you that we're going to be working in Adobe Illustrator, as the kids are calling it, and we're going to be talking about tile patterns. Now, tile patterns date back to Illustrator 88, and in the century sense, they've gone unchanged until Illustrator CS6, which now offers the Pattern Options panel. Now, I know that sounds totally boring, but it's not, it's actually terribly exciting.
And among other things, you can create a hex pattern. So we're going to take those perfect Archimedean spirals from last week and we're going to recast them as these festive C spirals. And then I'm going to turn them into a hex pattern. And notice, instead of regular rows and columns, we've got this diagonality associated with the pattern, and we've got some interesting variations as well. Notice this big blue spiral right here, it's covering up some of its neighbors on the left-hand side, but it's completely covered up in this right-hand column.
And just to show you how incredibly flexible things are, I'll switch in the end to a garish color scheme. Here let me show you exactly how it works. Here is a final hex pattern opened up inside Illustrator CS6. I'm going to switch over to this illustration, in which I've assembled a small collection of linear spirals, just like those that I showed you how to create last week. And I'm going to go ahead and fill in this gap in the center here. Hopefully this will give you a sense of how you can throw together a few path outlines in order to create a pattern.
I'll go ahead and click on this big spiral up here at the top with the Black Arrow tool to select it, and I'll drag it down to about here, press the Alt key or the Option key on the Mac and release in order to create a copy of that spiral. Then, I'll go ahead and grab my Scale tool, because I want to make it smaller. And just so I can see heads-up display showing me how much of a reduction I'm making here, I'll go up to the View menu and choose Smart Guides, which I tend to turn on and off, and you can do so by the way by pressing Ctrl+U or Command+U on the Mac.
Then I'll drag from somewhere lower left, like so, inward on the spiral and I'll press the Shift key as I drag, and I want to reduce the size of this guy by about 78%. So maybe I'll drag out a little bit, that's good. And again, I've got the Shift key down to constrain the proportions of that spiral. Because of some settings that I've got going here, I ended up scaling the stroke along with the spiral, and if that happens to you, it may or may not, then go up to the Control panel and change the Line Weight back to 3 points, like so.
And then I'll click in the Fill Swatch, the first swatch in the Control panel, and change it to this darker shade of Blue in order to create this effect here. Let's go ahead and zoom in here so I can get a sense of whether I've got this guy aligned properly or not. And notice I've got a little bit of a gap right there and I've also got a lot of Smart Guide action going on. So I'm going to press Ctrl+U or Command+U on the Mac to turn them back off. And I want to fill that little gap in, so I'll press the Arrow keys in order to nudge the spiral into a better location, and right about there should do just fine.
There's just one problem left and that is the fact that this fill is cutting into the stroke associated with this lighter Blue spiral below. So what I need to do is copy this segment right there, and I'll do that by switching to the White Arrow tool, which I can get by pressing the A key. I'll click right about there to select that segment. Then I'll press Ctrl+C or Command+C on the Mac in order to copy it. Now I'll press the V key in order to switch back to my Black Arrow tool. I'll click on that most recent spiral, the dark Blue one above, and I'll press Ctrl+F or Command+F on the Mac in order to paste that segment in front.
Now I'm going to zoom in a little bit. We don't need this fill, so I'll go up to the Control panel, click on that first swatch and change it to None. And then I need to cut this segment right at this location, because otherwise, obviously we don't want all this segment coming up into the other spiral. I'll go ahead and select the Scissors tool from the Eraser tool flyout menu. You can also get to the tool by pressing the C key, and I'll click right about there in order to cut that segment. Then I'll switch back to the Black Arrow tool and I'll select the top part of the segment, the part that just got cut away, and I'll press the Backspace key or the Delete key on Mac to get rid of it.
Now you may end up seeing this number where the stroke actually extends beyond the endpoint and intrudes upon that dark blue spiral above. And if that ends up being the case for you, then click on the word Stroke up here in the Control panel and change the Cap from Round to Butt right there, and that will go ahead and cut it off. Now go ahead and zoom back out here so I can see all my spirals at once. And I'll press Ctrl+A or Command+A on the Mac to select everything. Then I'll go up to the Object menu and I'll choose Pattern, and I'll choose Make.
And that does a few things actually. For one, it automatically creates a new swatch in your Swatches panel. For the other, it takes you into the Pattern Editing mode, and it also brings up the Pattern Options panel here inside Illustrator CS6. So just go ahead and click OK in response to the alert message, and then let's zoom out a little more so that we can take in all the tiles. By default, you'll see the other tiles dimmed, like so. So I'll go ahead and turn on Dim Copies to, and it's set to 70% by default, which is just fine.
We want the Tile Type to be Hex by Column. You can do Hex by Row, and the difference by the way is the shape of the hex. I want to stick with the upright one, so I'll select Hex by Column. And now you're going to see we have this kind of six-sided arrangement right here, but we also have lot of gaps between the spirals, and there is a couple of different ways to close those gaps. One is to go ahead and select this Pattern Tile tool in the upper left corner of the Pattern Options panel, and then you can drag these handles in order to change the size of the hexagon.
So that's one option that's available to you. You can also however work by the numbers, and you do that by turning on the Size Tile to Art check box right there, and that will go ahead and automatically resize that hexagon and give you access to the Spacing options right here. And then you just play around with them. Now, I've had some experience with this pattern of course, so I'll just tell you what I came up with was a V Spacing value of -39, and I went ahead and achieved that by the way by selecting the value and pressing Shift+ Down Arrow four times and then the Up Arrow key once.
And now at this point, you might want to go ahead and turn Dim Copies to off so you get a more accurate reflection what the pattern is going to look like. At this point I decided I didn't really like having this big spiral cut off so much, so you have different Overlap options that are available to you and you can just play with them until they come up with something you like. In my case, I decided to select the second icon right in front, which ends up producing this effect here. And notice, that doesn't mean that this spiral is going to always be in the front.
When Illustrator perceives it to be on the right side of things, then it's in front; when Illustrator perceives it to be below some other spiral, then it's in the back, and that's because I've got this Top and Front option selected as well. Once you're done with your edits, go ahead and name your pattern, and I'm going to call mine sea spirals. And then you can either click on the Done button, or you can press the Escape key. And this is one of those rare occasions where Escape means save as opposed to cancel inside of Illustrator, so it's just something to be aware of.
Anyway, I'm going to go ahead and press the Escape key, and sure enough, I've got this new swatch right here. Let's check to make sure that our pattern is seamless by zooming out from the illustration, and I'm going to create a new layer by pressing the Alt key or the Option key on the Mac and clicking on the little Page icon at the bottom of Layers panel, and I'll call this layer pattern and click OK. I'll go ahead and grab the Rectangle tool, which you can get by pressing the M key, and I'll draw a rectangle that's as big as the entire art board. I'll go ahead and change its Stroke to None, because we don't need a stroke.
And then I'll change the Fill to our newest swatch, sea spirals. And you can see that we've got a seamless pattern. Now, you may look at this and say, wait a sec Deke, this doesn't look seamless to me. I can see a clear rectangular seam around this tile. Well, that's just a function of Illustrator screen display, and you can tell whether or not you've got a seamless pattern either by printing the document of course, or by opening the same document inside of Photoshop, as I've done here. And you can see that, sure enough, we do have a seamless pattern, because Photoshop goes ahead and acts like a PostScript Printer and renders out your .ai files with pixel level precision.
All right, I'm going to switch back to Illustrator, and let's say you want to make a modification to your pattern. The first thing you want to do is press Ctrl+ Shift+A or Command+Shift+A on the Mac to go ahead and deselect the rectangle. And then double-click on your Pattern Swatch here in the Swatches panel, and that will take you back into the Pattern Editing mode. And let's say I just want to change the color scheme. I'll go ahead and grab my Black Arrow tool and I'll click on the big spiral, and I'll change its Fill to the shade of Green, and then I'll click on this guy next door here and I'll change its Fill to the sort of purplish dollar.
And then I'll grab that dark blue central spiral and I'll change its Fill to red, and I'll go ahead and get this guy right there and I'll change its Fill to blue, so you can see we have a much more sort of vibrant color scheme going this time. Change this guy to this green right there, and then finally, I'll select that little spiral and change it to orange. And then I'll press Ctrl+A or Command+A on the Mac to select all the spirals, including that little segment right there, and I'll change the Stroke to white, and I end up getting this effect here.
If I were to press the Escape key, I would not cancel out, I would save over sea spirals, and this time around we obviously do not have sea spirals, it's a totally different color scheme. So what I recommend you do, anytime you make a change to a pattern is click on the Save a Copy button, and then Illustrator will go ahead and ask you, what do you want to name this new pattern. I'll call mine colorful spirals this time around, and then I'll click OK. And then you're going to get this message that tells you you've got a new pattern that's been added to the Swatches panel.
Any additional changes you make however while in the Pattern Editing mode will be applied to the original pattern, not to the copy. What that means is scram before you would make a big mess of things, by which I mean do not click on the Done button at this point or you'll make a mess of sea spirals, instead you want to click on the Cancel button. A little confusing in my opinion, that little bit, but notice now I can select this rectangle and I can go ahead and select the new swatch in order to immediately fill the shape with my modified pattern.
And that's how you create a pretty complicated hex pattern here inside Illustrator CS6.
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