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In Illustrator CS5 Essential Training, author Mordy Golding explains the core concepts and techniques that apply to any workflow in Illustrator, whether designing for print, the web, or assets for other applications. This course includes a detailed explanation of the elements that make up vector graphics—paths, strokes, and fills—and shows how to use each of the Illustrator drawing tools. Also demonstrated are techniques for combining and cleaning up paths, organizing paths into groups and layers, text editing, working with color, effects, and much more. Exercise files accompany the course.
One of the most powerful aspects of Patterns is the ability for you to create your own. In this movie, we are going to explore how to define your own basic patterns, and we'll discuss some strategies for creating more complex ones. In fact, to define a pattern is really easy. It's making sure that the repeat is correct. That takes a little bit more insight. So first let's create a Pattern. I'm going to select this artwork right here, a nice little flower here, and I want to create a Pattern where this flower repeats itself over and over again.
So with the flower selected, I am simply going to drag it into the Swatches panel. When I do so, Illustrator automatically creates a Pattern. I want to name my pattern, but before I do I'm going to click on the artboard to deselect my artwork, and then I'll double-click on this Swatch and change its name to something like Flower. But now I can click on this rectangle down over here, click on the Flower Pattern, and I'll see that right now that object is filled with flowers. However, all the flowers touch each other. I was hoping that maybe there be some kind of space in between each of the flowers.
Well, let's understand why this happened. You see when I took that piece of art, and I dragged it into the Swatches panel, Illustrator automatically defined a repeat area for my Pattern. It basically created a rectangle at the exact same size of the bounding area of my artwork, and it used that rectangle as the repeat area for the pattern. In fact, if you ever want to really see or breakdown a pattern itself inside of Illustrator, you can take a Pattern Swatch and drag it back out onto the artboard.
Notice now that when I deselect this, and I go into Outline mode by pressing Command+Y or Ctrl+Y, I see that Illustrator created a rectangle. This rectangle, if I select it with my Direct Selection tool, has both a Fill at a Stroke of None. The rule of the game when it comes to working with patterns is that if the back most object of your pattern is a no fill no stroke rectangle, Illustrator will use that rectangle itself to define the repeating area. So I am going to press Command+ Y to go back into Preview mode.
In fact, I'm going to go back to my Regular Selection tool and just delete this artwork right here. If we know that we can define our own bounding areas, or our own repeating area, we could be a little bit more proactive about creating a pattern that does exactly what we want. So I'm at a press D for Default right now to go back to a White Fill and a Black Stroke. I am going to choose my Rectangle tool, and I am going to position my cursor right towards here at the center of the circle. I am going to hold down the Option key or the Alt key on my Keyboard, which allows me to draw rectangles out from their center.
I am also going to hold down the Shift key, because I want to create a perfect square. So with those two keys pressed on my keyboard, I am going to click and drag and draw out a rectangle. I am going to make sure that the rectangle is a little bit bigger than my flower, because I want to incorporate some space between each of my flowers when they get repeated. Remember, in order for me to define my own repeat area, I need to use a No Fill, No Stroke rectangle. And I need to make sure that it's at the back of the stacking order of my artwork.
So the first thing I'm going to do is choose Object > Arrange > Send to Back. This sends that rectangle now to the back of the stacking order. Next, I am going to change both the Fill and the Stroke of that rectangle to be set to None. Now I am ready to define my Pattern. I am going to take my Regular Selection tool. I'm going to click and drag to select that artwork, and instead of creating a new pattern, I really just want to update my existing pattern. To do that, I'm going to drag this into the Swatches panel, as I did before, but now I'm going to hold down the Option key on my keyboard and position my cursor on top of my existing swatch that I created earlier.
Notice that when you have the Option key down, a thick black line appears around that swatch. Now I am going to release the mouse, and then I am going to release the Option key. And you can see that the shape now reflects the updated pattern. There is now some space in between the flowers, because I've added that space in my repeat area. So we are starting to get the hang of defining patterns inside of Illustrator. But let's say you want to go a step further. You want to create a little bit more of a complex pattern where, maybe the flowers are somewhat staggered.
You see right now all the flowers repeat in a straight line. Maybe I want to create some kind of a staggered pattern. Well, here we need to think a little bit more about how repeats work. And I'll be honest with you, defining really great and complex repeat patterns is an entire art form in itself. However, in this case, let's explore something just a little bit more complex. I'm going to now deselect any artwork that I have right here, and I am going to click and drag to Marquee Select, just about right over here, so I can select that No Fill and No Stroke rectangle.
I'm going to delete it because I want to create a different one right now. I want to create some kind of a staggered pattern. So let's see how we might do that. I am going to start by selecting the rectangle right here. I'm going to press D for Default. And once again, I'm going to position my cursor in the middle of the circle right here. I'm going to hold down Option+ Shift or Alt+Shift on Windows. This lets me draw out from the center and also a perfect square. But this time, I am going to use just a little bit of a larger repeat area, something like this. I'm now going to choose Object > Arrange > Send to Back.
But before I change it to be filled with none and have a Stroke of none, I am going to make some changes to my artwork, and I want to be able to see the repeat area when I do that. So I am going to switch to my Selection tool right here, and I'm going to click on this flower to select it. Now like I said before, I want to create some kind of a staggered pattern. So what I'm going to do is I'm going to hold down my Option key. You know when you're using the Selection tool and you hold down the Option key or the Alt key on Windows, whatever you move actually moves the copy of that object, not the original.
So I want to create a copy of this flower. So I'm going to position my cursor right over the center anchor point. Hold down the Option key and then drag a copy of that flower. And you'll notice that as I get close to the corner of this rectangle, that center to the flower is going to snap to that corner. I can actually see that, you'll notice that my cursor right now, which is filled black changes to white when that happens. So now I am going to release the mouse, and then I am going to release the key on my keyboard. I've now successfully created a copy of the flower, and I've positioned it precisely at the bottom left corner of this rectangle.
Anything that falls within the inside of this rectangle is going to be in my repeat area. Even though artwork does fall outside of it, we don't need to worry about that. But what I'm doing here it does help me position or define my repeat area. I am going to go back to this flower right here, and I am going to perform the same action by holding down the Option key, clicking on the center anchor point and snapping it now to the upper right-hand corner. I'll do the same for the other corners of the rectangle as well. So now I have five flowers.
But as you can see, the way that the repeat is going to happen is that I'm going to get this quarter of the flower right here, this quarter of the flower, this quarter and this quarter, and that will make up a complete flower. More importantly, the flowers will appear in a staggered pattern. Now I am going to go ahead and take this rectangle. I am going to make sure that it's Sent to the Back. I am going to set its Fill and its Stroke to None. And I am now going to select all these elements, and I am going to define a new pattern inside of the Swatches panel.
I'll deselect my artwork and double-click on it to give it a name. Let's call this one Flower Power. Let's see how that looks. I am going to click on this rectangle right here, and I am going to fill it with the Flower Power Pattern. Now I have a Pattern that shows these in somewhat more of a staggered type of fashion. Now you may notice some artifacts here. For example, it looks like there is a seam here. That actually is just an artifact that appears here inside of Illustrator on the screen. On a printout though that will not be visible, so don't worry about it. Now I do want to make one small modification to kind of break up the monotony of this pattern.
Maybe I want to change this center flower to be somewhat different. So I am going to use my Direct Selection tool to select just the flower part itself. I am going to press D for Default. Now it looks just a little bit different than the other flowers. I'm, once again, going to use my Regular Selection tool to select all these elements here, including that repeat area that's in the background. And this time I'm going to Option drag it on top of the Flower Power Swatch that I created earlier to update that pattern. Now we can see how that looks. I've created a little bit more of a complex pattern where the flowers themselves are staggered, and some of the flowers have a different appearance.
As I've said earlier, defining a really great repeat pattern does take some thought. However, the ability to instantly update your Patterns by Option dragging them onto the Swatches in Illustrator makes it easy to quickly make an art change, and see how that appears in the final version of your artwork.
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