Drawing Vector Graphics: Patterns
Illustration by John Hersey

Drawing Vector Graphics: Patterns

with Von Glitschka

Video: Pattern tool limits

The Pattern Tool is one of the best features in Illustrator. When using the pattern tool, you need to Use it to snap to the anchor point here.
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  1. 5m 24s
    1. Welcome
      1m 32s
    2. Exercise files
    3. What are patterns?
      3m 3s
  2. 1h 6m
    1. Drawing out and refining your design
      9m 39s
    2. Building your vector pattern with a bounding box
      15m 22s
    3. Creating and using pattern swatches and libraries
      9m 29s
    4. Organize, size, rotate, and adjust your pattern fills
      9m 45s
    5. Using transparency to create depth
      8m 46s
    6. Using textures in your patterns
      13m 26s
  3. 1h 37m
    1. Pattern tool basics
      11m 16s
    2. Selecting appropriate artwork
      13m 19s
    3. Using the Pattern Tile tool and tile types
      11m 42s
    4. Using pattern tiles with the Pattern tool
      12m 55s
    5. Adding depth using the Appearance panel
      9m 39s
    6. Pattern tool limits
      9m 22s
    7. Good pattern-building habits
      15m 37s
    8. Exporting your pattern files
      13m 44s
  4. 30m 15s
    1. Creating a brush pattern
      9m 48s
    2. Creating a traditional border pattern frame
      4m 8s
    3. Using brush textures and clipping masks with patterns
      10m 6s
    4. Creating complex designs using a pattern brush
      6m 13s
  5. 24m 21s
    1. Patterns in the context of illustration
      6m 54s
    2. Patterns in the context of graphic design
      5m 0s
    3. Patterns in the context of visual identity
      8m 6s
    4. Patterns in the context of product design and accessories
      2m 21s
    5. Patterns in the context of textile designs
      2m 0s
  6. 14m 33s
    1. Ekaterina Panova, Russia
      1m 51s
    2. Raul Villanueva, Peru
      1m 6s
    3. Anastasiia Kucherenko, Ukraine
      1m 30s
    4. Andi Butler, United States
      1m 40s
    5. Dennis Bennett, Germany
      1m 34s
    6. Samarra Khaja, United States
      1m 44s
    7. Jenean Morrison, United States
      1m 25s
    8. Laura Coyle, United States
      3m 43s
  7. 1m 27s
    1. Final thoughts
      1m 27s

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Watch the Online Video Course Drawing Vector Graphics: Patterns
4h 0m Intermediate Apr 22, 2014

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Patterns have been a part of cultures around the globe for centuries. From fashion and branding to interior design and signage, patterns blanket and beautify our world. Designers are often asked to create new patterns from scratch, and although digital tools make the process easier than ever, it can still be a perplexing task.

In this installment of Drawing Vector Graphics, Von Glitschka demystifies the pattern design process, explaining tessellations (mathematical tiles that lie at the heart of patterns) and visiting the various methods of creating new patterns. He shows how to build repeating patterns with Illustrator's pattern tools and pattern brushes, and incorporate patterns into your design. The course also features patterns from some of the industry's most inspiring designers.

Topics include:
  • Establishing the bounding box for your tile
  • Drawing your design
  • Creating a pattern swatch
  • Refining art with the Pattern tool
  • Saving your design
  • Creating a pattern brush
  • Using your pattern in designs
Von Glitschka

Pattern tool limits

The Pattern Tool is one of the best features in Illustrator. With that said, it does have its limitations. There's no layering when you work in the Pattern Tool, which makes certain designs impossible to create. This is why it's important to know how to create a pattern from scratch using the bounding box method I covered earlier in the course. The most glaring limitation, once you have a pattern composed using the pattern tool, there's no way to export it out as a stand alone pattern tile.

This means it's great for creating patterns you can use on a print related project, but not so great if you want to create a surface design for textile printing, which requires a single tile to repeat a pattern. Thankfully, there's a way to work around this problem. When using the pattern tool, you need to be aware of some of the tool's limitations. The first limitation I'd like to mention is that within the pattern tool, there are no layers.

That's why it's not an ideal place to build your artwork, as I've said in a previous movie. I suggest you build all your artwork on the art board. Now, when you create a pattern, technically, and I say technically because I don't think it's the smartest way to approach a pattern design. You don't need to draw out anything and you don't need to use a bounding box. You can select any design motif such as the one shown here and create a pattern with it.

Now, that said, I should point out that I feel a pattern is only as strong as the art work you've created. So, if you're not creating great art, you're only making a pattern out of art that just doesn't look that hot, so make sure to do it all well, and like I've said many times before, it's not practice that makes perfect. Anybody can learn tools. It's process that makes perfect, and it's the process of drawing and refining, and working out a pattern from scratch that's going to make your patterns really fabulous.

So, dedicate yourself to the process and you'll only get better over time. Personally, I'm not a big noodler. I'm pretty methodical with my creative process and I like to figure out my designs before I attempt to build them. But, this type of pattern design can still be successful as long as you're aware of the limitations with the tools. So, in this case, we're going to drag this one blue piece of artwork here. We're going to drag it in the swatches palette and that immediately creates a pattern swatch.

And, this other one, we're going to just copy it into the clipboard. Now, we're going into the Pattern tool with this ornament. And, by default, it turns into the grid format and that's fine. We want it centered off of this ornamental shape. We're going to paste in our other one. And, right now, we're going to pull it off to the side. Select this anchor point. Use it to snap to the anchor point here. And then, all we're going to do is drag it holding the shift key so it drags at a 45 degree angle and we're going to bring it in just until spacing looks nice.

And, I think that looks good. Now, we're going to click on the tile tool. Let me reorient the screen a little bit. Click on the tile tool in the pattern options. And, it brings up this, the tile control now. We're going to, holding Option down, click on the middle, drag it up until it snaps with the center there, so it repeats this way correctly. And then, on this one, we're going to drag it out and snap it with the center of this part of the art right there.

And, you can see how it's going out that way correctly. And, if we turn off that, you can see how that's replicating our pattern. If I zoom out you can get a good idea. I like to fill the screen just so I know what it's looking like and I think that pattern looks really nice. We didn't base it off of the bounding box, but since the artwork looks nice the patterns going to look nice. It kind of goes together. In this case, we're going to go ahead and name this and we'll give it a, I'm not sure what to name it.

How about leaf flakes. It sounds like a new cereal. And, to exit out of the pattern toolm you can click Done or double-click the background. We'll just double-click the background. It's faster. That brings us back to the art board. Now, with that pattern selected, you know, we can immediately start using it. So, we'll select this shape and we'll fill it with our leaf-like pattern. And, it looks pretty good. Now let's say you've created this and you've used it and you really like it and somebody else saw it and said, you know what, that'd be great for a spring line we're doing of fabric.

And, so you want to rent out a fabric pattern with it. And, that's great. But, what do you need to run out a fabric pattern? Well, you need a stand-alone tile. Well, do you have a stand-alone tile? Let's go back to our original artwork. Well, you don't because you haven't built the based off of a bounding box. You've just taken free flooring artwork and just brought it into the Pattern tool and started finessing a pattern out of it, which ended in a nice resulting pattern.

But, if you go into your Pattern tool, there's no export feature within the Pattern tool to export out a standalone tile. So, how do you turn this into a fabric? How do you use this on textile? Well, it can be a little frustrating, but I'm going to show you a work around. So, we're going to clean our art board so it's blank. We're going take our pattern now and we're going to simply drag it to the art board. You want to make sure you're on the layer you're going to be working on. Drag the pattern to the artboard and release, and you can see what it does.

It releases the artwork but notice, if I go to Key Line View, it gives us a bounding box. So, that is a very good thing. So, with that established, all we have to do is deconstruct the artwork as it is. And, I'll admit, this is a kind of a sloppy process but, it's the only way to get access to a standalone tile without trying to recreate it from scratch. So, in this case, we're just going to go Ungroup. And, once we get our standalone bounding box from that, then we can just colorize it, so we don't lose track of it.

And then, you can see how we have our other art elements here. Those we can ungroup because we only need the ones, those work and those work. So, I think we have everything we need now, so we can select our bounding box and we're just going to go ahead and clone it. And, in this case, yeah, we'll go ahead and clone it. Select our art elements and using Pathfinder, we're going to trim everything now to create our standalone tile.

So, we'll go ahead and trim it. Select this one, and trim, and select this one, and trim, and select this one, and trim. So now, we have a stand alone tile and this will allow us to create the textile fabric we need. Now, I usually tested at this point just to make sure it's going to look correctly. So, I'll select it, drag it to the swatches palette, let go and if you double click on this swatches, it will show you the automatic repeat. And, so far, it looks accurate.

You can name it if you need to at this point, but we're not going to bother doing that. We're going to open up another blank canvas, and we're going to fill it to test it again. And, this way. And, it looks correct. So, if we compare that with our previous one, it looks the same. So, that's how you go from free floating artwork that's just brought into the Pattern tool, and you arrange it until you get a pattern you like, and how you can drag that to the desktop. And then, create a stand alone pattern tile, which you can use to output textile fabrics, and any of the other kinds of online services.

And once again, check the exercise files, where I'll have a resource PDF that lists all these vendors you can use your pattern tiles with. So, sometimes figuring work around to software limitations, ironically, takes more creativity than creating the art itself. That can be frustrating at times, but it's the reality of being a designer in the digital age.

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