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How To Create A Seamless Pattern In Illustrator CS5

Updated on January 23, 2014
How To Create A Seamless Pattern In Illustrator CS5
How To Create A Seamless Pattern In Illustrator CS5

Patterned backgrounds and images are awesome. You can use them for so many different things such as a regular background for your computer, you can print them out for scrapbooking purposes, you can add them to a number of different products such as iphone cases on Zazzle, and you can even sell them online to make a profit.

In this tutorial you will find out exactly how to make patterns with Adobe Illustrator CS5 (or other versions). Now, it may seem like it's complicated, but it really isn't. Remember to always make a copy of your images just in case you mess something up (especially if you are just starting). You can start with simple shapes and work your way to more complicated patterns as you get comfortable.

Note: Adobe Illustrator CS6 has this process automated and it only takes a few clicks to create beautiful patterns.


  • Illustrator CS 5


1. To start this project, you will need to open up your CS5 Illustrator program and create a square box.

2. Remove the fill from the box and give it a stroke, so that you will be able to easily see where your pattern will be starting and ending.

3. Next, you will need to import your images for your pattern into this file or you can draw them right inside. You can quickly create circles, stars, etc. I creates circles and used some of my snowflakes from my other project.

4. Decide on where you want to place your shapes and if you want to change colors, sizes, as well as rotation of your shapes to make it look more random.

5. For this step, make sure that your "smart guides" are on. You can access them by going to View and then Smart Guides.

Position your shape in the middle of your bounding box, then make a copy of the same shape and place it on the opposite side of the bounding box.

As you can see on this image, I decided to place circles in the corners of my pattern. I made sure to place the circles right in the middle of the corner (the smart guides will pop up and show you exactly where the shape is intersecting the box). Continue until you get all 4 corners.

6. Next, decide if you want any other shapes to be placed on the sides. As you can see in the image above, I also decided to place a light blue snowflake on the left of the box. I proceeded to add that same snowflake on the left of the box to match the pattern.

7. The next step is pretty fun, simply take your shapes and fill in the middle of your box however you want. I varied the colors and sizes of my shapes.

8. In order to get your seamless pattern ready, you will need to make sure that nothing sticks outside of your bounding box. For this step we will be using "Minus Front" from the Pathfinder menu.

Create a rectangular box and place it right next to the bounding box. The smart guides will help you place it accurately.

Prior to clicking on the "Minus Front" make sure to select all of the shapes on one side and make them into a compound shape. You can do this by going to Object, Compound Path, and Make. This is very important because if you do not make your shapes compound, the program will delete some of your shapes while removing the front layers.

9. Repeat step 8 on every side of your bounding box so that you only see your shapes on the inside of the box.

10. Next, select your bounding box and remove the stroke. If you leave the stroke in, then you will see lines on your pattern wherever the box starts and ends. Your pattern should now look like this.

11. Next, highlight everything and simply drag it into your Swatches.

12. Now you can see if your seamless pattern is perfect. Simply create a new box and click on the swatch of your pattern.

Some computers may show small lines where the pattern starts and ends, but if you did it correctly it's just a graphics card on the computer. To really make sure, go to File, and then click on Save For Web And Devices. Choose which size you want your image to be. I usually save my .jpg images at about 4500x4500 and then click apply. When your image is resized, you should not see any lines and the background should be seamless.

13. You can also resize your pattern by clicking on the box which you want to fill with your pattern and then going to Object, Transform, Scale. Then, change the scale number from 100 to something else. Choose a smaller number to make it smaller and a larger number to make it larger.

Make sure that your Objects is clicked off and only Patterns is checked. If you leave the Object checked, it will resize the box as you can see on this image.

Check the preview box so you can see how your pattern is changing when you are playing around with the options.

14. You can also fill more complicated shapes with your patterns like this tag for scrapbooking.

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