Design Your Own Wrapping Paper in Illustrator

Nicole Martinez, Art Director / Illustrator / Designer

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9 Lessons (47m)
    • 1. Welcome, Thank You and Let's Get Started!

    • 2. Choosing Color with Kuler

    • 3. Getting Started with Illustrator

    • 4. Complex Shapes

    • 5. Clusters

    • 6. Patterning

    • 7. Adding Texture in Photoshop

    • 8. Printing at Home

    • 9. It's a wrap! Thank you!


Project Description

Design a wrapping paper pattern for the occasion of your choice

Let's get clever

  1. Programs

    Do you have Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop CS6? Download it if you don't have it already. If you have an earlier version (CS5) that's fine too. But CS6 has some features that make pattern creation much easier so I do recommend downloading the free trial. 

  2. Know Your Audience

    Whom are you designing for? Keep your audience in mind when sketching your ideas. The narrower your audience the easier it'll be to come up with ideas. 

    Looking for inspiration? Check out the resources to see some of my favorite sites for inspo. 

    And don't forget to have fun and be silly! 

  3. Sketch it out.

    Sketch all of your ideas on paper - even the ones you think are silly. Those are often the most fun! Remember - we're designing gift wrap not pharmaceutical packaging.

    When you've found the idea you want to stick to we've only just begun.

    Sketch your final concept on a separate sheet of paper and start thinking about the shapes that make up the different elements. 

    REMEMBER: Keep your sketches simple. Don't sketch complex line drawings. Draw your objects with shapes. 

Shapes on shapes on shapes

  1. Color

    Choosing a color palette is easy with tools like Adobe Kuler. Once you have your color palette it's easy to switch out - so don't mull over it too long. You can always change your colors later. 

    Choose a minimum of 4 colors and a maximum of 8.

  2. Cut, Divide and Unite

    Using very basic shapes we'll learn how to add, subtract and divide shapes from shapes in pathfinder to make new ones.

    Use pathfinder to create new shapes from simple ones. I've provided a cheat sheet in the resources to help spur some ideas. 

  3. Complex Shapes

    Now we'll take it a step further and make more complex shapes using the pathfinder tool. 

    Keep in Mind: 

    - Always expand your stroke. That turns it into a shape.

    - Once you've created your object, e.g. a frog or cupcake, group it. Command > G is the quickest way to group an object. This makes it easier to shift them around the page and align them. Doubel click into a grouped object to edit it. 

  4. It's Alive!

    Our complex shapes will transform into frogs, and butterflies, and cupcakes - anything your heart desires - which will become the basis for our pattern

    Arrange them and rearrange them until you have a pattern you'd be proud to wrap a gift with. 


  1. Creating the Composition.

    Now that you know the steps to make your idea come to life, we'll do just that. 

    Your objects will now need to interact with each other to form a composition. We'll organize our design in such a way that's harmonious and lends itself to repetition. 

  2. and Repeat!

    We'll learn how to make our pattern seamlessly repeat with CS6 or how it can look just as awesome in CS5.

Texture time

  1. Texture

    This step is optional. For those student that have Photoshop - I'll show you how to bring your pattern from Illustrator into Photoshop and add some texture to give it an extra umph. 

    We'll download some swatches from or add noise using the noise filter. 

    Some designs might look better without texture so it's up to you!

It's a wrap! Time to print

  1. Printing time

    Now that we've got our beautiful design on the screen, we'll need to set it up to be printed as wrapping paper. 

    We'll set up our file for printing on a home printer in 11 x 17. 

    If you have a small gift to wrap you can print your pattern on 8.5 x 11 and the proportions will be the same. 

    Spoonflower is a great place to have an entire roll of giftwrap printed:

Additional Resources

  • Download Adobe Illustrator here

    It's a free trial.

  • Get Photoshop here

    We'll add some textures in photoshop if your design calls for it. 

  • Searching the web is a great way to get inspired! Below are some of my favorite sites for finding design inspiration. 




  • My Sketch is here: 

  • Here's the dropbox link with cheatsheets

  • Spoonflower is a great place to print your wrapping paper if you choose to not print at home. They'll print an entire roll of your custom creation.

    Remember: your pattern needs to repeat seamlessly on all sides so extend your artboard vertically until it matches up.

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