Repeat Patterns Made Easy, in Illustrator | Daniela ⚘ Usurelu | Skillshare

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Repeat Patterns Made Easy, in Illustrator

teacher avatar Daniela ⚘ Usurelu, Quirky Sewing | Surface Pattern Design

Watch this class and thousands more

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Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

    • 1.



    • 2.



    • 3.

      About patterns


    • 4.

      Choosing pattern theme


    • 5.

      Moodboards: Collecting inspiration


    • 6.

      Create new document in Illustrator


    • 7.

      Inspiring colors


    • 8.

      Working on main motif


    • 9.

      Making the pattern


    • 10.

      Making the repeat block


    • 11.

      Thank you!


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About This Class

Always wondered how repeat patterns are made? Not anymore! During this class you will learn how to easily and effortlessly make a seamless repeat in Illustrator. Join Daniela as she shares her process for creating complex patterns through one of her favorite projects: designing your "happy place" pattern! Whether it's reading or dancing, climbing or sipping tea in the afternoon, transform your artwork into beautiful complex repeat patterns that are all about your quirky personality!

From selecting a theme to final adjustments, this step-by-step process will make pattern design a breeze. Key lessons include:

  • Researching themes & creating mood boards
  • Transforming ideas to motifs
  • Mastering the pattern tile

This class is perfect for beginners ready to learn a new skill or experienced designers looking for a fun alternative way to making patterns. When finished, you’ll have a beautiful and highly personalized pattern that you can have printed on fabric, wallpaper, gift wrap for your own projects or even can offer it for sale!


Minimum basic Illustrator (& Photoshop) skills

Illustrator (Daniela is using CS6)

Photoshop (for showcasing artwork using mockups)

Meet Your Teacher

Teacher Profile Image

Daniela ⚘ Usurelu

Quirky Sewing | Surface Pattern Design



1. NEW CLASS PUBLISHED: Join my class "Guide to Illustrator's Pathfinder Tool: Drawing Butterflies" to learn to build shapes in Illustrator with the Pathfinder Tool, as an alternative tool to the Pen Tool. We'll draw simple shapes and combine them with the Pathfinder tool to create complex shapes, we'll work with  the Alignment tool and the Reflect tool and we'll be adding embellishments in this easy to follow Illustrator class. In this beginner class we'll use basic shapes to design symmetrical butterflies to get you comfortable designing simple and complex characters. 

2. SURFACE PATTERN DESIGN CLASS: Join my latest class "Design an Art Deco Pattern in Illustrator" and learn how to create an Art Deco repeatable pattern, how to save the ... See full profile

Level: Intermediate

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1. Preview: Hi there. My name is Daniela Usurelo, but I go by the name of Quirky Daniela in the artsy world. I am a self-taught graphic designer from Bucharest, Romania. I'm passionate about making patterns and prints and I want to share with you my process. A big warm welcome to my online class: Repeat patterns made easy in illustrator. Let's start our project and make a gorgeous pattern. 2. Introduction: Hi there and welcome to my online class. Repeat patterns made easy in Illustrator. My name is Daniela Ushurelu, and I'm a self-taught graphic designer from Bucharest, Romania. I'm passionate about making patterns and prints. Today I want to share with you my process, and in the meantime, create a beautiful pattern with a very personal touch. I'm a big fan of self-learning and I learned a lot of techniques and approaches from other very talented graphic designers and illustrators. Through repetition and experimenting, through making and a lot of remaking, I have developed my own way of creating the repeat tile. Today I want to share with you my work process, the flow that makes the most sense to me and hopefully to you. This class is most suitable to people that are new to pattern-making, to those that want to learn how to quickly create a repeat tile that works. Those of you that are comfortable making seamless repeats might learn a new way of doing things. While those of you that are experienced, pattern makers, might find some or all of my tips and tricks useful to integrate in your own process. Throughout this class, you will learn how to use mood boards to get your creative juices flowing. How to create a central motif, and how to build a rounded to easily and effortlessly make a repeat or seamless patterns. You will see two different ways of making a repeat tile. So you may choose whatever style suits you and your needs. That will be throwing in tips and tricks, as well as my personal techniques and thought process. Once you've taken the class, you should feel more confident in turning your art, your drawings, or your paintings into seamless patterns for your personal use or even for sale. A big warm welcome to my online class. I'm really excited to have you here. Let's start making patterns. 3. About patterns: Why patterns? Well, patterns are all around us, from our favorite bed sheets to our favorite shirt or phone cover, or maybe even an old coffee tin can you forgot you even had. Patterns influence our decision to purchase items and whether we like or dislike a product. Who knew that it's somebody's job to actually create pretty and appealing patterns? Well, today, we'll be in the shoes of a surface pattern designer and we will create a seamless pattern, that is a repetitive block or tile that repeats itself endlessly. I love patterns. Besides the fact that you can experiment endlessly, play with shapes and colors, with placement and directions, you can actually get instant gratification. Unlike other forms of graphic design, such as making logos or commissioned work, you'll be able to see your pattern come to life immediately. You can print it on cardboard and use it in your scrapbook projects. You can print and frame it. You can have fabric printed on services like spoon flower. Of course, you can sell your designs on platforms such as Society six. Sounds like fun? Meet me in my next video where we will choose our theme for the class project. I promise it, it will be fun. 4. Choosing pattern theme: Welcome back. In this video, we will discuss how to choose a theme when creating a graphic design in the shape of a pattern. With creative art, sky's the limit. You can choose from virtually any theme and find inspiration everywhere around us, online or offline. You can choose to follow trends or choose not to. If you are creating patterns for sale, obviously, you actually want to sell them. So you'll be making patterns that are pleasing to the eye for the vast majority. A floral pattern, for example, is more likely to sell than the Gothic one let say. Unless, that's your niche, obviously, you can also choose to design for a specific niche if this is your thing. But in this case, you'll have to go the extra length to reach your audience. Whether you choose to follow trends or not, stay true to your style. If you're not sure what your style is, just choose themes that you're passionate about that speak to you and move you. It will go a long way. So for the class project, we will go personal. What's your favorite thing to do? What's your happy place, real or imaginary? What's your most soothing experience? You perfect place to relax and unwind? Sounds good? Think of your happy place and start brainstorming for ideas. It's always a good idea to make use of a mood board when looking for inspiration. So join me in my next video where we will be discussing mood boards, and how to collect inspirations. 5. Moodboards: Collecting inspiration: In this video, we will discuss about moodboards. What they are, how, and why to use them. Moodboards, also called inspiration boards, are used in a variety of disciplines, from fashion to interior design. In essence, they are a compilation of inspirational elements used by designers to come up with ideas at the beginning of a design project. They are a useful way to collect different creative information in order to prepare for a new project. Moodboards help to establish all the baselines that will eventually go into a style guide, color, textures, layout. A moodboard is extremely useful for establishing the aesthetic field of a pattern collection, or any design project for that matter. If you're working with a client, moodboards allow you the ability to involve the client early on, and shows potential clients a proposed look without investing too much time in a field direction. When putting together moodboards, it's tempting to just use Google images or Pinterest, but don't just look for digital based inspiration. Moodboards are fluid, and they can transcend multiple mediums from pictures you find online, in a magazine or a book, to patterns, designs, and items around your own home. Real world inspiration is all around us. So simply be open to it. I will walk you through my process of creating the moodboard for designing the happy place pattern. As we ready established the theme of the design. I start by making a shortlist, of all the ideas that come to mind. Words, symbols, or adjectives to describe my pattern in the making. When I think of my favorite activity, drinking tea early in the morning, pops up in mind. I usually take my cup of freshly brewed tea and make the morning rounds through my garden. Even now that I speak of this, I can feel the warmth of the cup and the first rays of sun. I can see myself cutting the spent blooms and rejoicing at the site of new buds. I write down the ideas that come to mind and I can already loosely see how my pattern will look like. A tea path, a cup of tea, flowers. I imagine a blue color palette. The images soothing and relaxing. I usually set up a board in Pinterest. As this is a tool I use quite often. Pinterest is a great tool for visual representations. It makes it easy to collect and organize creative ideas. I collect images that match the feelings I want to convey through my design, and save them in a moodboard template I made for myself. If I have any colors in mind, extract them and add them in my template as a reminder. This is how my moodboards usually look like. I sometimes print my moodboards and hang them around my workplace, to be able to quickly reference back to them or open my Pinterest board to get some fresh new ideas. Is it worth the time? For some, definitely yes. During this class, we're only making one pattern. But if you're designing a pattern collection, you'll want those patterns to fit together and create a cohesive look. Moodboards can keep you on the right track. Not everybody uses moodboards. Some do, while others might draw random objects or just google for inspiration. But if moodboards are something you want to try, you can use my moodboard template to get you started. You can find it as a download in the class project section. In my next video, we'll dive into illustrator and start by creating our new document. 6. Create new document in Illustrator: In this short video, I will show you how to create a new document in Illustrator and prepare it for pattern creation. If you have already opened illustrator, go to File, New. Set a name to your new document. I will call it pattern. Set a number of artboards. I will set this to one. Next, define the width and the height of the artboard. Usually when I'm creating patterns, I like to work with the square blocks of 10 each, so I will set the width and height to 10. Next, I'll configure the advanced settings. First, I will change the color mode from RGB to CMYK. CMYK stands for cyan, magenta, yellow, and key, and this is the way that printers work with color. So if you are designing something that is supposed to be printed like a postcard or a business card or fabric or wallpaper for example, the set this to CMYK. RGB stands for red, green, and blue. This is the way that screens work with color. If you are designing something that is supposed to go on a website, like a cover or a background image, then you will set the color mode to RGB. In this case I will properly have my pattern printed, so I will choose CMYK as the color mode. Next, I will leave the resolution set too high to 300 PPI and I'll click "Okay". We have now created our new document and we are ready to start designing our pattern. 7. Inspiring colors: In this video, we will discuss about colors and colorizing your artwork. The secret to a beautiful, well rounded and aesthetic pattern is color. Therefore, I take some time before working on the pattern itself to set up the colors. Of course, you will be changing the color of individual objects many times before you are satisfied with the overall look of the pattern. But you must take care to keep the colors consistent. You wouldn't want to end up with too many colors and shades unpleasing to the eye. In addition, keeping a limited and consistent palette of colors. What make color management that much easier? Let's dive in. For this project, I want to use shades of blue and teal, red and pink and white. Let's start with the blue. Pick up your rectangular tool and draw a small rectangular. Fill it with your color choice. In my case, at deep blue. When you are satisfied, click "Okay". Copy the object by selecting it. Hold, "Alt key" and drag and drop. Fill it with a lighter shade. In my case, a lighter shade of blue. Select the two rectangulars and use your blend tool. You can either hit control Alt b on the keyboard or you can go to object, blend and hit make. This will bring out the blend tool more precisely. You will now see a smooth color blend. Go to object blend options. Change the spacing from smooth color to specify steps. Hit preview just to see what we're doing. As you can see, between your, darker shade in your lighter one. There are a 176 steps. You definitely don't want these many colors in your patterns. Our change the number to three at this will give me five colors in total. Hit, "Okay". This will give you an umbrella of a total of five different shades of blue. Select cure blend tool by going to object, blend and select, expand. This will expand your group. At this point, I have three different palettes of colors to play around with. Select the three blend go to your swatches panel in case you don't have it open, you can find it in the Windows tab right under swatches. Hit create new group, name, your color group. select, selected artwork and hit, "Okay" When I don't particularly feel inspired, and it is hard for me to come up with color palette, extract colors from pictures aesthetically pleasing. What I do is the following. I Google for images on the web, I find one or more that have the right feel for my project or pattern and place it in Illustrator. Since it's a picture that I found pleasing, the colors of the ready go together and create a balanced look. What I do, I take my eyedropper tool, eye on the keyboard and extract some shades of blue and pink. I create a new rectangular hit i on the keyboard, and just extract some colors. Repeat the process by duplicating your rectangular. Do this as many or as few times as you'd like. I will extract some more color. This is shade of pink that I really like. This is also beautiful one. Once you're finished extracting your colors, select all the rectangulars, go to swatches panel, and hit new color group. Make sure selected artwork is selected, and hit "Okay". If you have colors in mind and are confident, you'll get the look, do you envision, create your own color palette. But if you need some help, go ahead and grab pictures from the Internet and build your color palette that way. In this video, you learned how to use blend tool to create a smooth color blend or an umbrella effect. You learned how to create a swatch which are colors have choice by using the blend tool and by extracting colors from photographs. Meet me in my next video, where we will discuss creating the main motif of your pattern. 8. Working on main motif: In this video, we will be discussing and designing the main motif of our pattern. As I am deciding my happy place pattern, I want to focus on my favorite activity, drinking my morning tea outside in my garden. This is by far the most enjoyable moment of my day. Sure, an even exciting life. But nothing compares to that first cup of fresh tea at the break of dawn. What is a motif? Main motif is an element or group of elements that stands out in a design or pattern. The main motif can stand out on its own, but at the same time, it works together with the other elements of your pattern or pattern collection. This is unamplified, but what is placed around it? The main motif is the hero piece of artwork that gives your design character. What I usually like to do in my patterns is to have an object, an element highlighted. What I do is that I spend a little bit more time designing the central object or motif. Getting back to that pattern, I brought my artwork nicely in my art board and I have chosen the colors that I'll be using throughout my project and place them in the art board. I will be building my main motif around the teapot and the cup. I will start by embellishing the part and the cup by using the artwork, the flowers and leaves that will eventually go into the pattern. I have this idea in mind, light proof flowers into a cup of tea. Let's add embellishment and put everything in place. Now that we have created our main motif, we are ready to build around it and create our pattern. 9. Making the pattern: In this video, we will put everything together to create a complex seamless pattern. The golden rule with seamless repeat patterns is as follows. What goes at the top must go at the bottom, and what goes to the left must go to the right. That means that whatever artwork is present in your top square margin must also be present at the bottom. Same goes for left and right. Let's get started. I brought in my main motif and I will start building my pattern around it by adding elements that fit around the motif, as well as embellish it, and empower it. When adding element to your pattern, you might consider things like flow and shape, and what goes together nicely. For example, in this long space, a long element would fit better than a circular one. For example, this greenery fits nicely and creates diversity. I am a big fan of dense patterns, but make sure not to overdo it. You wouldn't want your pattern to look busy or overcrowded. Use space fillers that compliment your main motif. Gradually build your pattern, but only add artwork to your top and left margins, keeping your right and bottom margins not as busy. Now that you're happy with your overall look, let's take care of those margins and create a repeat block. Remember, what goes at the top must also go at the bottom, and what goes at the left must also go at the right. Grab your Select tool and select all artwork that goes above your top margin. Copy it by hitting Control C on your keyboard, and paste it in place by hitting Control F. Go to your Transform panel. If you don't have it already open, go to Window, Transform. Go to your Y-coordinate and add 10 inch, 10 inch being the size of my artboard. Type in plus 10 and hit Enter. Your artwork is not copied at the bottom of your repeat block. If you haven't placed any competing artwork, you must move, delete, or resize it. Repeat the process for your left-to-right margins. Select all artwork that goes above your left margin, copy it, and paste it in place. Go to your Transform panel in the X-coordinate, type in plus 10 inch, hit Enter. As you can see, your artwork has been copied to the right margin. Again, if there's any competing artwork, you must move, delete, or resize it. Don't forget, if you're changing in any way an object that goes beyond one of your margins, you must take the same action in the corresponding margin. Fill in the rest of your pattern. If you're extending against one of your margins, you must take care to copy the artwork to the correspondent margin. Once your pattern looks the way you want it to, it's time to prepare the block for repeat, and thus creating a repeat swatch. 10. Making the repeat block: In this video, I will show you how to take your pattern block and build the repeat swatch in two different ways so you can choose the method that suits you most. Method 1, use the pattern tool in Illustrator. I will show you how to use the pattern to in Illustrator to quickly create a repeat pattern. First, draw rectangular of the same size as your art board, 10-inch in my case. Make sure it's centered above all your artwork, select all artwork in your artboard, and create a clipping mask. You can do that by going to Object, Clipping mask, and hit "Make". Or you can use the keyboard shortcut Control Seven. It's now time to use the pattern tool. Go to Object, Pattern, and hit "Make" But wait, your seamless repeat doesn't quite look seamless, does it? Because you have a clipping mask in effect and you can't see any artwork extending your artboard, you think it isn't there. But Illustrator knows it's there and has created a repeat block of a corresponding size. To fix this, go to width and height and type 10-inch. Increase the copies number to nine by nine, zoom-in, zoom-out to check your pattern and verify that everything looks just right. If everything is in place, there's no strange overlap or border, type in a name for your pattern and save it. Your pattern is now available in your swatches panel and you can use it like any other swatch. If these wild lines disappear when you zoom in, zoom out, then everything is in order. When you will export your artwork, these lines won't be seen so don't worry about it. Method 2, use the pathfinder tool in Illustrator. If patent tool is not something you regularly use, you might use the pathfinder tool to accomplish the same goal. Create a rectangular of the same size as your artboard and place it, center it above your artboard. Select all artwork in your artboard and create a clipping mask by hitting Control Seven on your keyboard. Go to pathfinder panel, open it from Window, Pathfinder, if you don't already have it open and hit "Crop". All of your artwork extending the artboard has now been cropped. To check this, you can go to View and select Outline view. As you can see, there's no artwork extending your artboard. If everything looks right, simply drag and drop your pattern in the swatch panel. Again, your pattern is now available in your swatches panel and you can use it like any other swatch. Congratulations, you have created your seamless repeat pattern and are ready to show it to the world. 11. Thank you!: Thank you so much for watching my class. I really hoped you liked it and you found it informative and easy to follow. Don't forget to share your class project with me. I would really love to see it. In the meantime, happy pattern making.