How to Create a Seamless Pattern in Illustrator


Adobe Illustrator is the leading vector, or "drawing," graphics program. Depending on your drawing skills and knowledge of the program, you can use it to create nearly any kind of drawing. For example, the program's "Define Pattern" feature lets you save nearly any object on the canvas as a pattern fill, which you can then apply to closed-path objects, such as squares, rectangles and circles. If you create and define your pattern correctly, your fills will appear "seamless," with no discernible start and end points.

Things You'll Need

  • Adobe Illustrator CS1 or later

Defining a Pattern Fill in Illustrator

  • Launch Illustrator and start a new drawing, or open an existing drawing in which you want to create a pattern fill.

  • Draw your pattern on the canvas. Use the program's extensive draw, shape and fill tools to create the pattern, or use an existing object as a pattern.

    Say, for example, you want to create a checker board pattern. Use the Rectangle Tool to draw four small squares. Align the four squares into a checker board pattern. Fill each square with the desired colors for your checker board. If, for instance, you want the checker board to have red and black squares, fill two of the squares with red and the other two with black, like this: Click the square in the upper-left corner to select it, then click the red swatch in the Swatches panel. (If the Swatches panel is not displayed in the application window, chick "Window" on the menu bar and choose "Swatches.") Select the square in the lower-right corner of the pattern and fill it red from the Swatches panel. Fill the other two squares with black---select each square, and then select the black swatch in the Swatches panel.

  • Marque-select (drag the Selection Tool cursor around) all four of the small squares to select them. The Selection Tool is the first tool in the Tools panel.

  • Click "Edit" on the menu bar and choose "Define Pattern." This opens the "New Swatch" dialog box.

  • Type a name for the new pattern in the "Swatch Name" field, and then click "OK." Illustrator adds a new swatch to the Swatches panel. The swatch is your new pattern fill.

Applying the Pattern Fill

  • Draw (or select) a shape on the canvas. The shape must consist of "closed" paths, meaning that all line segments are joined---you can't fill a shape that is not closed. For example, a circle is one continuous line with two joined end points. A square consists of four line segments joined at four corners---you get the idea.

  • Click the pattern swatch you created to fill the shape. The shape fills with the pattern.

  • Re-size and edit the shape as desired. No matter how you change the overall shape, your pattern adjusts itself to the shape, seamlessly, with no discernible start and end points in the pattern.

Tips & Warnings

  • Illustrator comes with several swatch libraries and many different pre-defined patterns. Save the patterns you create with the "Save Swatches" option on the "Swatch Libraries menu" drop down in the Swatches panel. The "Swatch Libraries menu" button is the first button in the lower-left corner of the Swatches panel.

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