Creating patterns in Adobe Illustrator (these are known as prints in the textiles industry) is a very straight-forward process!
This has been made simpler with a new Pattern Maker feature in Illustrator's CS6 release. Such patterns can be used for many purposes including garment design and differentiating textured areas on a floor plan, for example.
Prior to CS6 we would have first created some shapes then dragged them into the Swatches panel. This procedure would create a new pattern which would be then saved automatically in the document itself. So, in fashion design, we would simply draw up the garment then apply the pattern by simply selecting the Fill icon and clicking on the new pattern swatch.
This pattern could then be scaled within the garment by double-clicking on the Scale tool, unticking the Transform Objects check box and changing the scale to a certain percentage of the original, for example 50% or 150%. In a similar manner, for prints to be cut on an angled bias we could rotate the pattern by double-clicking on the Rotate tool, again unticking the Transform Objects check box, and changing the degrees of rotation.
Alternatively we may wish to move the pattern within the garment shape itself, in which case we would go to the Object drop-down menu and select Transform and Move. We could then use the arrow buttons on the keyboard to move the pattern into place incrementally.
The process has been made even simpler in Illustrator CS6 and CC (Creative Cloud), however, with the introduction of the new Pattern Maker function. We use the same methods as before to create the basic shapes making up the pattern, using the usual drawing and modify tools. The difference is that we then would select these shapes and go to the Object drop-down menu to choose Pattern and Make. A dialog box now opens showing several options for adjusting the pattern's tiling, size, offset amount, overlapping, etc.
The great addition to the traditional method is that you get an instant preview of your pattern on the screen. In this way we can move, scale, rotate or add items interactively. We can also change the colours, and see the pattern preview updating automatically. As before, a new swatch is created in the Swatches panel. And if we wish to edit the pattern later on, we simply double-click on this new pattern swatch to go back into the Pattern Maker environment. We simply hit Escape or the top left Back button to exit.
We may also create patterns by placing an image via the File menu, and performing the Image Trace function on it. Various Presets are available; which one you use will depend on the original image, and how you wish it to look. We can then use the Eraser tool to simplify and adjust the design. We would then change the colours by selecting shapes with the Magic Wand or the Direct Selection tools. The last step, of course, would be to create a repeat pattern (or print) following the method above, and apply it to a garment drawn with the Pen or Pencil tool.
Tom Gillan has been training Adobe Illustrator to corporate clients in Sydney for seven years. You can learn more about Adobe Illustrator Courses at Design Workshop Sydney.