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Create Amazing Patterns using Adobe Illustrator
By reading this tutorial you will learn how to easily create cool looking shapes with the Pattern Brush in Illustrator. Additionally I’ll show you how to make advanced Pattern Brushes and give you some tips about using them.
What we’ll be making
The Pattern Brush allows you to distribute shapes over lines or objects in a pattern-like manner. Or to put it more simply, it makes drawing things like in the pictures below a breeze :)
Step 1 – Pattern Brush basics
Pattern Brush consists of five elements called tiles. They are:
Side Tile – part of the brush, which is applied on straight and curved lines.
Outer Corner Tile – used on outer corners
Inner Corner Tile – used on inner corners
Start Tile – used on the beginning of a path
End Tile – used on the ending of a path
The End Tile and the Start Tile work only on open shapes.
The shape below is composed with a single stroke which has a pattern brush applied to it.
Stroke without the pattern brush.
Step 2 – Simple brush, great results
As you can see the Pattern Brush is a pretty powerful tool. It needs a little preparation before you can use it, because you have to make a shape for each of the tiles.
However, you can achieve pretty spectacular results by using only the Side Tile. Let me show you.
To create an elegant pattern like below I used only two simple shapes. I drew the first one myself, the second one is from the Wingdings 2 font.
Take the first shape and drag it to the Brushes Panel. In the pop-up window select “New Pattern Brush” and click “OK”
Take the second shape and also drag it to the Brushes Panel.
Draw four circles on the artboard like in the picture below.
Apply the first pattern Brush to the first and the third circle, counting from the inside.
It doesn’t look quite good yet, but we’ll fix it right away. While having the two circles still selected go to the Brushes Panel and from the panel menu select “Options of Selected Object”.
In the options window input 50% into the Scale box and select “Add space to fit” instead of “Scale to fit” because we don’t want our brush to be distorted. From the “Colorization” drop down menu select “Tints”
Now select the other two circles, apply the second pattern brush to it, and adjust it like in the step before.
Select all the circles and give color to their strokes (strokes: #D50743, background: #4D1D40). Normally you, can’t change color of a pattern brush, but we made it possible by changing the Colorization option to “Tints”.
Let me show you some other designs I made using this simple technique.
A vortex like shape made with a glyph from Wingdings and a Spiral.
A simple flower shape made with a circle and petal shape.
Geometric typography. Think how much work would it take to space the three stripes perfectly on every letter. Thanks to the Pattern Brush it only takes minutes :)
Step 3 – Making it more advanced
Now that you know the basics I’m going to show you how to make an advanced Pattern Brush.
We’ll be making a Pattern Brush that looks like this when applied to various objects:
start with a Side Tile. Draw 3 rectangles on your artboard, align them horizontally, and distribute them evenly by using the “Vertical Distribute Center” option on the Align Panel.
Pattern Brush works best when each tile fits the same vertical and horizontal space, so lets make our 3 stripes 42 px long and 42 px high.
Grab the 3 stripes and drag them to the Brushes Panel. In the pop-up window select “New Pattern Brush” and in the Pattern Brush Options window name it as “Stripes” and click OK.
Let’s take care of the Outer Corner Tile now. Copy the three stripes and paste them in front (ctrl/cmd+F). Use the Transform Panel to move the copy 42px to the left and 42px down. You don’t need to count the numbers, just enter +42 or -42 in the input field, press Enter and
Illustrator will count it for you :)
Rotate the copy 90 degrees clockwise, select both elements and use ctrl/cmd+2 to lock them.
Turn on the smart guides (ctrl/cmd+u) and select the Pen Tool.
click on the corners of blue stripes with the Pen Tool like shown in the pictures below. The Smart Guides will be of great help here, you will know you have a corner under your cursor when there will be “anchor” displayed next to it.
Repeat the steps for two other stripes.
Go to the Transform Panel and flip the diagonal stripes horizontally.
Select the diagonal stripes we just made, hold alt/option key and drag them into the first spot of our “Stripes” brush.
brush should look like in the picture below. The leftmost element in the preview should tile with the elements on the right. The stripes on the tiles must be connected to their corresponding color (blue with blue, green with green…)
It shouldn.t look like below, because your pattern will not tile properly.
Look at the brush preview
If your brush does’t tile properly in the preview window it will not tile properly on objects.
It’s time for the Inner Corner Tile.
Delete the Outer Corner Tile we just made from the artboard, and arrange the two Side Tiles like in the picture below.
Position two guides like in a picture below (Smart Guides make it ultra easy).
Hold the alt/option key and drag the left edge of the first tile like below.
Do the same with the second tile, but drag its top edge to the top guide.
Select both newly made copies, go to the Pathfinder Panel and hit Divide.
Delete the parts indicated in the picture.
Make a selection like below, go to the Pathfinder Panel and alt/option+click “Add to shape Area”
Repeat previous step, but this time make a selection like that.
Select the shapes we just made and go to Effect>Stylize>Round Corners. Input 10px into the text box and click OK.
We only want the corners to be rounded so we need to expand the effect and adjust the ends manually. Select the shapes and go to Object>Expand Appearance.
Select the pen tool and click on the anchor indicated in the picture to delete it.
With the Pen Tool still selected hold alt/option key and click those two points.
Select the points you clicked in the step before. With the Direct Selection Tool (A) hold shift and drag the edge between the two points down, until it snaps to the edge of the Side Tile.
We’ve successfully straightened one edge, but there is five more to do. Just repeat the whole process on the five remaining edges.
If you’ve got problems with the smallest part of our tile (the one that looks like a circle) just follow these steps.
Select it and go to Object>Path>Add Anchor Points.
Take the Pen Tool, hold alt/option key and click the indicated anchors to turn them into corner points.
Click those two points with the Pen Tool to delete them.
You’ll need the Smart Guides for this step so turn them on (ctrl/cmd+u). Select the Direct Selection Tool (A) and snap the points like in the pictures below.
Ok, to finish grab the three shapes we made hold alt/option and drag them into the fourth slot of our Pattern Brush.
Now lets make the Start Tile. This will be fast compared to the Corner Tiles :)
Duplicate the Side Tile and move it 42px to the left. Go to Object>Path>Add Anchor Points.
Make the same selection like in the picture below, and move the points a little to the right.
Flip the shapes vertically, drag them to the fifth slot of our Pattern Brush. Click OK.
We’re left with the final element, the End Tile.
Duplicate the Side Tile once again but this time move it 42px to the right. Take the Rectangle Tool and draw 2 rectangles of the same width as one stripe (check it’s width in the Transform Panel). Align the rectangleslike in the picture below.
Duplicate the rectangles you just made, flip them vertically and put them over the blue stripe like below.
Make a guide that touches the right end of our shape and extend the green stripe until it snaps to that guide.
Select the whole shape and flip it vertically using the Transform Panel.
Alt/option + drag it to the last slot of our brush.
The brush is ready to use, Apply it to any shape you want :)
Step 4 – Additional Pattern Brush tips
When drawing a shape you have to pay attention of the direction you are drawing in. If you for example take a Rectangle Tool and draw a rectangle starting from the top left or bottom right and apply our Pattern Brush to it, it will look like that:
But if you star to draw it from the bottom left or top right, the pattern will be flipped:
When you draw a line and notice that the End Tile is where the Start tile supposed to be. There are two ways of fixing it.
First is to go to the Brushes Palette and from the palette menu select “Options of the selected object” and use the “Flip Along” option.
The second way is to take the Pen Tool and click on the end point of the path (where the End Tile is).
The path direction will reverse.
That’s everything for now. As you can see the Pattern Brush is a very powerful too, capable of creating intricate designs. Thank you for reading my tutorial.