Building a Simple Pattern using Math

Build a pattern using simple math
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I LOVE to jump into the pattern making process…manipulating layers, adding shading, doing all that stuff.

But maybe you are a newbie designer who just wants to make your first basic pattern. Or you are an illustrator who has a kick ass illustration that just needs to be put into a simple, no fuss, repeat to make it shine.

If so, follow me! Today I’m going to show you how to create a simple pattern in Adobe Illustrator using basic math. And I mean basic…don’t worry. You got this.

Step 1. Create or upload a motif to Illustrator and resize it to something simple that you can remember.  Resize by selecting the motif and clicking on ‘transform’ in the top bar menu. When the dialog box opens-up enter a new, nice round number for the width and height.  In this example I’ve resized my motif to 200 x 200 px.


Step one


Step 2. Select the motif and click ‘command C’ and ‘command V’.  Now you’ve copied the motif and pasted a duplicate of it right on top of the original.


Step 3. Open the ‘transform’ dialog box again. This time, in the x-value field enter ‘+200’ at the very end of what’s already in the box and hit ‘enter’. You will see that the motif you copied has now moved exactly 200 px to the right of the original.


Step three


Step 4. Repeat step 3, but this time copy and paste the second motif, placing a third one to the right of the first two.


Great! So at this point your should have three motifs all in a nice straight line, evenly spaced. Now lets create a few layers of motifs under your first row.


Step 5. Select all three motifs and click ‘command C’ and ‘command V’ to copy and paste duplicates of all three motifs on top of the originals. Now go up to the ‘tranform’ dialog box and add ‘+200’ to the y value field. You will see that you’ve added  a new row of motifs under the first row.


Step five


Step 6. Repeat step 5, using the second row of motifs as your new original. You should now have a grid with three motifs across and three motifs down. Nine motifs in total.


Step six


So this is your pattern. Looking good, huh? Now we just have to put it into repeat. (I promise, it’s not as hard as you think!)


Step 7. Select all of the motifs, the entire pattern, and group it.


Step 8. With the pattern selected, click ‘command C’ and ‘command B’ to copy the pattern and place the copy in the back.


Step 9. Now (making sure you still have the back copy selected) go to your swatches panel and make both the fill and stroke boxes no fill. (see the image below). Now you have a box in the background that has no fill and no stroke.


Step nine


Step 10. Finally, use the selection tool to select everything on your screen and drag it over to the swatches panel. A new swatch will appear that has your pattern in it. You’ve put your pattern in repeat!


Step ten


Step 11. The last thing you need to do is to test your pattern to make sure it looks right. Select the rectangle tool and draw a nice big rectangle. Go to the swatches panel and make the fill your pattern.


Final pattern



That’s it! Now you have a lovely repeat pattern!

Share your patterns with me on Instagram by tagging them #swatchandrepeat. I’d love to see your work!




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