Make a simple seamless pattern

Today we’re going to draw a very simple cookie icon, then use it to create a seamless pattern background. By ‘seamless’, I mean that it can be tiled to create larger patterns without any misaligned shapes.

Cookie Base

First off, we need to draw our cookie! We will start by drawing a circle shape using the ‘Ellipse’ tool. Click on the ‘Ellipse’ tool and click-drag the cursor onto your artboard while holding down the ‘Shift’ key on your keyboard. This will give you a perfectly proportioned circle shape:

We want our cookie to be somewhat stylized, but not too icon-y. Cookies rarely come out in perfect circular shapes! What we want to do is add some character to our outline. Let’s use the Dashed Line option in the Stroke Palette to cutesy this circle up.

We’ll make our stroke very thick, and give it a rounded cap and corner effect. From here, we will click on the ‘Dashed Line’ option and start playing around. The shorter the dash the more round each dash it will be, and increasing the gap between dashes is what will give us an adorable scalloped edge.

If you have your shape selected while you adjust the Dashed Line settings, you can see how your line looks. In the end we liked these settings:

And this is how our stroke looks now:

With this selected, go to Object > Expand Appearance > Expand:

Click on Expand ‘Fill’ and ‘Stroke’ and hit OK. This turns our stroke into an editable shape:

Outline view:

Now we need to delete the inside of this donut shape so we’re left with a solid-filled cookie circle. To do this, click on the Direct Select Arrow (the white arrow, or you can hit ‘A’ on your keyboard to bring it up).

Click-drag the cursor over the inside circle of our donut shape. This will select points only from the inside shape, not the whole donut:

Click delete until the middle shape is gone and you’re left with just a solid circular shape with pouffy edges:

Select this shape and copy-paste it in front of itself (Command-C Command-F on Mac, Control-C Control-F on PC). Next, in your Transform palette, type ‘90%’ into the Width and Height boxes to resize this shape so it’s a bit smaller than the original:

Color the background larger circle dark brown and make the inside circle a lighter tan:

Chocolate Chips and Simple Texture

Next up, we’re going to draw some circle shapes on top of each other. These will be our chocolate chips. We’ll start with a dark brown circle, then put a medium brown circle on top and finish with a small light colored highlight. We’ll draw one, then copy-paste it and move it around until they’re scattered on top of our cookie base:

We will then add a few lighter brown circles onto the surface of the cookie, to give it a little bit of texture (not too much texture, we want this to be a simple icon in the end):

The final touch for our cookie is to add a shadow under the chocolate chips for some depth. We’ll draw circles under each of our chocolate chips and use the same ‘Dashed Line’ technique to make the outlines rounded bumps. Once we’re done, we’ll expand the strokes and delete the inside ‘donut’:

Starting our Seamless Pattern

We now have a super simple cookie icon that took only a minute or two to create. Now let’s turn it into a seamless pattern.

We’ll place our cookie onto an art board that’s 10″ by 10″ square (my apologies to those who work in Metric: This will still work, you’ll just need to adjust your artboard size until you have a dimension you are comfortable working with). Select all the shapes in the cookie and hit Command-G (Mac, Control-G on PC) to group them.

Hit Command-C Command-F (Control-C Control-F on PC) to copy the cookie in front of itself 3 times. This will give us 4 cookies. Select each one and drag it vertically away by holding down the Shift key as you drag it away – This will ensure the cookies align vertically. Don’t worry if they’re evenly spaced, we just want to see all 4 cookies.

We are going to have 4 horizontal rows of cookies here. Since our artboard is 10″ square this means the centre vertical point for each row of cookies will fall at 1.25″, 3.75″, 6.25″ and 8.75″ from Left to Right. It’s important that everything line up right because we do want this pattern to be seamless.

Select all the cookies (Command-A Mac, Command-A on PC, or just click-drag over all 4 cookies with the Select arrow) and bring up your Transform Palette. Type 3.75″ into the X palette: This will centre all 4 of our cookies at the right measurement vertically:

Next, we need to space them at the correct distance from each other. Again, since our artboard is already the right size, all we need to do is adjust the ‘Y’ coordinates for each cookie. Select each cookie one by one. One will be 1.25″, the next 3.75″, then 6.25″ and lastly 8.75″:

Select all the cookies and copy-paste them in front of themselves. Move this new row to 8.75″ on the X axis in the Transform Palette. We’re halfway done our pattern!:

To add some visual interest we’re going to offset our last 2 patterns a little. Copy-paste our row again and move it to 1.25″ on the X axis in the Transform Palette:

We will need to add 1 more cookie. Copy one and paste it in front of itself. This time when we set up our rows, we will have slightly different vertical measurements because we want our top and bottom cookies to hang off the artboards (we will trim them down to size later on).

Selecting each cookie, they will have the following Y axis measurements: 0″, 2.5″, 5″, 7.5″ and 10″.

This is what it should look like when you are done:

We’re now going to trim off our excess cookies where they hang off our artboard. The easiest way to do this is to draw a rectangle shape over the bottom half of our top left hand cookie:

Then select the cookie and the rectangle and right-click your mouse. Select ‘Make Clipping Mask’ and voila, your cookie is now trimmed:

Repeat with the bottom left hand cookie:

Note about clipping masks: For stock work, I usually avoid Clipping Masks, as they can be really confusing for clients who aren’t familiar with Illustrator. If I’m selling a pattern like this I will instead trim off the excess shapes on each cookie. You can find instructions on how to do this in this tutorial.

Next, select this row of cookies and copy-paste it in front of itself. In the Transform Palette enter 6.25″ into the X axis field:

To finish our cookie pattern we’ve chosen a creamy yellow background and added a simple shadow under each cookie to add a little depth.

This is a quick and easy way to make sure that your seamless patterns always line up properly by using the X and Y fields to correctly line up your shapes. Once you learn the measurements, creating patterns is a breeze.

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© 2011, Jennifer Borton. All rights reserved.


One thought on “Make a simple seamless pattern

  1. Heidi Gumucio says:

    Very nice site you have. One question: How do you calculate the center vertical points?

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