Illustrator Tutorial: Creating A Complex Pattern

August 19, 2010

This is an intermediate Adobe Illustrator tutorial that will teach you how transform a simple shape into a complex pattern. You will learn how to use the Transform Effect, how to add that design to your Graphic Styles Palette and how to use the Blend tool.

Here is the final design that we will be creating:

Final Complex Design

Step 1: Using the Transform Effect to create a design

Create a simple shape on the stage. For this example, I created an ellipse on the stage that has no fill and a blue stroke.

Step 1: Simple Shape

With your shape selected, go to Effect -> Distort & Transform -> Transform... in the main menu. The Transform Effects dialogue box will then open. Feel free to play with the settings here. It is up to you to come up with a design that you are happy with. Below are the settings that I used for this example. I created 12 copies and I changed the orientation point to the lower right.

Transform Effect Settings

Preview your design until you are happy with what you see. Click ok. Here is what I ended up with:

Step 1: Design 1

Step 2: Adding your design to the Graphic Styles Palette

With your design still selected, open the Graphic Styles Palette. To do this, go to Window -> Graphic Styles. Drag and drop your design into the Graphic Styles Palette. This is great because now, you can apply this same design to other simple shapes that you create. Experiment and have fun with it. Draw other simple shapes on your stage and with them selected, click on your design in the Graphic Styles Palette to see what you come up with. Below are two examples of two different designs I created with a simple rectangle and a simple star.

Step 1: Design 2

Step 1: Design 3

Step 3: The Blend Tool

With your design selected, go to Object -> Expand Appearance. This will outline all of the objects in your design. Ungroup the objects in your design by either using the shortcut Command + Shift + G or by selecting Object -> Ungroup from the main menu. Now, double-click on the Blend Tool in your toolbox which is located to the left of your stage to open the Blend Options dialogue box. The Blend Tool looks like this: Blend Tool Set your spacing to 8 Specified Steps and click ok.

Blend Options Settings

With your design still selected, create your blend. You can do this by either using the shortcut Command + Option + B or by selecting Object -> Blend -> Make in the main menu. Here is the design that I ended up with:

Step 1: Design 4

Step 4: Adding your design to a path

We can even take this design one step further to make it even more complex. Below the design that you just created, draw a path on the stage.

Adding Your Design To A Path

Now, with both the line that you've drawn and your design selected, go to Object -> Blend -> Replace spine. Voila! Now you have a really funky and complex pattern that you can add to any of your designs.

Complex Design

If you want to add some different colours to your design or even a gradient effect, simply use your Direct Selection Tool to select the individual ovals in your complex design and change their colour.

Final Complex Design

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