Many possibilities exist in the world of Illustrator CS5. One possibility is the ability to create seamless patterns. You have probably seen a variety of complex, clean-looking patterns around the web. In this tutorial, I am going to explain how to create one complex pattern to use on your design projects, backgrounds, etc. Remember that the more you experiment, play around, and review tutorials, the more you will find out about the greatness of Illustrator CS5.

Let’s get started!

STEP ONE:

Open a New Illustrator File (File > New) with a size of 400px by 400px.

Let’s set up our workspace:
Press (Mac: Command + R / PC: Control + R) to show the rules and then press (Mac: Command + U / PC: Control + U) to set Smart Guides. The rule and smart guides will help you to place objects proportionally.
Select the Rectangle Tool (M), click anywhere on the canvas area to open its dialog box, and enter a Weight and Height of 100px.
With the Line Segment Tool (\) draw a 100px vertical line and a 100px horizontal line.
Select the three objects, at the Options Bar click Horizontal Align Center and Vertical Align Center to correctly align the objects (Step One A).

You should have the following shape:
Step One B
(Images are zoomed-in to 200%)

Right-click the entire shape and select Make Guides. This will convert the shape into guidelines, so we can reference our symmetrical work.
Step One C

At the LAYERS palette (Window > Layers) rename “layer 1” as, “Guidelines” and Lock the layer.
Step One D

STEP TWO:

Create a New Layer and name it, “Shapes”.
Select the Pen Tool (P) and draw random shapes inside ¼ of the first square, like so:
Step Two A

At the COLOR palette (Window > Color) apply any colors of your choice.
Step Two B

STEP THREE:

Select all the shapes/strokes that you drew (Mac: Command + A / PC: Control + A) and go to Object > Group.

With the shapes selected press (Mac: Command + C / PC: Control + C) to copy them and then press (Mac: Command + V / PC: Control + V) to paste them.

With the new shape selected go to Object > Transform > Reflect and select Vertical. Next, go to Object > Transform > Reflect again, but this time select Horizontal. Place it inside the first square like shown below:
Step Three A

Repeat this step to fill the entire square, like so:
Step Three B
Looking good!

STEP FOUR:

Now our basic arrangement graphic is ready to be converted into a beautiful pattern, select them all (Mac: Command + A / PC: Control + A), open the SWATCHES palette (Window > Swatches) and drag the entire graphic inside the palette.
Step Four A

As you can see, now our graphic appears inside the SWATCHES palette:
Step Four B

STEP FIVE:
Our design was saved in the SWATCHES palette. Now, we can try out our new Pattern!
In a New Layer select your new pattern/swatch and with the Rectangle Tool (M) draw a large rectangle.
Pretty awesome, right?
Step Five
Final Result

As you learned, to create a complex pattern we just need to add color, irregular shapes, symbols, etc. The idea is to generate a part of a symmetrical shape and go from there. It’s a fun, easy, awesome technique. Be inspired to create more beautiful patterns!

Download Source Files