With Illustrator CS6’s intuitive new Pattern Creation mode, Steven Bonner reveals how to create an engaging book cover illustration
Of all the changes that Adobe has made to Illustrator for the CS6 release, the one that interests me the most is its Pattern Creation mode. Repeating patterns can be a difficult thing to get right and every creative has their own method for doing it. But now Illustrator’s new feature enables you to quickly and easily make and edit patterns, giving you instant control when dealing with complicated compositions.
For this tutorial, we’ll draw some simple flowers and arrange them into a pattern that can be used on a huge range of applications – in this case, a hardback book jacket.
01 First of all, go online and search for some flowers to draw. We’re looking for interesting or unusual shapes and a nice variation in contrast that we can use for the tonal colouring in the illustration.
02 Next, using your chosen images as reference, start to draw the flowers in Illustrator using the Pen tool, brushes or the Pencil tool, depending on your personal preference. I’m using a graphics tablet so I prefer to use the Pencil tool because it’s more free-flowing and quicker than the Pen tool. The lines don’t have to be too perfect, so an element of roughness is good for the final outcome. Once you have your lines, use a mixture of the width profiles in the Stroke panel for a more natural look on your paths.
03 Working in shades of grey for the moment, block in areas of colour. Use a darker shade for the darkest areas then work up to the lightest areas until it resembles the image on the left. Again, it doesn’t need to be too perfect as a rougher, more hand-drawn look is what we’re after here.
04 Now, using the Pen tool, draw the two edges of a leaf shapes, and blend the paths together using the Blend tool (Ctrl/Cmd+Opt/Alt+B). Adjust the steps until you’re happy with the look. Once you have one leaf, copy it and use the Pathfinder to create a solid shape behind the blend lines.
05 Carry on and draw more flowers and leaves, then colour them using a colour scheme of your choice. I’ve gone for a muted palette using subtle greens and browns, but you might want to change the mood of your piece by using a fresher, more vibrant colour scheme.
06 Now for the fun part. Copy your elements and go to Object>Pattern>Make. The Pattern Options panel will appear: paste in your elements and name your pattern ‘Flowers’. You now have several options that help you while working in Pattern Creation mode, such as Tile Type (leave on Grid for now), a sizing option for your tiles, spacing options (for use if you choose to crop the tile to your art size), overlap options (whether you want the tile to overlap at the top, bottom, left, or right) and copy options to help you visualise the pattern as you work. I’ve set the tile width and height to 425pt, unchecked ‘Size Tile to Art’, and set the copies to 3x3, dimming them to 20%, but retaining the option to see the tile edge so I can see what’s going on. This works for me, but you might want your own preferences.
07 Carry on arranging your flowers and building up your composition. At this point, because you can still use the rest of Illustrator’s tools within the Pattern Creation mode, you can make each flower appear unique so that they don’t look too uniform. You can draw some stems and detail for each flower, and experiment with the front-to-back arrangement in order to achieve the best visual.
08 Once you’re happy with the pattern as a tile, hit Ctrl/Cmd+S to save and take you back to your main artboard. Draw a shape and fill it with your pattern to test how it looks at full strength. Try using different sizes of box to see how the repeat works over bigger areas.
09 Next, make a few variations of the pattern by going back into your tile, adding a coloured background and choosing ‘Save a Copy’. This will retain your original pattern and add a new version, giving you more options when applying it to various items.
10 And there you have it: you now have a fully repeating pattern saved to your Swatches panel that you can use on whatever you like. You can also edit the pattern on the fly and make small adjustments to it very easily, without having to start all over again. Go back and play with the hex and brick-tiling options to create offset patterns with even more variation and interest.