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Quick Tip: How to Dynamically Create a Seamless Pattern Using the Graphic Style Palette

In this tutorial we will look at an original way of creating a seamless pattern, developed by my friend and namesake Iaroslav aka Yemz. I think this versatile way will help you to achieve the desired result within minutes. I don't know about you, but my brain always start boiling when it comes to creating seamless patterns. I know many techniques of its creation but this was the only one that made me breathe a sigh of relief. Take a note!

Step 1

Take the Rectangle Tool (M) and create a rectangle 200 by 200 px, with no fill and a stroke of any color. Rectangle can be of any size, but it is desirable that its sides are equal to a prime whole number.

Step 2

Keep the rectangle selected, go to Effect > Transform & Distort > Transform, set the offset value divisible by the sides of the rectangle.

Now, repeat the effect again, but with different parameters this time.

And the last time Effect > Transform & Distort > Transform, with new offset values and the amount of copies.

Step 3

Open the Graphic Styles palette and save the created grid as a new style. Now the grid should be removed.

Step 4

Usually the techniques to create a seamless pattern is shown on simple geometric shapes, but in practice you deal with complex objects, and that is when the problems emerge. That is why we will create a complex seamless pattern which has practical value. This is going to be a stonemasonry. Take the Pen Tool (P) and create a shape of the first stone.

Step 5

Keep the created shape selected, apply the created style to it.

We will get a model of a seamless pattern, which can be adjusted dynamically. Replace the fill color, remove the stroke and reduce the shape of the stone. As you can see, all the copies of the shapes were changed synchronously.

Step 6

Now create another shape of the stone and apply the created style.

Copies of the new stone filled the model of the pattern. The new shapes acquired properties of our style (with no fill and with stroke). If your pattern has many elements, as it is in my case, it is not effective to change the object's fill each time. Let’s optimize our workflow working on the next stone.

Step 7

Open the Appearance palette and turn off the New Art Has Basic Appearance in the Palette menu. Now the newly created objects will be copied to our model without changing of the properties of the last selected object.

Note: If in the process of creating new shapes, they stop copying, that means that the last selected object does not possess the necessary properties. Select any previously created shape, and continue working.

Model of the pattern is filled when it’s being created. Is it very convenient?

Step 8

Using this technique, fill the gaps between the shapes, making sure that the shapes do not intersect. My girlfriend says that I'm not working, but I'm playing, perhaps she is right :).

Now, create the background. Take the Rectangle Tool (R) and create a black rectangle and move it below all the objects in the Layers palette.

As it was expected, the rectangle filled the entire model of the pattern. Before proceeding to the next steps, give the masonry a critical look and edit the shapes of the stones or add new objects.

Step 9

Now let's create light and shadow on the rocks. Take the Pen Tool (P) and create a shape of the light and shadow. Pick a fill that is darker than the basic color of the stone.

Note: Always create new shapes over real objects, rather than over their copies!

Now remove the part of the penumbra that goes beyond the stone. Copy the shape of the stone, and paste it in front (Command + C, then Command + F). Select the copy of the stone and the shape of the penumbra, then hit the Intersect button from the Pathfinder palette.

Step 10

Using this technique, create lights and shadows on the stone.

Create penumbras on the rest of the stones. In addition to the shades of gray, use gray-green shades to create the appearance of moss on the rocks. For light on the rocks, apply a warm, yellow-grayish color at some spots.

Step 11

Now turn our model into a seamless pattern. Select all the created objects (Command + A), and go to Object > Expand Appearance.

Take the Rectangle Tool (M) and create a rectangle 200 by 200 px, the same as we have created in the first step and put it somewhere over our model.

Step 12

Turn off the fill and stroke of the rectangle and move it below all the objects (Shift + Command + Left Square Bracket).

Select all the objects (Command + A) and go to Edit > Define Pattern and save the pattern.

Now you can create any shape and apply the created seamless pattern to its fill.


I hope this tutorial will come in handy to create your own interesting backgrounds. As far as I know, seamless pattern is always in demand in micro-stock such as Shutterstock and iStockphoto. So get down to work!

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