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Create a Gold Chain Pattern Brush with Illustrator


In this tutorial I will explain pattern brushes in Illustrator. Creating pattern brushes can save time and is a great technique to add to your design skills. After this tutorial you will be able to create great pattern brushes to add to your design arsenal. Lets get started!

Final Image Preview

Below is the final image we will be working towards. Want access to the full Vector Source files and downloadable copies of every tutorial, including this one? Join Vector Plus for just 9$ a month.

Tutorial Details

  • Program: Illustrator CS4
  • Difficulty: Intermediate
  • Estimated Completion Time: 1.5 - 2 hours

Reference Images

First we need to find some reference images. Search though image web sites for a nice gold chain reference. It can be any size, all we're doing is looking for a chain to reference for its shape and shadows. This chain image is a good reference, it clearly has shadows and highlights that we can duplicate.

Step 1

Place your reference image, File > Place. Double-click layer one in the layers palette, then name the layer "chain reference." Check Template and Dim Images To: 70%. You can chose to dim your image to any percent, this is just my personal preference.

Step 2

Create three new layers and name them: "Highlight," "Shadow," and "Midtone." Make sure they are in the same order as below. Keeping your layers well organized is a great habit to have, it tends to make things run smoother.

Step 3

We're going start with our midtone layer. Select the Pen Tool (P) Then select a yellow #EFD225 fill and deep brown #332E15 stroke. We are going to trace the chain in two sections. With a fill and stroke selected we won't be able to see what we are doing so we need to switch to outline view. Select View > Outlines (Command + Y). Now trace two paths. Make sure you trace the two sections of chain that meet in the middle. Where the two paths meet keep them on the same path or as close as possible.

Step 4

Now we can look at what we have so far. Select View > Outlines (Command + Y). Select the two sections hold Alt + drag to duplicate. Make sure to hold Shift so the sections don't move up or down. Select the right bottom section and send to back (Command + Shift + Left Bracket key).

Step 5

We need to separate our fill and stroke. Select all four sections of the chain, then go Object > Expand > Stroke. While the four objects are still selected, apply Object > Ungroup (Command + Shift + G).

Step 6

Now we need to place the fill and stroke on separate layers. Select all the expanded strokes. Make sure not to select the fills. Copy the expanded strokes Edit > Copy (Command + C). Delete the expanded strokes after they have been copied.

Step 7

Create a new layer, name it "Trapping." Select the "Trapping" layer and Edit > Paste in Front (Command + F).

Step 8

We need to get rid of the excess brown that is over lapping. There area a number of ways to do this, but in this case the Knife Tool will be the quickest. Select one section at a time and use your Knife Tool to break apart the excess brown.

Step 9

Now the excess brown can be selected on its own. Select the excess brown sections and delete them.

Step 10

Now you should have an image similar to this. A midtone layer containing only the yellow fill. A trapping layer containing the expanded stroke. Make sure you are saving after major steps.

Step 11

Lets add some detail. Only focus on the middle link. The two side links are place holders, we will be deleting them later. Using your reference image as a guide, add some details to the "Trapping" layer, as I have done below. You can add more or less depending on your image.

Step 12

Now add shadows (#B09132) and highlights (#F6ED55). Be sure the correct layers are selected.

Step 13

Now we can delete our place holders. Select the two outer sections and delete.

Step 14

Select the entire chain link and Alt-drag. Hold Shift to keep it from moving up or down. While the new chain link is still selected use Object > Transform > Transform Again (Command + D) two times. Now you should have a total of four links.

Step 15

This will be the overall appearance of our chain. You can add more detail here if desired. At this point save this as a separate file. Keep it as your working file in case you ever want to come back to it and make alterations. Now we are going to place our guide lines where the chain will repeat. Make sure you place the guides in the same spot on each end of the chain.

Step 16

Now we are going to create a clipping path over the chain. Select the "Trapping" layer. Now use your guides to create a box over the chain.

Step 17

Select > All (Command + A). Then go to Object > Clipping Mask > Make (Command + 7). When you create a clipping mask it will put everything on one layer. That is why we saved the file with layers as a working file.

Step 18

Now using the pathfinder select Divide.

Step 19

Drag the entire chain into the brushes palette and select New Pattern Brush.

Step 20

Select OK.

Step 21

Now you can use the (B) Brush Tool or (P) Pen Tool to create a seamless chain.

Final Result

Now you have the skills it takes to create pattern brushes in Illustrator. Have fun making your own!

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