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How to Create a Holiday-Themed Vector Pattern in Adobe Illustrator

Final product image
What You'll Be Creating

We all know that this time of the year includes lots of presents. Most of the time we have to wrap them, and searching for the perfect paper for the occasion can be a hassle. In this tutorial I will show you how to create your own pattern, which you can either print out and use as gift wrapping or use as device wallpaper.

1. Create a New Print Document

We will aim for a simple pattern, so our artboard shouldn’t be big. Create a New Document (Control-N) of 300 x 300 px size. This size should be just fine.

Create a new document

2. Sketch Your Elements

Create a sketch with festive content. Use a lighter shade of grey—that way it will be easier to trace the elements. Try to keep it simple, using a few groups of objects.

If you are using a drawing tablet to create the sketch, use the Paintbrush Tool (B).

If you are using a sketch made outside Illustrator, import it (File > Place).

Draw a sketch

3. Trace Your Sketches

Step 1

We can start tracing the elements of our sketch. We’ll use the Pen Tool (P), tracing the bigger parts first and then the smaller ones. Use a black outline and no fill. Try to add fewer anchor points. That way, the lines are crisp and smooth.

Start tracing the sketch

Step 2

Delete the sketch. Your traced image should look like this.

Remove the sketch after tracing

Step 3

Let’s move on to the other images that need to be traced.

I encourage you to use a bit more freedom when tracing the elements—try not to follow the sketch 100%. Try to be precise, but it can’t hurt if the anchor point you set is a few pixels away from the one in the sketch. You can clearly notice that I did this for this present’s bow.

 trace the rest of the objects

Step 4

Also, when it comes to the text, follow the sketch loosely. It will give the text a more cartoonish feel.

Pay attention to the lettering

Step 5

Just try to have fewer anchor points. Having fewer of them makes everything smoother and nice.

Try to have less anchor points

Step 6

Trace the rest of the objects. At the end, the traced objects should look like this. 

Your image should look like this

Step 7

Remove the sketches. Our objects are outlines and ready for some coloring. Let's do that!

Outlined preview

4. Color Your Mini Illustrations

Step 1

I made a selection of seven colors which might be just right for festive occasions. Feel free to change them with the colors of your choice!

Select few colors

Step 2

Take your time to color the objects one by one. You can use the Eyedropper Tool (I) for easier coloring. Using the Selection Tool (V), click on the shape you want to color, and then select the Eyedropper Tool (I) and click on the desired color from your palette. 

Use the Eyedropper Tool

Step 3

Color and group rest of the objects. At this point, your illustration should look like this.

Color all the objects

5. How to Create the Pattern

Step 1

Now, let’s arrange them in our 300 x 300 px artboard. Try to arrange them so that they fill most of the artboard's surface.

Arrange your objects on the artboard

Step 2

Most likely, you will end up having gaps in the design. But this problem has an easy solution. Let’s draw some details which will fill up the gaps: confetti, ribbons, stars and hearts, anything festive!

Draw some details

Step 3

We repeat the same process of tracing and coloring. Use the Pen Tool (P) for tracing the objects.

Trace the details

Step 4

And use the Eyedropper Tool (I) to quickly color some shapes. Try to stick to a few colors.

Color the details

Step 5

Now, let’s use these fine details to fill the gaps in our design.

Arrange the details to fill the gaps

We are almost done! The design looks quite balanced and full!

Step 6

Let’s see how it will function as a pattern! Make sure the Swatches panel is opened. If it’s not, go to Window > Swatches.

Select the whole design using the Selection Tool (V).  Drag and drop it in the Swatches panel.

Drag and drop the pattern to the Swatches Panel

Step 7

The pattern will appear in the Swatches panel as a new swatch. Double click on it to check how it looks when it’s tiled.

Double click the swatch

Step 8

The Pattern Options dialog box will open, and you will get a preview of your brand new pattern. If you feel the need for final changes, now is the time. Try to move some objects and to achieve the perfect balance in your design.

Name the new pattern

Also, for easier usage you can name your pattern. In the name field, type New Year’s Pattern.

To exit the Pattern mode, just double click on the empty canvas or press Escape.

Step 9

To see the pattern in its full glory, create a rectangle using the Rectangle Tool (M).
Then select the pattern from the Swatches panel.

Test the pattern

Awesome Work, You're Done!

Congrats! You just made a cool festive pattern design for which you can find many uses: as a desktop or phone wallpaper, or printed as wrapping paper or even a greeting card. You might want to use a product template if you want to make a preview of your wrapped gift. Your pattern, your rules!

Ideas for use of the pattern

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