How to Create a Mid-Century Style Pattern in Adobe Illustrator

The retro style is back and here to stay! We can feel its presence through handmade fonts, pastels, a limited color palette, and of course, simple shapes. And with spring here and summer on the way, we can put this style to the test by creating a cute, mid-century pattern made out of many fruits and vegetables.

Get inspired with the awesome collection of Decorative Vector Patterns you can easily find on GraphicRiver.

1. How to Create a New Document

After opening Adobe Illustrator, go to File > New (Control-N). In the dialog box, set the Profile to Web and set the Width to 1000 px and the Height to 500 px. This will be the area where we create the pattern unit.

2. How to Create a Sketch

Step 1

Creating a sketch is the easiest way to get a result as close as possible to your idea. Let's do one with many cute and simple fruits and vegetables

Draw 10 or 11 different types of fruits and vegetables, and add simple faces to them consisting of two dots as eyes and one curvy line for a lip. I drew 11 of them: a pineapple, a lemon wedge and a whole lemon, an eggplant, a pear, an apple, a beetroot, a strawberry, a carrot, a tomato, and cherries. Use a very light shade of grey because it will make the tracing process much easier. Lock the sketch (Control-2).

Step 2

We would like to create a more complex pattern, so we will throw in some green leaves for decoration purposes, which will be scattered around the objects. Draw four types of herb leaves, starting with a simple one and ending with a more complex one. Also, draw five tiny leaves and objects which we will use to fill the empty spaces in the pattern.

3. How to Create a Color Palette

Before you start working on the illustration, take a moment to define the color palette. I chose five vivid colors (yellow, orange, pink, blue, and green) and one dark blue. The idea is to have the light colors as the main ones and the dark as a background. This way, the illustration will get a certain contrast and will be pleasant to the viewer's eye. Feel free to add any other light and fresh color you would like to have in this illustration.

4. How to Trace a Sketch

Step 1

Once again, we’ll be using the Pen Tool (P) as our main tool to create this illustration. Mid-century style illustrations are forgiving of loose lines, so trace the sketch without any worries that you might mess it up.

Let’s start by tracing the most complex sketch: the pineapple. This might seem more complicated than the rest of the sketched fruits and vegetables, but it requires only the Pen Tool (P) to do it, so it should be no problem.

Start by tracing the bigger parts of the object, such as the body and the crown (2). Move on to the other part of the crown. Add the two circles as eyes and the curvy shape as a mouth (3). Once you are done with these parts, color it yellow (#f1c82e) and green (#a6d36b)—colors from our color palette. Choose a darker shade of green for the second part of the crown (4).

When you are done with that, draw six diagonal lines, color them in a slightly lighter shade of yellow, and multiply them. Mirror the multiplied lines and place them over the original lines, in order to create a net formation (5). Place them over the yellow body of the pineapple (6). Don’t forget to Delete the sketch once you are done tracing.

Step 2

The second object to get traced is the beetroot. Start with the bigger shapes—the body and the greens. Color them pink (#f4688b) and green (#a6d36b). Add the face. If you are too lazy to do it, just use the same face you created for the pineapple. And as a final touch, add some decorative curvy lines right above the face.

Step 3

Next in line are the cherries. You can trace them separately, or trace one of the cherries and then multiply it and position it over the second cherry sketch. To make things more diverse, make one of the cherries smiling and the other one frowning. Color them pink and green, just like the beetroot. Use a darker shade of green for the stems.

Step 4

The third object to trace is the strawberry. Do the head and the stem first (2), and move on to the leaves (3). Add the face as well (3). Color the body red (#f16359), the leaves green (#a6d36b), the eyes dark blue (#1b142c), and the mouth white or light pink (4).

To add more details to this fruit, draw approximately 20 tiny dots and color them in a slightly lighter shade of the pink we used for the body (5). Arrange them randomly over the strawberry’s body (6).

Step 5

Unlike the strawberry, the carrot is easier to draw. Just trace the body and the leaves, and add the eyes. Remember, you can just use the eyes and mouth you already have created for the other fruits and vegetables. Color the carrot orange (#f17c45) and the leaves green (#71ca7d). Don’t forget to Delete the sketch once you are done tracing.

Step 6

The apple is the sixth object we're tracing. Like the previous objects, this one is simple too. Trace the big part first, and then trace the leaf and stem. Add the eyes and mouth too. Color the apple red (#f16359) and the leaf green (#a6d36b). Use a slightly darker shade of green for the stem.

Step 7

The lemon wedge consists of two bigger shapes that look like half a circle. Trace only one, multiply it, and scale it down to get the second one. Trace the details and the eyes. Pick the yellow color from our palette (#f1c82e) and use a slightly lighter shade of yellow for the inner part.

Step 8

The lemon consists of only one bigger body shape and its face. Once you are done tracing them, color it yellow (#f1c82e). To make things more interesting, this lemon has a frowning mouth. To add more details, draw a tiny pale yellow tear and place it below one of the eyes. Add small decorative pale yellow dots above the face.

Step 9

The eggplant is also frowning because I realized that many people don’t like it. So trace the body first, and then the leaves and stem. Choose the blue (#0092bc) from our color palette for the body and the green (#a6d36b) for the leaves. The face is in a dark shade of blue, like the rest of the fruits and veggies we just created.

Step 10

The pear is the tenth object we are creating. Just like the rest, it’s quite simple, consisting of a body, a leaf, a stem, and a face. Trace the bigger part first and color it green (#a6d36b). Trace the leaf and the stem and color them in slightly darker shades of green. Color the facial elements dark blue (#1b142c).

Step 11

The tomato is the last object to trace. Once you are done tracing the sketch, color the body red (#f35457) and the leaves green (#71ca7d). Multiply the tomato and mirror it. Change the body color of the copy to green (#23a15f). This way we get two kinds of tomatoes, which will be handy when we compose the pattern.

Step 12

Let's trace the decorative herb leaves we have already sketched. Just use the Pen Tool (P) and make curvy lines. Do not follow the sketch strictly; just use it as a guide. Color the leaves in different shades of green.

Step 13

Continue tracing the other two decorative leaves. Color them in different shades of green.

Step 14

And at last, we come to the small decorative leaves which will make perfect details and objects to fill the empty parts of the pattern. These are the last objects we are tracing today. Once you are done, color them in different shades of green.

5. How to Prepare the Pattern Unit

Step 1

We will need to create the pattern unit which will repeat. For this purpose, we need to have an area where we’ll arrange the already traced and colored objects. We will use the artboard we created, and we’ll create a rectangle in the same size.

Select the Rectangle Tool (M) and click anywhere on the working area. In the dialogue box, add 1000 pixels as a Width value and 500 pixels as a Height value. Color the rectangle dark blue. We will use this rectangle as a background because most of our objects are colored in bright colors, and it might be confusing if we do the composition on a white background.

Step 2

Start adding the fruits and vegetables we created earlier. Try to fill the corners first with the most suitable objects. I used the pineapple, the cherries, and the lemons. Feel free to Resize and Rotate them if you think it’s necessary.

Step 3

Move on to the next fruits and veggies. In the center of the image, I added the beetroot, the apple, the eggplant, and the pear. Try positioning them close to the edges of the background so that, once we create the unit, the repetition will go smoothly.

Step 4

Add the last of the fruits and veggies. I added the carrot, the tomatoes, and the strawberry. You can see how the illustration gets richer with various shapes and colors.

Step 5

Once we are done with the first batch of objects, we can add the decorative leaves. Position them in places where you see empty spaces between objects.

Step 6

And as a last step of the pattern unit preparation, we can add the small details: the tiny leaves and circles. Scatter them randomly over the empty spaces of the illustration. It is very important to fill the gaps near the edges of the dark blue background. This will result in a nice transition between pattern units when we tile the pattern.

Step 7

Once you are done filling the dark blue background with objects, you can Delete it.

6. How to Create the Pattern

Step 1

Select the objects and Group them (Control-G). Go to Window > Pattern Options. The Pattern Options panel will appear. Go to the options arrow and click the Make Pattern option.

Step 2

The grey options will become available for customization. Name the pattern "Fruits and Veggies" and select the Brick by Row option from the Tile Type menu. We are doing a Brick by Row tile type because our pattern is landscape oriented so the transition will look much better in a horizontal direction. Click anywhere on the working area to exit Pattern Options mode.

Step 3

Once you are done creating the pattern, find it in the Swatches panel. It will automatically appear there. Test it over a dark blue background by making a shape, and color it by picking our pattern from the swatches. Looks amazing, right?

Congrats, You're Now Done!

Great job! We created a fun and colorful retro-styled pattern. The use of patterns is unlimited—you can customize them as phone or desktop wallpaper, use them as a part of web design, or just print them out as a part of your stationery.

In case you want to download and use other decorative patterns, you can easily find them on GraphicRiver.