1. Design & Illustration
  2. Patterns

How to Create a Paisley Pattern in Adobe Illustrator

Final product image
What You'll Be Creating

According to Wikipedia, the Paisley pattern is a design using the buta or boteh, a droplet-shaped vegetable motif of Persian origin. In the modern world you can find this shape in the patterns of bandanas (check out these interesting bandana patterns on GraphicRiver).

According to

Ancient Babylon in present day Iraq is claimed to be one place of origin of the paisley form, possibly dating back to 1700BCE. Another opinion, expressed by Sam Willis in the 2016 BBC TV series The Silk Road, is that the symbol originated from the city of Yazd in Iran. In Yazd originates the weaving of the traditional fabric called a termeh, a cloth made of silk and wool which often included the paisley (boteh) form. Another common theory is that it originated in Persia 200-650 AD during the rule of the Sassanians who created an empire whose armies kept the Romans at bay for centuries. 

In this tutorial you will learn how to create a paisley pattern. You can even use this as a coloring page! If you enjoy coloring, please check out my first coloring book!

Our pattern won't be seamless, as I am afraid to make this tutorial very long and have you get bored. If you want to create a seamless pattern, please check this tutorial to learn how to create one. Just keep in mind to use your paisley pattern instead of the flowers.

Let's get started!

1. How to Create the Main Shape for the Pattern

Step 1

First, create a new document (File > New) with the following dimensions: 850 px Height and 850 px Width.

Now we will start by drawing the main shape of the pattern. Using the Ellipse Tool (L), draw an ellipse. Set a white fill color and a dark grey or black stroke color for this shape. Next, using the Convert Anchor Point Tool (Shift-C), make a sharp top anchor point on the ellipse: while keeping the ellipse selected, click on the top anchor point—this point should be sharp now. 

After this, we will modify this shape using the Warp Effect. Go to Effect > Warp > Arc and adjust the necessary options. Be sure to check Preview, so you can see what's going on with this shape after adjusting the options.

As we will use this shape later in this tutorial, make a copy of it and set it aside.

creating the main paisley shape

Step 2

Let’s continue to modify this shape. Select it and go to Effect > Warp > Arc. In the new Warp Options window, adjust the options presented below. Finally, expand this shape (Object > Expand Appearance).

creating the main paisley shape 2

Step 3

Make another copy of the created shape, which will be a reflection of the original one. For this, select the shape, right-click your mouse and select Transform > Reflect. Once you get a dialogue box, select Axis Vertical, Angle 90 degrees, and press Copy. Move the newly created shape to the right and make it much smaller. Attach the smaller copy to the top corner of the larger shape as shown in the image below. Now, keeping these two objects selected, unite them by pressing the Unite button on the Pathfinder panel (Window > Pathfinder).

To make a smoother and wider transition between these shapes, select them, select the Smooth Tool, and smooth out the lines around the connection. You will see that this action will smoothly transform the connection. We just created the main shape of the paisley!

creating the main paisley shape 3

2. How to Create the Flower for the Pattern

Step 1

Draw a circle with white fill color and dark grey (or black, if you wish) stroke color. To make an even circle, use the Ellipse Tool (L) while holding down the Shift key. Create a copy of this circle in front (Control-C, Control-F), make it smaller, and place it exactly in the middle of the original one. For this, while keeping the created copy selected, hold down the Alt and Shift keys as you drag this circle inside. For the smaller circle, check Dashed Line on the Stroke panel.

Make a third copy of the circle, but this time larger than the original one (Control-C, Control-B, then holding the Alt and Shift keys make it bigger). Select this circle and go to Object > Path > Add Anchor Points. This action will add four new anchor points. Repeat these commands as many times as you need for the number of petals you want to create later.

creating the flower

Step 2

Let’s transform the largest circle into petals. While keeping the largest circle selected, go to Effect > Distort & Transform > Pucker & Bloat. Select the Preview button and adjust the necessary value on the Pucker & Bloat effect to get a flower, close to the one presented below. Do not forget to expand this shape (Object > Expand Appearance). Now make a larger copy of the created shape with petals behind the original one (Control-C, Control-B).

After this, create a large copy of the dashed circle (Control-C, Control-V), and place it behind all shapes (Control-X, Control-B).

Finally, create the largest circle behind all the shapes.

creating the flower 2

Step 3

Now we need to create a new brush. Create a circle (Ellipse Tool (L) while holding down the Shift key). Using the Rectangle Tool (M), create a rectangle and cover the bottom half of the circle. We will use it as a cutter; therefore, the color of this rectangle is not important. Select both shapes and press the Minus Front button on the Pathfinder panel. This action leaves us with the semicircle shape.

creating the brush for the flower

Select the newly created semicircle and move it to the Brush panel. A new window will appear. Choose New Pattern Brush and press OK. In the second window that pops up, apply the options shown below. Please notice Colorization Method has to be None. Then press OK. Our brush is ready for use.

creating the brush for the flower 2

Step 4

Now choose the new brush and create a new circle behind everything. You will get petals around the circle. Expand this shape. Finally, make a larger copy of this expanded shape, and place it behind (Control-X, Control-B). Our flower for the pattern is ready!

creating the flower 2

3. How to Decorate the Main Shape

Step 1

Make two copies of the flower shape and place them inside the main shape of the paisley. Feel free to resize the flower shape. Just keep in mind to hold the Shift button to resize it evenly.

decorating the main paisley shape

Step 2

Now we will make a smaller copy of the main shape, but placed exactly in the middle. How to make it? While keeping the shape selected, go to Object > Path > Offset Path, and enter a negative number (between -4 and -10). You will get a smaller copy of the shape in front of the original one.

Next create another, smaller copy of this shape. Select the second copy and again, go to Object > Path > Offset Path, and enter a negative number. Change the line type of this smallest shape to Dashed Line.

And finally, make an even smaller copy of the main shape inside. For the smallest copy, delete the stroke color and set a dark grey fill color, as shown below. We are almost ready!

decorating the main paisley shape 2

Step 3

Let’s add some white circles on the dark grey shape.

decorating the main paisley shape 3

Step 4

In this step we will create another brush, which will be used for further modification of the main paisley shape. First we will create a shape, which will be used for this brush. Take a copy of the droplet-like shape created in the very first step. Be sure it is expanded.

Now we will cut away a part of this shape. For the cutter, create a rectangle with any fill and stroke color you want. Make the rectangle overlap with the droplet-like shape. While keeping these two shapes selected, press the Minus Front button on the Pathfinder panel. We will end up with the top part of the shape.

Remove the stroke color of this shape and add a dark grey fill color. Next, make a copy of this shape in front (Control-C, Control-F) and change the fill color of the front copy to white. Now, holding the Shift key, shrink it down from the top. Finally, make a new copy of the smaller white shape in front (Control-C, Control-F), and change its fill color to dark grey. Shrink it down from the top. You will end up with the shapes shown below.

creating the new brush for the paisley

Select this shape and move it to the Brush panel. In a new window, select New Pattern Brush and press OK. In the window that appears, apply the options shown below and hit OK. Now we have another brush!

creating the new brush for the paisley 2

Step 5

Apply the new brush to the largest shape. For this, you want to select the necessary shape and choose the brush you've created on the Brush panel.

applying the new brush to the paisley

4. How to Design the Paisley Pattern

Step 1

Group the main paisley shape (right-click > Group) and create many copies of it. Spread the copies over the entire artboard. Feel free to resize the paisley.

designing the paisley pattern

Step 2

Some empty spaces can be filled with copies of flowers, which are used inside the main shape.

designing the paisley pattern 2

Step 3

Also, you can make another type of flowers. Just take two details from the flowers you used in the pattern and add a fill color for the petals.

designing the paisley pattern 3

Spread these flowers on the pattern.

designing the paisley pattern 4

Step 4

To finalize our pattern, create a square with no fill and no stroke color on top of the whole pattern. For this, hit the Rectangle Tool (M) and click on your artboard. Once the dialogue window pops up, enter 850 px Width and Height, and then click OK

To make the square exactly in the middle of the artboard, look at the Align panel (Window > Align), and make sure that in the pop-up menu, Align To: Align to Artboard is checked. Select the square and press the Horizontal Align Center and Vertical Align Center buttons on the Align panel. Next, select the whole pattern together with the top square (Control-A) and go to Object > Clipping Mask > Make (Control-7). This action will hide all parts of the pattern that are beyond the square.

Now our pattern has a transparent background. Just create a square with a white fill color (850 × 850 px), align it to the artboard, and place it behind the pattern (Control-X, Control-B). You’re done!

applying the Clipping Mask to the paisley pattern

A Piece of the Soul

Congratulations! Now you know how to create the famous paisley pattern in Adobe Illustrator. I hope you learned some new things that you can use for more patterns. I would be happy to see your version of paisley patterns. Just don’t hesitate to use your creativity and imagination. 

final image

If you like coloring books, please have a look at my first creation:  

If you would like to purchase it, you can do it on Amazon. Good luck, and I would be happy to see you again!

Looking for something to help kick start your next project?
Envato Market has a range of items for sale to help get you started.