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Mastering Vector Design: How to Create Illustrator Patterns

Article Description

David Karlins dispels some of the myths about using patterns in Adobe Illustrator. With some very simple techniques, you can create and use fascinating patterns for strokes and fills.

Creating and Saving a Custom Swatches Library

When you save an Illustrator file, you also save all swatches in the Swatches panel. So, if you create custom pattern fills, you can save them by dragging them into the Swatches panel before saving your AI file.

Alternatively, you can save a Swatch panel as an AI file by itself. This is a great way to build a library of your favorite pattern fills. Do this by choosing Save Swatches from the Swatch Libraries menu (see Figure 8).

Figure 8

Figure 8 Saving a Swatch panel full of pattern fills.

To create a new Swatches panel to store pattern swatches, follow these steps:

  1. Select all the swatches in your current Swatches panel that you don’t want (Shift-click to select a bunch at a time) and drag them onto the Delete Swatch icon on the bottom of the Swatches panel.
  2. Add the swatches you want in your custom panel.
  3. Choose Save Swatch Library as AI from the Swatches panel menu.

After you save a set of pattern fills as a swatch library, you can access those custom pattern fills for use with other Illustrator projects. To do this, choose Window > Swatch Library > Other Libraries and navigate to the Illustrator file with the Swatches panel you want to access. You don’t need to open the Illustrator file; you can simply access just the Swatch library of that Illustrator file.

You may find that your Swatches panel gets full of all kinds of swatches—including colors, color groups (in CS3), or gradients. You can filter the set of displayed swatches to display only pattern fills (see Figure 9).

Figure 9

Figure 9 Filtering the Swatches panel to display just pattern fills.

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