If you have ever tried to make a pattern in Illustrator manually, you know how hard it is to make it perfect, if not impossible. Using the Pattern Options Panel you can create any pattern seamlessly and perfectly every time. However, it is not straight forward or intuitive so here is a quick tutorial in making Patterns work for you.
First step in making a pattern is creating artwork that you want to be the basis of you pattern. Any fills, strokes, styles and colors will work.
Open the Pattern Options Panel from the Window Menu. It will be grayed out and it looks like you cannot do anything with it.
Select your artwork, Group it to make things easier later, and click on the Pattern Option Cheese Grater to get the fly out menu. Click the Make Pattern option.
This will SAVE the pattern to the Swatches Panel even before you did anything. Yes, it is confusing, but this is not a linear process. Click OK and move along.
The Pattern Options Panel will then show the artwork to be set up in the style of pattern you want.
You will see the content on screen with a center area that contains your editable original artwork. The area around this will be the repeated pattern that is not editable. It will be dimmed back to show you how the pattern repeats. You can set the Dim copies to any percentage you want at the bottom of the Pattern Options Panel.
The artwork inside the edit space can be copied, changed, rotated, edited or remove to create the pattern. The dim areas around will reflect any and all changes made to the artwork.
The layout of the Pattern can be changed by choosing the Tile Type drop down menu. Once you choose an option, you will get further options shown in the next step.
The Tile Type option will then allow different offsets to become available. Choose the type of offset you want and the pattern will update accordingly.
If you want to see more or less repeats on the screen, choose the Copies drop down menu to change the repeat. This is for you visually and does not effect the final Pattern, they repeat into infinity regardless of how many copies you choose here.
Once you are done with your pattern options and layout, click the DONE button at the upper left of your screen. The Pattern was saved when it was created (doesn't make sense but that is how it is) so no need to click Saved a Copy unless you want TWO patterns in your Swatch Panel... which you don't!
To see how your pattern works, create a shape and use the Swatch Panel to choose the new Pattern Fill.
If you want to Edit your pattern after the fact, select the shape with the pattern fill, choose the Edit Pattern from the Pattern Options Cheese Grater.
Once you are done with your pattern editing click the DONE button at the upper left of your screen. The Pattern was saved when it was created so do not click Saved a Copy.
Patterns show in the swatch panel for further use.
One frustrating item with Patterns is that they do NOT scale with the shape by default. To scale the pattern when you scale an object, open the Transform Panel, click on the Cheese Grater and Choose Transform BOTH if you want both the Object and the Pattern to scale together.
You can edit the pattern anytime through the Pattern Options Panel.
If you edit the Pattern and want to keep the original Pattern as well, then Choose the Save a Copy to get your new copy saved to the Swatches Panel.
When you save a copy of the pattern, both will appear in the Swatches panel for use.
Two hidden tricks in the Swatches Panel!! 1. If you select your shape, click ONCE on the fill in the swatch panel it will scale the Pattern back to 100% if you have scaled it. 2. Double click on the Pattern in the swatch panel will open the Pattern Options Panel to edit the pattern.