Create a Tea Party Seamless Pattern From a Sketch in Adobe Illustrator

Final product image
What You'll Be Creating

In this tutorial you will learn how to make a detailed seamless pattern without using a graphic tablet. Arm yourself with your paper sketchbook and a pen or an ink liner to create a set of elements for your seamless pattern. Then we'll go through the process of turning our image into vector shapes, coloring them in Adobe Illustrator, and combining them into a colorful and whimsical pattern. Let's get started!
To start with, you need a doodle with a set of elements, which we'll combine into a pattern. You can use my image below, or create your own with a pen or ink or whatever medium you prefer. If you've created your own, scan it carefully or take a photo, increasing the contrast and brightness in order to make the lines darker and the background clean and white. In this tutorial we'll stick to a tea party topic and use such elements as teacups, teapots, muffins, berries, and all sorts of sweet things.

make a sketch on paper

As soon as you prepare your sketch, head to Adobe Illustrator, create a New Filewith 600 x 600 px size, and File > Place your sketch onto the Artboard. You will see theImage control panel above, containing some information about the placed image along with the Image Trace button. Go ahead and click it to vectorize your image.

Place your sketch onto the Artboard

You can choose the Preset of tracing. These presets help to achieve a better result depending on the type of picture: whether it is a complex illustration, a colorful photo, or a simple piece of line art. Let's select the Shades of Gray style for our doodle.

select the Shades of Gray preset

Click the Image Trace panel icon, which you can find in the same control panel next to the Presets, to reveal the Image Trace options window. Let's change the Mode toBlack and White and set the Threshold value to 150, leaving all other options as default. This way we are making the lines thicker and smoother.

reveal the Image Trace options window

If you are happy with the result, go on and press the Expand button, turning the traced image into separate vector objects.

press the Expand button

Right-click and Ungroup the objects. You can select the white piece of background by clicking with the Direct Selection Tool (A) on a blank space somewhere between the objects, and delete it.

Right mouse click and Ungroup the objects

Let's take the Rectangle Tool (M) and add a yellow square of 600 x 600 px size andSend it to Back (Control-Shift-[), placing it behind all other objects. This way we can detach the objects from a white Artboard to see them more clearly.

add a yellow square background

As you'll notice, every object now consists of separate white shapes on a black background.

every object consists of separate shapes

We need to modify the items, but first let's group each of them. Now you can just select the parts of the grouped object with the Direct Selection Tool (A) and change their Fillcolor to your liking. However, let's try another technique.

We need to turn the object into a compound path (Object > Compound Path > Make). This way we turn our group of elements into a single object with a black outline.

turn the object into a Compound path

Turn other objects into compound paths as well. You can do this more quickly by just selecting an object, right-clicking it, and applying Make Compound Path from the context menu.

apply Make Compound Path from the context menu 1

After you turn the object into a compound path, the white shapes disappear as well.

apply Make Compound Path from the context menu 2

Some unneeded shapes may appear after you've made compound paths, for example the black shapes shown in the screenshot below. Let's get rid of them by taking theEraser Tool (Shift-E) and erasing the part connecting the unneeded shape with the outline. Once you've divided these pieces, select the black shape with the Direct Selection Tool (A) and delete it.

erase the unneeded parts

Let's enliven our objects by adding color! Select the shape and go to Object > Live Paint > Make.

create a Live paint group

We're going to use this yummy palette for our pattern. You can pick the colors directly from here with the Eyedropper Tool (I).

color palette

Select the object, pick the color, and use the Live Paint Bucket Tool (K) to apply colors. Move the mouse cursor over the shape you want to fill, and click when the red outline appears, thus applying a new color. You can recolor the outline of the object as well as filling its inner parts.

color the object with Live Paint Bucket Tool 1

Use darker and lighter shades to make the objects more intricate and vary the color of the outline to add softness. Let's also change the background color of our future pattern from yellow to beige to make it more vintage.

color the object with Live Paint Bucket Tool 2

Move to the next object—the cupcake—and make it look tasty and attractive. Use white for the outline to increase the brightness.

color the object with Live Paint Bucket Tool 3

Fill other objects with colors from our palette as well.

color the object with Live Paint Bucket Tool 4

Here is what we have at this step—all our doodles are turned into scalable vector objects and colored.

color the object with Live Paint Bucket Tool 5

Let's start forming the pattern by placing the teacup in the top left corner of our Artboard.

place the teacup in the top left corner of our Artboard

To make the pattern seamless, we need to duplicate the objects, which cross the sides of the Artboard and move them at the equal distance, according to the width and height of the background. Let's see how it works in the example below. 
Select the cup and press the Enter key to call out the pop-up Move options window. Set the Horizontal Position to 600 px (which equals the width of our background and Artboard) and click the Copy button to duplicate the cup and move it to the top right corner of the Artboard. 
Select the first cup again, press Enter, and this time set the Vertical Position to600 px, moving the cup copy to the bottom left corner. Repeat these actions once again with the lower cup to create another copy in the bottom right. All in all there should be four cups, crossing all four sides of the Artboard.

move the cup and create copies

Put a teapot in the center of the canvas and rotate it slightly. You don't need to duplicate and move it, as it doesn't cross any boundaries.

add a teapot

Add more objects, crossing the sides of the Artboard, and create the appropriate copies.

add more objects and create copies

Add smaller details like leaves and berries, making copies and varying their size in order to fill the blank spaces among the main objects of the composition.

add smaller details

Take the outlines of our teapot and a branch of berries and put them between the background and other objects, filling the outline with white color and lowering theOpacity to 50%. This way we add more depth to the pattern, making it more spacious.

add outlined shapes

Now that we are satisfied with the position of the objects, let's find out how to turn our pattern into a swatch and apply it to various shapes. First of all, we need to set the boundaries of our pattern. In order to do this, copy the square background and place it under all other objects by pressing Control-Shift-[. Set the Fill and Stroke color of this square to none, creating an invisible empty frame. Now the unneeded elements outside the frame will remain invisible when you turn it into a swatch.

set the boundaries of the pattern

Select everything (Control-A) and drag the objects to the Swatches panel (Window > Swatches).

drag the objects to the Swatches panel

Now we can create any shape—for example a rectangle with the Rectangle Tool (M)—and apply our pattern by clicking it in the Swatches panel. Use the Scale Tool (S) to change the scale of your pattern, and don't forget to tick the Transform Pattern checkbox and uncheck the other Options boxes.

Use the Scale Tool S to change the scale of your pattern

Congratulations, you did a great job, turning your hand-drawn doodles into an elegant, whimsical pattern! You can change the colors and rearrange the objects to your liking, giving the artwork a new look. I hope you've discovered some useful new tips and tricks, and that you'll be back for more. Good luck!

final result pattern


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