How to Create a Children's Flat Animal Pattern in Adobe Illustrator

Final product image
What You'll Be Creating

In this tutorial we'll create a set of flat animals made from simple shapes in Adobe Illustrator CC. Using rectangles, triangles, circles, Live Corners, and a few squiggly lines, we'll create a whole zoo of creatures ready for the Pattern Options panel and various printed products. Let's get going!
Create a New Document in Adobe Illustrator CC. Use the Rectangle Tool (M) to draw a bright yellow rectangle. Then draw a long, narrow, vertical rectangle on the rightmost side of the first rectangle. For the giraffe's head, draw a small rectangle at the top of the long neck.

Draw a giraffe from a series of rectangles

Draw four identical rectangles to form the giraffe's little legs. Look at them go! Select all four legs, and in the Align panel, hit Vertical Align Bottom so they all line up on their bottom edges.

Draw and align the legs

Select the head rectangle. With the Direct Selection Tool (A), select the lower right anchor point and pull the Live Corner toward the center to round it out. Select the upper right anchor point and pull the Live Corner in slightly to give that corner a bit of a rounded edge.
Round out the upper left corner of the body rectangle in the same manner as we did with the head: by pulling the Live Corner of that anchor point inward.

Use live corners to round out the rectangles

Note how the leftmost leg sticks out of the body. Select the body rectangle and the left legs. Using the Shape Builder Tool (Shift-M), select the non-intersecting portion of the leftmost leg. Deselect and delete that non-intersecting object so the giraffe has a smooth back.

Use the shape builder tool to delete portions of objects

The giraffe's horns are created from two small rectangles and two circles drawn with the Ellipse Tool (L). Place them on the upper left of the giraffe's head.

Add horns to the giraffes head

Add a small tail with the Rectangle Tool to the lower left of the giraffe's body. Uniteall of the yellow objects in the Pathfinder panel.
Use the Ellipse Tool to draw a brown ellipse for the eye. Then draw a series of circles all over the giraffe's body and neck to form a simple pattern. Use the Shape Builder Tool to delete non-intersecting portions of the circles from the giraffe's body, as we did with the leg earlier in this tutorial. Group (Control-G) all components together once your pattern is complete.

Add a quick and easy circle pattern to the giraffe

Like the giraffe, the whale starts with a rectangle. Draw a large blue rectangle with the Rectangle ToolDirect Select the lower left anchor point of the rectangle and pull the Live Corner inward to round out the left corner of the rectangle.

Start by drawing the whales body

For the tail, draw a triangle either with the Pen Tool (P) or the Polygon Tool. Pull the lower left anchor point's Live Corner inward. Copy (Control-C)Paste (Control-V), and Rotate (R) the copy to the left. Place both tail pieces at the top right of the whale's body.

Draw a triangle for the tail pieces

For the whale's throat, draw a large light blue circle overlapping the left side of the whale's body. Use the Shape Builder Tool to delete the non-intersecting portion of the circle from the body. I've rounded out the lower right corner of the whale's rectangular body as well.

A circle helps form the throat of the whale

For the vertical grooves on the whale's throat, I used the Pen Tool to draw a simple curved path and set the stroke width to 2–5 pt (it depends on your object size and how thick you want the grooves to be) in the Stroke panel. Copy and Paste the stroked lines and place them over the whale's throat (as seen below).
Expand the strokes under Object and then use the Shape Builder Tool to delete the non-intersecting portions of the expanded shapes so that you're left with curved stripes on the whale's throat.

Draw curved lines for the whales throat grooves

Draw several light blue circles for the water shooting from the whale's spout. Unitethem in the Pathfinder panel. Then draw three or four thin vertical rectangles connecting the whale's body to the water spout cloud.
Draw a dark-brown ellipse for the whale's eye, a rounded triangle (drawn like the tail fins) for the whale's fin, and change the fill color of the throat grooves to the same blue as the whale's body to finish off the design. Group everything together.

Add details to complete the whales design

Start with a rectangle in orange, similar to the one seen below, drawn with the Rectangle Tool. Use the Direct Selection Tool to select both of the bottom anchor points and pull the Live Corners inward to round out the bottom of the tiger's head.

Start with the tigers head

We'll create the tiger's ear in the same manner as its head (a rounded rectangle), but the top edge is also rounded a bit so there aren't any hard edges. Rotate the ear slightly and place it on one of the top corners of the head. Repeat for the other side. Then draw a bright pink rectangle for the nose, which we'll continue working on in the next step.

Draw two cute rounded ears

The insides of the tiger's ears are rounded rectangles with bright pink as the fill color. You can decide whether you want a rounded rectangle or rounded triangle for the nose. I chose a rounded triangle.
Draw two dark-brown ellipses for the eyes and draw an upside-down stroked "V"‑shaped path for the mouth. Set the stroke's corners and caps to Rounded in the Stroke panel.

Add facial features to the tiger

Draw a series of triangles around the tiger's head for its stripes. As with the giraffe's spot pattern, use the Shape Builder Tool to delete the non-intersecting portions of the triangles and then Group all of the tiger's components together.

Triangles make great gier stripes

Copy and Paste the tiger. Delete the stripes and change the orange fill color to bright yellow. I also changed the eye shape to round circles rather than the ellipses of the tiger, just to give these designs some additional variation.

Recolor the tiger to create the lion

For the lion's mane, draw an orange circle over most of the lion's face (so you get a general idea of size). Go to Effect > Distort & Transform > Zig Zag and enter the following options (or ones that give you a similar effect):
  • Size: 0.1 in
  • Absolute
  • Ridges per Segment: 11
  • Points: Corner

Draw a zig-zagged mane

Expand the mane, resize as needed, and place behind the lion's head. Grouptogether all of your lion components.

Complete your lion design

Starting with the head of the anteater, draw a triangle. Select the top and left anchor points, one by one, pulling their Live Corners toward the center to round out those corners of the triangle.

Draw a triangular head

For the anteater's little ears, draw two small triangles and round out both of the rightmost corners for each. Place two of the ears at the top of the anteater's head.

Little triangles form the ears

The body and tail of the anteater are two rectangles. Round out the lower left corner of the body rectangle and the lower right corner of the tail rectangle. Use the Pen Tool or the Pencil Tool (N) to draw a squiggly, pink tongue path. Make sure caps and corners are set to Rounded in the Stroke panel.

Draw the body of the anteater

Little rectangles form the legs of the anteater, a cream-colored ellipse forms the eye, and a rounded rectangle forms the design on the anteater's back. Group your anteater components together.

Add details to complete the anteater

Draw a green rectangle and pull the Live Corners inward to create the top of the turtle's shell. Select the shape and resize the bottom of the rounded rectangle so it's more of a half circle.
The turtle's head is a rectangle with the left side rounded and placed beneath the shell object. The tail is a triangle and the legs are four little rectangles. Set the fill color of the shell to a darker green than the head, tail, and legs.

Create a turtle from basic shapes

Use the Polygon Tool to draw a simple pattern of connected hexagons. I found it easiest to Copy and Paste sections of the hexagons to form a larger pattern. Vary the shades and tones of green used. Group all of the hexagons together. Place the shell shape over the hexagons and Make a Clipping Mask (Control-7).

Create a hexagon patterned turtle shell

Draw a small brown ellipse for the turtle's eye and Group together all of the turtle components.

Complete the turtle

The final animal of our set is a bright red-orange octopus. As we've done before, start with a rectangle. This one should be vertical. Select the top two corner anchor points with the Direct Selection Tool and pull the Live Corners inward to completely round out the top of the rectangle.

Round out the top of the rectangle shape

Using the Pen Tool, draw a squiggly line going from the bottom of the octopus to the left. Set the stroke to a thick weight with Rounded corners and caps in the Strokepanel. Continue drawing tentacles in this manner.

Draw tentacles with the pen tool

Draw four tentacles on the left side. Expand the strokes, Group them together, and then Copy and Paste the tentacles for the right side. Reflect them over a Vertical Axis and place them on the right side of the octopus. I added brown ellipses for eyes and some light red circles for texture in the upper left of the octopus's body. Group everything together.

Reflect tentacles over a vertical axis

Open the Libraries panel and hit Create New Library under options. Select and drag each animal group into the library and give your new library a name like "animals". This will make it easy to create your pattern.

Drag objects into the library panel

Place three of your animals in a small arrangement like the one seen below. Resizeand Rotate elements as needed.

Start your pattern composition

Select all three of the animal objects and open the Pattern Options panel. Hit Make Pattern in the panel's options. Select Brick by Column as the Tile Type. With the Libraries panel also open, drag the other animal elements into the pattern, overlapping the tile's boundaries so you're creating a seamless pattern tile. 
RotateResize, and rearrange elements as needed. Hit Done when you're satisfied with your pattern. You'll find the newly created pattern ready to use in the Swatchespanel.

Create the simple animal pattern

Apply your pattern to a large rectangle over your Artboard and save for web and print. What other fantastic animals can you create from simple, basic shapes? What other color schemes can you come up with for these animals? Share your creations in the comment section below!
For similar pattern tutorials, check out these:

Final pattern design


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