Leapin' Lizards! Create a Chameleon Pattern in Adobe Illustrator

Final product image
What You'll Be Creating

Leapin' Lizards! Open up Adobe Illustrator and join me in creating a custom chameleon pattern as we put shape building, custom brushes, and textures to great use. This tutorial uses Live Corners and the Pattern Options panel, which you'll find in versions CS6 or higher, but it can be adapted to earlier versions of the program as well.
Create a New Document and use the Rectangle Tool (M) to draw a green square. With the Direct Selection Tool (A) select the top left corner of the square and pull its Live Corner toward the center, rounding it out completely. Then, select and pull the Live Corner of the lower right corner slightly (if you so choose).

Use a square to create the chameleons head

Using the Ellipse Tool (L), draw a bright green circle for the eye with a smaller, dark green circle in its center. You can layer multiple circles in different colors if you wish. Chameleon eyes look pretty cool and contain some fantastic patterns.

Use circles to draw the basic eye shape

For the body, draw a larger rectangle and select the top two anchor points with the Direct Selection Tool so you can once again pull the Live Corners toward the center, rounding out the top completely. 
Alternatively, you can also define each corner's radius in the Transform panel. Another alternate method is to cut a circle in half using the Pathfinder panel.

Draw a half circle for the chameleons body

For the tail, use the Spiral Tool to create a Symmetrical Spiral with the following attributes:
  • Radius: 0.5936 inches (this may vary according to your document size and other elements)
  • Decay: 50%
  • Segments: 10
Draw the spiral on the lower right of the chameleon's body. Set the Fill color to Nulland the Stroke color to the same color as the body.

Draw a spiral to create the chameleons tail

Using the Width Tool (Shift-W), widen the tail at the top, where it connects to the body, and narrow it a bit at its end. In the Stroke panel, set the Caps and Cornersto RoundedExpand the tail shape under Object.

Use the width tool to widen the chameleons tail

Let's draw some small feet! Overlap a larger circle with a smaller circle and hit Minus Front in the Pathfinder panel in order to create a thin crescent shape. Draw a small rectangle for the leg, and repeat for a second foot. Place both legs on the bottom of the chameleon's body as seen below.

Draw a foot and leg with a crescent shape

Let's create a simple custom Scatter Brush. Draw a triangle either with the Pen Tool (P) or the Polygon Tool. Round the corners out slightly. Select the triangle and in the Brushes panel create a New Scatter Brush. This one is simple and keeps the default settings seen below. Make sure to set the Rotation Relative to Path.

create a custom scatter brush

Using the Paintbrush Tool (B) draw a curved line that follows the contour of the chameleon's body. Select the newly created Scatter Brush from the Brushes panel.

Use the brush to create spikes on the chameleons back

In the Brushes panel, go to Open Brush Library > Artistic > Artistic_ChalkCharcoalPencil. Select the Charcoal - Pencil brush as seen below, and apply it as the stroke to your chameleon's shapes. Under Object hit Expand Appearance and recolor the stroke that's not an object so it matches the base object (in this case the green of the head).

Use charcoal brushes to create a rough edge around your objects

Repeat the previous step on the rest of the chameleon's object components to give it a rough, gouache-like look. Group (Control-G) together all of your chameleon components.

Group together your chameleon components after applying the charcoal brush to their edges

Draw small circles and other polygons to create additional Scatter Brushes. Use these to create additional designs on the chameleon's skin. For the brush I used in my final product, I set the Spacing to a range of 82% to 298% and the Rotation Relative to Path

Create additional scatter brushes to create patterns and texture on the chameleons

Draw lines, curves and other shapes with your newly made Scatter Brushes to create patterns and textures on the chameleon's skin. You can also layer circles on the chameleon's eye to mimic some of the textures found in nature. How intricately you design your chameleon is up to you.

Add shapes and textures to your chameleon design

CopyPaste, and Rotate a couple instances of chameleons. You can either manually change the colors of each or follow the next step to recolor each element of your pattern.

Paste multiple instances of your lizards

Select one of your lizards and go to Edit > Edit Colors > Recolor Artwork. You can then click on each of the current colors and change its hue in the drop-down menu that pops up. This allows you to quickly and easily create a whole spectrum of chameleons for your pattern.

Using recolor artwork allows you to change colors more easily

Here's the final placement of my lizards and the color scheme that I'll be using for my pattern.

Heres my final lizards placement and color scheme that Ill be using for my pattern

In the Pattern Options panel, create a New Pattern. Choose Brick by Column for the Tile Type. My pattern needs some additional elements, however, in order to fill in the empty spaces within the pattern.

Draw leaf shapes with the Pen Tool, and apply the same charcoal texture to them that we used for the lizards. Paste multiple instances of them around your pattern. Then hit Done in order to save your pattern within the Swatches panel. You can also Double-Click on your pattern in the Swatches panel in order to edit it again at any time, as well as save and edit copies for a variety of fun lizard patterns without having to recreate everything from scratch.

Draw Copy and Paste multiple instances of leaves around your pattern

For an additional texture, draw a large rectangle over your Artboard and go to Effect > Sketch > Note Paper, applying the following attributes:
  • Image Balance: 24
  • Graininess: 13
  • Relief: 14
Hit OK, and then draw another rectangle below the textured one and fill it with your new pattern. Set the textured rectangle to Multiply in the Transparency panel in order to finish off your pattern design. This, of course, is an entirely optional step.

apply a texture to the overall pattern design

You come and go, you come and go, oooh! Oh we're done! Fantastic job. In this tutorial we created our own chameleon from basic shapes and used custom and default brushes in order to add patterns and textures to it. Then, we customized multiple iterations of it with the Recolor Artwork panel. Finally, we created a simple repeated pattern from our designs, ready for print and web publication.
What sort of fantastic creations can you make with these techniques? Share your chameleons and other lizard friends in the comment section below!

the final chameleon design


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