How to Make a Pattern Swatch in Adobe Illustrator

Just created a series of patterns and want to make them a swatch for future use? Besides adding them to the Swatches, you need to save them too. 

Making a pattern swatch is basically the same as making a color palette. Once you’ve created the patterns and added them to the Swatches panel, you’ll need to save the swatches to use in other documents.   

In this tutorial, you’ll learn how to create and save a pattern swatch in Adobe Illustrator. The first step is to get the patterns ready for the pattern swatch. 

If you haven’t created your patterns yet, here’s a quick guide on making patterns in Adobe Illustrator. 

Note: All screenshots from this tutorial are taken from Adobe Illustrator CC 2022 Mac version. Windows or other versions can look different. 

How to Create a Pattern in Adobe Illustrator 

You can make a pattern from an image or simply a shape. Basically, you need to create a shape, and then add it to the Swatches panel. 

So I’ll break the process into two steps – creating shapes and making a pattern from the shapes, in other words, adding a pattern to the Swatches. 

Step 1: Create Shapes

For example, let’s make the easiest dotted pattern swatch with different dotted patterns like this. 

Create the shapes for the pattern. For example, I created these shapes for the patterns above. 

The next step is to add these shapes to the Swatches panel. 

Step 2: Add a Pattern to the Swatches Panel

After making the shapes, you can directly drag the pattern to Swatches or you can do it from the overhead menu Object > Pattern > Make

For example, let’s start with the simple dotted pattern. 

Select the circle, and go to Object > Pattern > Make. You’ll see a Pattern Options dialog box where you can adjust the pattern settings. 

As you can see, the dots are too close together, so you can adjust the pattern size and distance by scaling the circle within the blue box. 

Better? You can change the color as well. 

Click Done once you finish editing the pattern and it’ll show on the Swatches panel.  

Note: the pattern shows the object you select, so make sure you select all objects you want to appear on the pattern. For example, now we’re making the third pattern on the row, so select both the circle and the wavy line.

Repeat the same steps to add the rest of the patterns to the Swatches. Feel free to explore the Tile Type. 

Once you’ve added all the patterns to the Swatches, you can make a pattern swatch. 

How to Make a Pattern Swatch in Adobe Illustrator

The patterns you added to the Swatches panel usually show after the color palettes. 

Unlike colors, you cannot group patterns in a folder like this. 

However, you can make a pattern swatch without the color palettes in front. All you have to do is delete the colors and leave only the patterns on the Swatches panel. 

Here are the steps. 

Step 1: Select the colors on the Swatches panel from white to the last color before the patterns, and click on the Delete Swatch button. You can’t delete the first two (None and Registration). 

If you have other color groups below the patterns like I do here, select and delete them as well. 

Your Swatches should look something like this. 

When you add patterns to the Swatches panel without saving them, you won’t be able to see or use the pattern swatch in another document. So if you want to use the pattern swatch you just made, you need to save the patterns

Step 2: Click on the Swatch Libraries menu and choose the first option Save Swatches.

Step 3: Name the pattern swatch and click Save

That’s it! You’ve made your custom pattern swatch in Adobe Illustrator. 

You can find the pattern swatch you create from the Swatches Libraries menu > User Defined

Tip: User Defined is where you find all custom swatches (color or pattern).

Try out your new pattern swatch! 

Bonus Tip

Whenever you feel like editing the patterns, you can double-click on the pattern and it’ll open the Pattern Options dialog box. However, there are a couple of things you can’t achieve from the options settings. 

For example, Sometimes you might find the pattern too big or too small when you apply it to objects. Here’s a quick tip to scale patterns. 

As you can see the pattern is quite big here. 

If you want to scale the pattern down a bit, you can right-click on the object and choose Transform > Scale

From the Scale option, you can make the pattern smaller by lowering the percentage of the Uniform option. Make sure to check the Transform Patterns option only, and click OK

Your pattern should look smaller now. 

Conclusion

Making a pattern swatch in Adobe Illustrator is basically deleting the color swatch and saving the patterns you make. If you don’t save the patterns, you won’t be able to use them in other documents. So make sure you save the patterns. 

About June Escalada
Graduated from Creative Advertising major, worked more than eight years as a graphic designer focusing in branding and Illustration. Yes, Adobe Illustrator is my best friend and I’m passionate about art and design.

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