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Design Surface Patterns From Scratch

Lesson 23 of 31

Complex Cluster Patterns - Part 1

Bonnie Christine

Design Surface Patterns From Scratch

Bonnie Christine

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Lesson Info

23. Complex Cluster Patterns - Part 1

Lesson Info

Complex Cluster Patterns - Part 1

This looks like a bunch of florals which it is but it is also based around tea. So I wanted to do this tea plant, and I thought about maybe doing tea cups, and I felt like that was cute but maybe a little too predictable. So I decided to look up some of the favorite ingredients in my tea, and illustrated those yesterday. So I'm not gonna remember all of them but I think there's like some bee balm, and some chamomile. These little guys I drew from how the end of a cinnamon stick looks like. These are cardamom pods. This is like cloves. This, let's see, these are like little my interpretation of little like lemon zest peels or something like that. So we're just gonna have fun building this giant floral piece. What the look that I'm going for is really feminine and delicate, and I want it kind of whimsical. So I'm gonna do clusters of florals, and see where it goes, okay. So to do this, I am not gonna be really concerned with the size of my repeat at this point. I'm just gonna throw some ...

background color on my Artboard. So I grab the Rectangle tool, and draw kind of a big rectangle. I just want to give it a really neutral background color. Just something to warm up the white. So I'll just start pouring in here some of these floral elements. I'm gonna start with these flowers down here I think. I grabbed these off of chamomile plant, and they're behind. I'm gonna just leave them there. What I need to do is take my background all the way to the back. So I'll just select it, right click and send it to the back. So then I can kind of place these around. I'm just gonna build this kind of organically. We'll see where it takes us. So I can grab this guy, and the Rotate tool is what I used the most as I do this. It's just R on your keyboard. If you hold, I don't even hold the Shift key down 'cause I just want pure flexibility in how I'm rotating items. So this little guy might come up here. If it's okay with you guys, it's hard to see that piece of art right there 'cause of all the anchor points. I'm just gonna hide my edges. I do Command + H to hide my edges. I know I have that selected but it's gonna make my job of building this pattern a little easier if I can really see what it is that I am dragging around so. Can still tell I have it selected because it's that green color when I move it so. I'm gonna grab the leaf, and maybe they are part of that little flower. If I zoom in, you can see what this really looks like. So I illustrated those separate from each other but I kind of like how they look combined right there. Command + Zero takes me back out to my Artboard. So this is the fun part in my opinion. You just kind of get to play with all those elements that you have made so far. Rotating them around. The Reflect tool is also your best friend when you do this because if you need to change something around, all you have to do is hit O, and reflect it. So I'm gonna build in some leaves over here, and I think what I want to do is just remove the stem from this little cluster of leaves so that I can just have them peeking out from these flowers. So to do that any number of ways but these items, I'll bring my edges back. These items are grouped. So I might enter into Isolation mode just to delete that stem. You could also grab the Eraser, and delete it but if I double click here, then I can grab this single stem, and delete it like that. Double click on your Artboard anywhere to return to it. Yeah, those are still grouped, okay. So I like where this is going. Just want it to look really flowy. I think I even like the color palette but we're gonna be working with color palettes a little later, and see where those take us to. So the first thing I want to do is just kind of get my clusters in mind. Then we'll work on turning this into a repeating pattern. Oops, gonna zoom in, and grab these cardamom pods. Maybe put them down here. So I think that the average person will probably not look at this, and realize that it's based around tea. But I like that. I like to really encourage people to dig deep behind the work that I've put out, and really have to figure out where I was going with it, and what my inspiration was for. Hey Bonnie, we have a question come up from Tedeca. They wanted to know, they're questioning about the Pattern Make function in Illustrator. They want to know if you ever use that. They said that it is something that is available in CS6. Is this something that you ever use? It is, I knew that I was gonna get that question because Illustrator has a Pattern Making function, and I don't prefer to use it. I have used it, and I find that I just don't get enough control over what I really am wanting to do. So I might be doing this a little old school still but it's my favorite way to do it. I like to do it because it gives me control. I'm used to seeing the patterns built in this way. It's what I do in my personal design work. So if you're interested in learning about the, yes? Actually just a question. I noticed that what you've done is you have a large variety of elements that you're using, and you're really not using any of them a second time. Right. Is that typical for you? And then related to that is how many elements do you typically use in a design or pattern that you're working with? Yeah, that's a great question. So we did most of these yesterday. I illustrated these teal elements, and these flowers, the leaves, and this little guy. You might not recognize them 'cause I recolored them but I did that one. So it just depends on the design work. I like to work with a lot of different elements. So kind of talk about this a little bit in session one but I don't think necessarily everybody works in this way but I like to work in a kind of a design cycle. I would like to work in stages. So what I do is spend some time thinking about the collection, and what direction I want to take it in. Then I spend time sketching, and sometimes this is a week. Sometimes it's three or four months of sketching. Then I'd like to batch scan everything in, and illustrate all of my elements. This is the part I'm not sure that anybody else does. I don't know but I like to illustrate all of my elements in that way. I've separated them out today for what I know I want to put in, which elements, but a lot of times I'll have this giant document of all these illustrations. It is like just a playground for me to be able to grab elements, and work with that way. Now I sometimes do reuse elements. So I will be showing a little later in segment two a couple of my prints, and I'll point out to you which ones I have used one flower in the whole thing. I think it's really hard to tell because by reflecting it, and rotating it, and scaling it, it really gives it a ton of different feel or flow. It doesn't look like they're repetition of a single flower. Then for another print, I'm gonna kind of steal some of these flowers to use them too. So I don't think there's anything wrong with that. I think if anything, it really brings harmony to your collection because some of the items are similar or the same. You can really bring, make them dynamic by changing their colors, and their scale, their rotation, and reflection. So it just depends on the look you're going for. I got carried away with these tea ingredients so I have tons of illustrations to work from. So I don't think that I'm gonna be replicating any of them for this piece but we'll see. So also if you want to do the Illustrator Pattern Making, there's tons of information out there for you too. You can do either but I prefer doing it this way. It also makes setting up my files for clients easiest. Okay, so we are getting close to this first cluster. I think maybe I want to add something over here. I'm not sure if this is gonna do the trick but I'm gonna reflect it using the keyboard shortcut O. So I'm just gonna reflect this over itself, and see what it looks like if I have it coming out here. Not sure if that's exactly what I want but I'll leave it for now. I don't think it's bad. Then maybe one more of these. I think I am good. What I want to do is create kind of another one so that they can repeat together. So I'll start, gonna zoom in. I'll start with this flower, and increase its size a little bit. This is just a little like, I don't know where, what plant this came from. I can't remember but just a little bloom. This is star anise, my take on star anise. So this kind of cluster is gonna be a little smaller. Oops, used the wrong keyboard shortcut there. So I love adding elements like these leaves that just kind of give movement to the pattern. I believe somewhere along the line, I lost the two colors I was using in this. It's probably simplifying. I simplified too far. So I am gonna use the Direct Selection tool or the A, the White Arrow tool to just come in, and grab these kind of flip-overs of this. I might even want, that's a flip-over for the leaf, and maybe a couple of the sides, and change their colors just so it gives a little bit more contrast. So I'm not too worried about the placement of anything yet regarding my Artboard and my background. I just want to get the movement of these flower clusters somewhere I'm happy with. So it's so fun when you have illustrated just a bunch of stuff to come in, and play with the placement of them. Okay, and the other thing I really love to do, maybe I can use this leaf too. Now this one came from J-L-Y. They want to know why you put an additional rectangle in the back with no fill or line? So if you, hope you're watching. Let me go back to my triangle piece here. I'll just show you what you do if you don't do that. I'm gonna sneak back here. Here's my triangle with no stroke, and no fill. I'm just gonna delete that. I've got this triangle. The other thing that you should know is that now that I have all my borders perfectly replicated, you can kind of move this rectangle around. It's still gonna work as long as you don't move it too drastically but everything is still pouring over the edges at the same spot, okay. So if I just select all of these, and drag over to my Artboard, your pattern is gonna look something like that. So I don't know if I have the best explanation but for whatever reason that no stroke and no fill box, it defines the repeat of your pattern. So this is another problem that could happen if I am gonna replicate this triangle, put it in the back, and give it no stroke, and no fill. I'm gonna increase the size so that it's just not exact. Okay, you see it's just not exact, it's too tall. I can bring this over. It's gonna look something like that, okay. So if your two rectangles or squares are not identical, that's when you may get some of those white lines that show up in your work. That will not happen if all you do is copy and paste that background directly on the back, and then don't mess with it anymore or if you change the size of it, just delete the no-fill rectangle, and do that process again. Replicate it to the back. So that is Illustrator, that is our way of telling Illustrator exactly what we want this repeat defined as. I hope I explained that well. So I want to get my pattern back here. So I'll just copy and paste it to the back, give it no stroke, no fill. Drag it over to my panel here, and it's back to perfect. The other thing that you should know. I don't see any here but sometimes you will see a seam in your, right here, do you see that? There's like a seam in that triangle. It doesn't really exist. It's just an Illustrator. If that really exists, it would be more obvious. If you zoom in here, it should go away. It's still there. I think you can hardly see it there. You should know that if you see something like this, it is not really there. It is just Illustrator's seaming those patterns together. If you were really gonna have a line in your finished piece of work, it would be like at least one pixel wide. This is probably 0.01. It's like really, really tiny. So you'll see a definite seam if you're gonna have one. If you do the background like I'm teaching you to do it, you're not gonna have a seam. Yes? Would the seam, would you actually have two separate shapes? Like you be able to click on part of the triangle, and the other part of the triangle? No, that seam is right here. I'm not sure if this is exact triangle but those seams come in where Illustrator is marrying the repeat but they are just a kind of a glitch in the, not a glitch, but it's just how Illustrator is rendering them. That gives you just the kind of the visible seam. So if you're doing it incorrectly, would you have like two different shapes? Is it possible? I'll show you. So incorrectly would be if this triangle was one pixel off, okay. Let's look at what that would look like. Okay, here we go. That's what that looks like. Okay, so this is a full repeating pattern. So no shapes are broken but you can see that I have a one pixel line. If you see something that's this big, see this is such a good example. This is the seam of that triangle. You're good. This is the seam that I accidentally made. That will show up if you print or have fabric made or something like that. These will never show up. They don't even exist. It's just that they look like they exist. So I am gonna grab my rectangle, take it back one pixel so we're good. Okay, I'll jump back to my tea print. So the other thing that I love to do when I'm doing something intricate like this is have a collection of little bits of things that I can fill negative space with. So I have these cloves, these little in cinnamon stick doodads and these little swirly things. So I'm just gonna start bringing them over to fill in just a little bit of space. Can use my Arrow tool to really get that exact. Let's see, I think I'll put one of these down here. So what this does is just really add movement, movement to your pieces. You certainly don't have to have little bits to add in but I like to do it just to add some detail. We'll add a little circle, this guy. So I am rotating and reflecting really without even thinking about it. If you, your head is spinning a little bit, this is just what's gonna happen as you get more and more comfortable in Illustrator. You'll grab the Rotate tool, the Reflect tool, the Scale tool, and you'll just start really working with these illustrations to get them placed just the way that you want them to. So let's see. We have three more of these, which I really like. I think they're adding just a little bit of added texture. We will go with that. So the next thing I want to do, you know can't leave these leaves out. It's like the last thing. Let's find a place for them. How about maybe they belong with that flower right there? One other thing, let me take a look. This all looks good. I think like to illustrate this point, I wanna tuck this guy in behind this flower. So what I need to do is bring the flower to the top, and zoom in here. Sometimes I don't like colors running into each other just like that. So you can also see, especially if I move it over something, you can also see because I have negative space on this flower that you can see that stem going through. I just think it looks a little sloppy, and maybe a little distracting. So one way to combat that, and also if you're working with fibers, sometimes you have to be careful of a bleed issue. I'm not gonna get into great detail about that but you will learn about that if you start working with fibers. So if you need to create kind of a border around this or doodad, I could come in here with the Eraser tool, and just chop that off. But I might want to move it around later, and I don't want to take away the stem completely. So what I want to do is just create a border around this flower. So I'm gonna select the flower, copy and paste it behind itself so there is a copy underneath it. I'm gonna make this copy underneath it the same color as my background. That color is kind of this beige color right there. I'm gonna hide my edges by hitting Command + H. This effect that I showed you guys in session two is something I used all the time. It's Path, Offset Path. So if you want to hit Preview, you can see this is huge, and pouring over. I know it's hard to tell because I made it the same color as the background but I'm gonna round the edges off so that they're not pointed, and just take this down to probably two pixels. What that does is just give me a really nice border from that background piece. I think I'll see what one pixel looks like. Actually, I think one is even a little better. So I'll hit okay. I'll bring my edges back. You can see that I need to expand this effect. It is an effect, and so it hasn't, it's hard to see because it's my background color but in reality, it comes all the way to here. So if I expand this appearance, now you can see that it's popped out all the way to where it's not a live effect, which is gonna help run your Illustrator document cleaner. Then the other thing that I wanna do is just, these are overlapping. So there are bunches of little pieces right here. I just want them one piece that's behind my flower. So I'll use the Pathfinder Unite tool. It is one nice piece. Now if I change the color, you can see that a little better. It's, I'll hide my edges, and see so it's brown. That's what it ends up looking like. If you drag it over here, it is a silhouette of the flower. So, and just to remind you what that look like with the teal peaking through, I'm gonna take it back, and change it to my background color. It just gives a really nice clean feel. The stem of this also is, you know, if I chopped it with the Eraser, it would probably have kind of a rounded look but this is gonna give like this edge is perfectly the same as the flower edge because I'm using an illusion really to do that with. Okay, the other thing that I want to do is just group those two together. So I'm gonna select the background, and then the top flower, and group those together. So if I start moving this around my document, they stay together. Sometimes, I will go through that process for every element in the whole pattern depending on how overlapped things are. So know that that's available to you. If you like that look, and you need borders on things. So the next thing I want to do is just group these two floral groups to themselves. So highlighted everything, I'm gonna deselect the background and just hit Command + G to group those. I'm gonna do the same thing down here. So this is gonna be a pretty large repeat. I think what I want to do is hide my Artboard because when I have an Artboard, I tend to like feel like I have to stay within it. It's really not important at this stage in the game. So I'm gonna play with how I can work these together. My background doesn't matter at this point. I think I will see what this looks like reflected. So I hit arrow on my keyboard just to reflect those. I can scooch them in together, which kind of gives a nice, kind of a nice effect right there with the teal bits. Not sure that I want to keep those in line but let's see what happens if I bring this one over, and reflect it. Then those kind of fit together nicely. I can move these around. So I'm kinda, if you can tell what I'm doing, I'm kinda eyeballing what I want my repeat to be here. I know I'll have two of those in line. I can grab these three, and start bringing them down here just to see how these elements might fit together. Within another one of these somewhere over here. None of this is exact yet. So that is an option. Not really sure that I love it. So let me see about just kind of playing with these a little more randomly. So I'll just make a copy, and rotate it just kind of sporadically. Maybe bring this one down here, and this one up here. That way, it may give a little more kind of an organic feel to this. Okay, so I'm still just kind of eyeballing this but just kind of getting a rough feel for what I might want the repeat to look like. I think I'm gonna start with something like this. So when I have a huge, a huge repeat like this, I have in my mind already played with these four elements which are in the corners. So I just replicated those. I'm not sure if we were watching that or not but I kind of had this, and then I know that I'm gonna need all of the top elements repeated on the bottom. So I just grab these top elements, and bring them down here. Holding the Shift key to keep them in line, and the Option key duplicate some. Now, I know I can also delete everything on this right side, and bring it over from the left side. Something like that, okay. So these four are perfectly in line, and I can play with putting my background to it now.

Class Description

Short on time? This class is available HERE as a Fast Class, exclusively for Creator Pass subscribers.

Did you know that you can turn your sketches, drawings, and doodles into patterns? Join Bonnie Christine for an introduction to creating patterns to use in your very own fabric prints, stationery designs, website backgrounds, cell phone covers, and much, much more.

This course will take you through the process of working with Adobe Illustrator to create digital versions of your artwork. You’ll learn tips and tricks for working in Illustrator and how you can use the software to create repeating patterns of your very own drawings. Bonnie will guide you step-by-step through the process of transforming sketches and tracings into vector art which can be used for an endless array of printable and online projects from customized stationery to computer wallpaper. You’ll also learn how to assemble your collection of designs into a portfolio you can use to impress potential collectors and buyers.

This course will lay a solid foundation for those new to Illustrator and open up exciting new possibilities for people already familiar with the program. If you are ready to bring your drawings to life in new ways this class is for you.


Adobe Illustrator CS6

Class Materials

bonus material with purchase

Desktop and Smartphone Backgrounds

Grow Your Blog eBook

Jouney to Becoming a Surface Pattern Designer

Design Printables

Color Palettes and Pattern Mockups

Keynote Session 1

Keynote Session 2

Keynote Session 3

Math Made Easy with Rotate Tool

Industry Resources and Supplies

Keyboard Shortcuts

My Creative Story


Ratings and Reviews

Student Work

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Emily Leggett

I am so glad I took the time to sit through all 3 days of this course. I have been to hour long classes that I can't wait to get out of and this one I sat in for 3 days and I am wishing it wasn't over. I take a lot of continuing education classes and am always trying to learn new things and I have to say this is by far the absolute most informative, educational, inspiring, and motivating classes I have ever taken. Bonnie Christine was an amazing teacher. She took the time to take us through all aspects of the process and even beyond showing us so many things that can be done with everything she taught us in this class. I think she did a great job with the class, was easy to follow and is someone I would love to learn from again. Great job on everything. I would recommend this class to anyone who wants to learn about surface pattern design and Illustrator. Great job to everyone involved in putting this course together!

a Creativelive Student

Awesome awesome awesome course! Thank you Bonnie! Thank you Creative Live! I have learned so much... so much great information packed together in one class. I am so glad I bought the course so I can rewatch it any time I need to.

a Creativelive Student

I'm about halfway through my first viewing of the course and I have to say, its been electrifying! There is so much quality information here, its an excellent starting point, and I do think I can start working towards a career in design now. It also makes me want to find more information and courses in the art and design area. Bonnie is such a joyful, honest and enthusiastic instructor and really, it feels like she';s hosting an amazing party for her friends. Thank you Bonnie for doing this course and thank you CreativeLive for pricing it so affordably