Design insights & tutorials.

Vector Freebie & Micro Tutorial: Seamless Swirls

Turquoise Flag-Tip

Hey it’s a Monday morning freebie! This one took a little extra time to make, so I really hope you enjoy it. It is (mostly) seamless, so you can drop it into your swatches panel and fill any shape with it.

free vector preview

I say mostly because it went through a series of transformations – one of which was an export to photoshop (for some wacom-esque highlighting) followed by a hi-res auto trace in Illustrator. So, some edges are slightly off, but the overall seamless effect is there. Go ahead and download it, but stick around for some behind the scene paparazzi shots of how it was made.


I’ll admit it – I had never made a seamless pattern before. I knew I wanted it to be swirly, so I pen-tooled some reference photos for ingredients as I brainstormed just how this was going to work.
free vector ingredients

By the time these ingredients were ready I had a plan for a workable but really laborious process to make a seamless pattern. In the screenshots below you’ll find an explanation of how it was done, but really, if you know of a better way please share in the comments!

EDITED: Track6 knows a much more accurate and quick way to accomplish these steps and was nice enough to share it with everybody in the comments. The idea is the same, but the process better. Thanks!

free vector seamless pattern step 1

free vector pattern step 2

free vector pattern step 3

free vector pattern step 5

As you can see from the last screenshot, the pattern was still quite a mess at this stage. Filling out the middle took a little while of puzzle piecing everything together. By the end of the workday last Friday I had spent a little too much time on this thing, and still wasn’t happy. So over the weekend curves were smoothed and highlights added, and finally it was starting to look right. An anxious face showed up in the curves so I made a little preview image just for fun.

free vector fun preview
So that’s the story of this freebie! I hope if you embark on making your own custom seamless pattern you’ll share some shortcuts with me in the comments.

About the Author, Adam Wagner

I'm a marketer, designer, armchair singer/songwriter, wannabe theoretical physicist/philosopher and recent college grad trying to pack as much living as possible into each day. Working at Go Media makes this pretty easy. Catch me on Twitter!!
Discover More by Adam Wagner

Discussion

We want to hear what you have to say. Do you agree? Do you have a better way to approach the topic? Let the community know by joining the discussion.

  • smeegy

    WOW!!!!
    thanks for this tutorial! =)
    keep it up!

  • http://iamunr.com unr

    Great tutorial, nice little guide.
    I’ve always understood the concept of making something seamless, but I’ve never had it actually shown to me.

    Looks like I was right. :)

  • http://iamunr.com unr

    Great tutorial, nice little guide.
    I’ve always understood the concept of making something seamless, but I’ve never had it actually shown to me.

    Looks like I was right. :)

  • http://ldbss.com tripdragon

    That and. Pattern design has some serious theory to it that no one highlights no AT ALL. EVER. There are two books from the same author dated like 1928 or earlier that go deep into the method of patterns.

    But in photoshop if you make a say even 400 by 400 image.
    Put one of the shapes in the center and make the background transparent.
    Use that to make a pattern with just that one shape.
    Repeat for however many you have.

    Then make Non destructible tile layers of each shape. And just drag them around.

    It’s stupid that photoshop can’t just make the option for space invaders but eh, old software is old

    Contact me further if you want help with the idea or would like me to make a mini tute

  • http://ldbss.com tripdragon

    That and. Pattern design has some serious theory to it that no one highlights no AT ALL. EVER. There are two books from the same author dated like 1928 or earlier that go deep into the method of patterns.

    But in photoshop if you make a say even 400 by 400 image.
    Put one of the shapes in the center and make the background transparent.
    Use that to make a pattern with just that one shape.
    Repeat for however many you have.

    Then make Non destructible tile layers of each shape. And just drag them around.

    It’s stupid that photoshop can’t just make the option for space invaders but eh, old software is old

    Contact me further if you want help with the idea or would like me to make a mini tute

  • http://www.gomedia.us adam

    Hi tripdragon,

    Thanks for the tips. If you think of the book’s title I’d be real interested to look it up. Also – do you have an example of the technique you explained?

  • http://www.gomedia.us adam

    Hi tripdragon,

    Thanks for the tips. If you think of the book’s title I’d be real interested to look it up. Also – do you have an example of the technique you explained?

  • http://logobr.wordpress.com Daniel Campos

    Woooou.
    Very good tutorial!!!!

  • http://logobr.wordpress.com Daniel Campos

    Woooou.
    Very good tutorial!!!!

  • http://ldbss.com tripdragon

    adam i’ll make one shortly

  • http://ldbss.com tripdragon

    adam i’ll make one shortly

  • http://www.track6designs.com Track6

    Easier way:

    Create a background tile at whatever size you want to use, let’s say 3 in. Place your ingredients overlapping an edge and then use the MOVE dialogue box (return key) to move that piece the size of the tile (3 in.) horizontally and then once again vertically. Make sure to hit “COPY’ instead of hitting enter in the dialogue box so your shape duplicates instead of just moving.

    After all of your edges are how you’d like them, select the background tile, copy it in front of everything and with everything selected, use the CROP tool in the pathfinder panel. Then you’ll be money.

    Last step is optional but I ALWAYS clean the tile up by grouping it all, if it already isn’t and entering isolation mode (Ai CS3) and drawing an unfilled rectangle, then “SELECT SAME FILL & STROKE” and hit delete to get rid of all of the unfilled paths the CROP tool leaves behind. Leaves you with a cleaner file.

    Now you only have to chop everything once, not every time you dupe something!

  • http://www.track6designs.com Track6

    Easier way:

    Create a background tile at whatever size you want to use, let’s say 3 in. Place your ingredients overlapping an edge and then use the MOVE dialogue box (return key) to move that piece the size of the tile (3 in.) horizontally and then once again vertically. Make sure to hit “COPY’ instead of hitting enter in the dialogue box so your shape duplicates instead of just moving.

    After all of your edges are how you’d like them, select the background tile, copy it in front of everything and with everything selected, use the CROP tool in the pathfinder panel. Then you’ll be money.

    Last step is optional but I ALWAYS clean the tile up by grouping it all, if it already isn’t and entering isolation mode (Ai CS3) and drawing an unfilled rectangle, then “SELECT SAME FILL & STROKE” and hit delete to get rid of all of the unfilled paths the CROP tool leaves behind. Leaves you with a cleaner file.

    Now you only have to chop everything once, not every time you dupe something!

  • http://www.gomedia.us adam

    Brilliant Track6! That’s definitely faster and probably more accurate, since the move command is exact. Thanks for sharing – I’ll use this one.

  • http://www.gomedia.us adam

    Brilliant Track6! That’s definitely faster and probably more accurate, since the move command is exact. Thanks for sharing – I’ll use this one.

  • http://www.mamjed.com mamjed

    wow gomedia is insane! I absolutly love every thing they make and publish on this blog. Hope I can one day work here!

  • http://www.mamjed.com mamjed

    wow gomedia is insane! I absolutly love every thing they make and publish on this blog. Hope I can one day work here!

  • http://www.track6designs.com Track6

    Glad to help.

  • http://www.track6designs.com Track6

    Glad to help.

  • http://www.WarGraphicArts.com William A. Rodriguez

    Great tut! I have made a few patterns in a very similar manner. Every designer needs to know the process to create patterns. Thanks for the info.

    Peace,
    WAR

  • http://www.gomedia.us Jeff Finley

    Nice job Adam! I love the end result. The micro tut is great – only suggetion would be also type it out with text because having the steps describe in images isn’t good for SEO!

  • http://www.WarGraphicArts.com William A. Rodriguez

    Great tut! I have made a few patterns in a very similar manner. Every designer needs to know the process to create patterns. Thanks for the info.

    Peace,
    WAR

  • http://www.gomedia.us Jeff Finley

    Nice job Adam! I love the end result. The micro tut is great – only suggetion would be also type it out with text because having the steps describe in images isn’t good for SEO!

  • http://www.gomedia.us adam

    Thanks Jeff. Yea… I was taking some cues from Dave’s tutorials because his look so nice. I’ll keep that in mind for next time for sure.

  • http://www.gomedia.us adam

    Thanks Jeff. Yea… I was taking some cues from Dave’s tutorials because his look so nice. I’ll keep that in mind for next time for sure.

  • smeegy

    WOW!!!!
    thanks for this tutorial! =)
    keep it up!

  • Jdub.

    Track6: Nice work. Go Media, love the site. This tutorial was certainly helpful.

  • Jdub.

    Track6: Nice work. Go Media, love the site. This tutorial was certainly helpful.

  • http://ldbss.com tripdragon

    Here is a quick and dirty photoshop version
    http://ldbss.com/simple_steps.jpg
    aside from menus and hiding the layers or working from a second file to create the tiles it’s two steps

    I would rather have a real tile view so you can “see” how a tile is turning out without needing to constantly remake the pattern or dragging the tile to the palate in Illustrator.

    There is an old plugin for Illustrator. But. It sill really misses the point.

  • http://ldbss.com tripdragon

    Here is a quick and dirty photoshop version
    http://ldbss.com/simple_steps.jpg
    aside from menus and hiding the layers or working from a second file to create the tiles it’s two steps

    I would rather have a real tile view so you can “see” how a tile is turning out without needing to constantly remake the pattern or dragging the tile to the palate in Illustrator.

    There is an old plugin for Illustrator. But. It sill really misses the point.

  • http://ldbss.com tripdragon

    Books

    Pattern Design (Paperback) 1903
    by Lewis F. Day (Author)
    http://www.amazon.com/Pattern-Design-Lewis-F-Day/dp/0486407098/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1217291945&sr=8-1

    Abstract Design and How to Create It (Paperback) 1930
    by Amor Fenn (Author)
    http://www.amazon.com/Abstract-Design-Create-Amor-Fenn/dp/0486276732/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1217291967&sr=8-1

    Good books and method never become useless

  • http://ldbss.com tripdragon

    Books

    Pattern Design (Paperback) 1903
    by Lewis F. Day (Author)
    http://www.amazon.com/Pattern-Design-Lewis-F-Day/dp/0486407098/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1217291945&sr=8-1

    Abstract Design and How to Create It (Paperback) 1930
    by Amor Fenn (Author)
    http://www.amazon.com/Abstract-Design-Create-Amor-Fenn/dp/0486276732/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1217291967&sr=8-1

    Good books and method never become useless

  • Anonymous

    Adam, you belong in the 60/70′s… your cool Glaser (Dylan) Poster gravatar and now this! I love it!!

    Thanks for the micro-tut!

  • http://tiffanyforrester.blogspot.com/ Tiffany

    Adam, you belong in the 60/70′s… your cool Glaser (Dylan) Poster gravatar and now this! I love it!!

    Thanks for the micro-tut!

  • http://www.loylymedia.fi Jukka

    I don’t know how applicable it is to vectors, but the offset-command in PS makes seamless tiling very fast and easy. http://www.cadtutor.net/dd/photo/seamless/seamless.html has an example (maybe not the best ever, but still.)

  • http://www.loylymedia.fi Jukka

    I don’t know how applicable it is to vectors, but the offset-command in PS makes seamless tiling very fast and easy. http://www.cadtutor.net/dd/photo/seamless/seamless.html has an example (maybe not the best ever, but still.)

  • Matt Q

    hahaha, Steps 7-235. I love it. Did you really count them all or just approximate?

  • Matt Q

    hahaha, Steps 7-235. I love it. Did you really count them all or just approximate?

  • http://www.katuno.com Kat

    Wow! Thanks so much for this tut! I have been looking for so long for a good tut on how to do a seamless pattern! Great job and much appreciated! ;)

  • http://www.katuno.com Kat

    Wow! Thanks so much for this tut! I have been looking for so long for a good tut on how to do a seamless pattern! Great job and much appreciated! ;)

  • http://www.gomedia.us adam

    Hey Matt – no I just approximated :) Mileage may vary. Following Track6′s advice really helps reduce the repetition.

  • http://www.gomedia.us adam

    Hey Matt – no I just approximated :) Mileage may vary. Following Track6′s advice really helps reduce the repetition.

  • http://www.veeqi.com Dpan

    Good nice…

  • http://www.veeqi.com Dpan

    Good nice…

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  • Bárbara

    The best tutorial of the year ever!

    Thank you for the free share!

  • Bárbara

    The best tutorial of the year ever!

    Thank you for the free share!

  • ChequeredManiac

    this is really helpful, thanks, I knew it would be easy to do, but its all about the method

  • ChequeredManiac

    this is really helpful, thanks, I knew it would be easy to do, but its all about the method

  • http://www.patternhead.com Patternhead

    Great resource. Thanks for sharing.

    You can find lots of high quality vector patterns at http://www.patternhead.com

  • http://www.patternhead.com Patternhead

    Great resource. Thanks for sharing.

    You can find lots of high quality vector patterns at http://www.patternhead.com

  • http://www.geoffmay.com Geoff May

    Very cool. I always hate doing patterns. Nothing is worse than a pattern that isn’t lined up perfectly.

  • http://www.geoffmay.com Geoff May

    Very cool. I always hate doing patterns. Nothing is worse than a pattern that isn’t lined up perfectly.

  • Sara

    I love this tutorial, thank you so much. A great creative inspiration.

  • Sara

    I love this tutorial, thank you so much. A great creative inspiration.

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  • http://www.adamghost.com adamghost

    So preciate for this tutorail!

  • http://www.adamghost.com adamghost

    So preciate for this tutorail!

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  • http://www.iprogress.hu Sergio

    Great job! Thank You!

  • http://www.iprogress.hu Sergio

    Great job! Thank You!

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  • vividvector

    Thanks for the great post! It even me inspired me to make one of my own, see http://www.vividvector.com/wordpress/?p=64

    Keep up the great work!

  • vividvector

    Thanks for the great post! It even me inspired me to make one of my own, see http://www.vividvector.com/wordpress/?p=64

    Keep up the great work!

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  • http://www.coljung.com Coljung

    Great tut. Thanks !!!

  • http://www.coljung.com Coljung

    Great tut. Thanks !!!

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  • Panais

    thanks man!!!

  • Panais

    thanks man!!!

  • Susan

    Thank u so much for sharing. I am self taught, for lack of time and money and tips like this are SO helpful. :)

  • Susan

    Thank u so much for sharing. I am self taught, for lack of time and money and tips like this are SO helpful. :)

  • Aleixo

    Nice tutorial, very helpful.

  • Aleixo

    Nice tutorial, very helpful.

  • http://aetoricdesign.carbonmade.com Aetoric Design

    This is one of the most beautiful free resources on the net right now. I bet if you would have finished that other one and never did the swirlier one, we’d still be breathe taken by the awesomeness of the piece.

  • http://aetoricdesign.carbonmade.com Aetoric Design

    This is one of the most beautiful free resources on the net right now. I bet if you would have finished that other one and never did the swirlier one, we’d still be breathe taken by the awesomeness of the piece.

  • http://www.tarihonline.com ortak miras

    great, thank you

  • http://www.tarihonline.com ortak miras

    great, thank you

  • http://www.60minutelogo.com Rich

    Thanks for the useful tutorial. I will use it on future logo design projects.

  • http://creamycss.com/ Creamy CSS

    It's simple but really cute final result,.. swirls can be useful,.. :)

  • http://www.behance.net/control George

    Great tutorial. Never really thought about using the divide tool. Can't wait to try this out.

  • http://www.downloadic.com Downloadic

    Wow, I like the tutorial, thanks for this.

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  • http://www.facebook.com/Quakerninja Daniel J. Newman

    In Illustrator CS4 there is a graphics style called (Live reflect X and live reflect Y) that can be in the found in the Additive library. To get at it just use the lower left pull out menu in the graphics style library.

    It's simple (option click to add the style) Then draw. Click again in the x and y to set a grid that works best for you.

    What it does is lets you set set up a repeating pattern grid, where you can just draw a pattern directly. You will need a good eye for line, and direction to pull this off, but I trust you are all handy enough with a Wacom to come up with some good stuff right off the bat. If you want to delete the effect you can find in under the appearance panel as a transform, just delete that and you are back to your base shape.

  • Malia

    check out M.C. Escher on tessellations for more ideas on interlocking figures.

  • sherifafifi

    WOOW

  • michaelriordan

    There is one more way to make this process easier…don't do any cropping. Place a rectangle with no stroke and no fill BEHIND everything else (lowest element in the stack order) and Illustrator will automatically see this as the patternable area. Anything that overhangs this rectangle will be ignored.

  • Dental Goods

    woww…….this trick is very important for me..because i always get problem with vector creating..

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    nice post, leading here from search engine i got nice info in here

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    nice to be here

  • http://www.diziizlicem.com dizi izle

    thx 4 the informations, good to know.

  • http://www.zevkisefa.com video izle

    thanks for this tutorial!

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  • eatt

    Great tutorial, nice little guide.
    dizi izle

  • eatt

    Great tutorial, nice little guide.
    dizi izle

  • eatt

    Great tutorial, nice little guide.
    dizi izle

  • eatt

    Great tutorial, nice little guide.
    dizi izle

  • Matt

    Thanks for this nice work!
    dizi izle

  • Matt

    Thanks for this nice work!
    dizi izle

  • Matt

    Thanks for this nice work!
    dizi izle

  • Matt

    Thanks for this nice work!
    dizi izle

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    followed by a hi-res auto trace in Illustrator …
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  • http://orifworld.com Oriflame

    I love the end result. The micro tut is great – only suggetion would be also type it out with text because having the steps describe in images isn't good for SEO

  • http://twitter.com/pointofviuu Viuu.co.uk

    Nice post :) Really like the pattern and it's nice to know how to create one actually. Thanks for sharing this.

  • http://surveyingsupplier.com Surveying Supplier

    nice share my bro

  • True Wallpaper

    thank you darling

  • Highaltitudes

    Made some shoes using this seamless vector pattern!

    http://i169.photobucket.com/albums/u236/siouxpe

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  • Camille

    just discovered this website, reli reli reli appreciate it, please do more guides and stuff, it is reli useful to know how to make reli good use of these vector images, thank you very much >3<”

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    This is one of the most beautiful free resources on the net right now. I bet if you would have finished that other one and never did the swirlier one, we’d still be breathe taken by the awesomeness of the piece.

  • Elu Cynovich

    i don’t know why but i can’t download the file… i’m using illustrator cs3 on a mac, is there a compatibility prob with that?

  • Elu Cynovich

    i don’t know why but i can’t download the file… i’m using illustrator cs3 on a mac, is there a compatibility prob with that?

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_ASUHT3PHDBWNT4C4ZQXHJ3NBVQ Jocuri

    The best tutorial of the year ever! ;))

  • http://www.klavisnurs.com Klavis

    Great tutorial, nice little guide.

    I’ve always understood the concept of making something seamless, but I’ve never had it actually shown to me.

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