Adobe Illustrator tutorial: Create repeating patterns for skate deck art

Ben Beach of ilovedust reveals how to use Illustrator to create chaotic, repeating vector patterns ideal for skatedeck art

Intro


Skate decks are a mini art canvas on wheels – and some of the hottest designers around have honed their talents in pursuit of the status of design legend in the half-pipe circuit. Yet creating deck art is more than recreating yet another urban art scene and slapping it onto a strip of maple. This speedy canvas should be home to more imaginative renderings,.

This masterclass shows you how to use repeating, tiled patterns based on vector workings of real-world objects. By taking the everyday, such as vegetables and kitchen utensils in this case, and reworking them as stylized vector art, you can add a real twist and create some thought-provoking art.

After designing the objects, next comes the part that, while requiring patience, is like working with a digital jigsaw puzzle. Thanks to some clever tiling techniques and tricks, you be able to turn a few vector objects into a multi-layered, highly complex design that will have some people scratching their heads.

Some advice – stick to bright, contrasting colour palettes for maximum impact, and ensure that objects are a mix of short and long – adding pace to the composition.

Once done, head to your nearest skate emporium and prepare to dazzle with your astounding deck.

Step 1

STEP 1

Start with a new document in Illustrator and get your reference images ready. You may want to keep your references in a separate, locked layer. We’re only going to use them as a rough guide so make sure you leave yourself a space to draw on.


Step 2

STEP 2

Display the grid by going to View > Show Grid and turn on snap to grid by going to View > Snap To Grid. As we’re going to be drawing quite symmetrical, simple objects this will help us in keeping the shapes consistent.

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Step 3

STEP 3

Using the pen tool and looking at the reference, start drawing the objects. Try sticking to two-to-three colours per object – this will make getting the right overall colour scheme easier. With symmetrical objects such as a tomato you can draw one side first, duplicate it and place it on the other side. Select the in-between points with the direct selection tool and right-click > Join to join them.


Step 4

STEP 4

Continue to draw more objects. You may want to compare them to each other to make sure they are a similar style, both in shape and colour. You could use one of illustrators swatch libraries such as Window > Swatch Libraries > Fruits and vegetables to keep the overall colour consistent.


Step 5

STEP 5

Once you’ve drawn plenty of objects, try drawing some vernacular shapes. These will help you fill in the spaces in between your objects and can also be a good way to add colours. Try using the grid to keep the curves and proportions the same as the rest of your objects.

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Step 6

STEP 6

Now that you have all the elements you need, you can start to make the pattern. I like to start by making a shape that tiles by itself to use as a guide. Try drawing a square and draw a shape that reaches from the bottom-right corner to the top-left corner.

Now use this shape to form four sides of a new shape making sure the bottom-left shape is facing the same way as the top right and the same goes for the bottom right and top left. This will make sure they tile.


Step 7

STEP 7

Now that you have your guide shape you can start arranging the elements of your pattern. At this point you may want to turn off snap to grid and turn on snap to point by going to View > Snap To Point. This will help you with aligning your elements to the sides of the guide shape. Feel free to play around with the scale of your objects now, to make sure they fit.


Step 8

STEP 8

One thing you will need to be careful of while you’re arranging your elements is their position in the layers. You may need to send objects forward or backward to make sure the part of the element you want to be visible is on top. This can get fiddly and confusing, so make sure you name your layers meaningfully.

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Step 9

STEP 9

Once you have arranged all the elements into the guide shape and you’re happy with the graphic you can get onto the next step – tiling. First, I’d recommend saving the document you’re working on and opening up a new one. Once you have a new document, copy your graphic in it.


Step 10

STEP 10

At this stage I’d like to scale my graphic down, so to ensure the paths stay to scale, select all (Cmd/Ctrl + A) and go to Object > Path > Outline Stroke. This will turn any stroke into a fill. Alternatively, if you’d like to keep your strokes go to File > Preferences > General > Scale Strokes & Effect. This will keep the scale of the stroke width consistent even if you re-size.


Step 11

STEP 11

Draw a new shape that is as big as your document and send it to the back (Cmd/Ctrl + Shift + [). This will act as your background so make it whatever colour you want. Lock the layer to avoid selecting it later. Now select the whole graphic and copy it by holding down Alt and moving it.

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Step 12

STEP 12

Once you’ve released the object, group it by going to Object > Group. This will enable you to select the whole object again while aligning it to the other graphic and save you the headache of having to select each element again.


Step 13

STEP 13

Because of the complexity of the graphics, the snap to point function might not ensure that your graphics land in exactly the right place. A good way to line them up is to zoom in and turn on outline view by hitting View > Outline and aligning the corresponding guide shapes.


Step 14

STEP 14

Once you’re happy that you’ve tiled your graphic onto a large enough area, you need to go through it and fix any mistakes and inconsistencies. Because of the vernacular nature of this method, some elements are likely to overlay where they shouldn’t and some elements may get lost. To fix this you will need to ungroup all of the objects by selecting one group at a time and going to Object > Ungroup. Then, go through your graphic and move elements up and down until you’re happy with it.

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