Learn how to make two plaid patterns following this step by step Illustrator tutorial.
This tutorial will show you how to make two different plaid patterns in Illustrator. After reading this tutorial, you’ll be able to make so many different plaid patterns. You see plaid patterns everywhere at all times of the year, but they’re especially popular around the holidays. With this tutorial, you’ll be ready for any occasion.
First, select three to five colors for your plaid. If you’re having difficulty deciding what colors to use, we have some pleasing color palettes available on Design Bundles. We’ll be using a pink (#F7C4BF), salmon pink (#F16661), brown (#4B332E), and light brown (#B17B63).
Step 1 - Create Your Color Palette on the Artboard
Select the Rectangle Tool (M) from the left toolbar. Click + drag while holding Shift to create a small square. Then double-click on the Fill icon near the bottom in the left toolbar to open the Color Picker dialog. Pick the first color in your color palette and click OK.
Copy (Ctrl/Cmd + C) and Paste (Ctrl/Cmd + V) the small square. With the Selection Tool (V), move the second square next to the first square, and set its Fill color to the second color in your color palette.
Repeat this step for the rest of the colors in your color palette.
Step 2 - Create a Square and Fill It With Your Background Color
Select the Rectangle Tool (M) again. Click on the canvas, enter a large number for the width and height, and click OK. We went with 600 px.
Note: you could also create a large square the same way we made the smaller square by clicking and dragging while holding Shift.
Decide which color you want the background to be. With the large square still selected, click the Eyedropper Tool (I), then click the small square containing your background color.
Step 3 - Enable Smart Guides
Next, make sure Smart Guides is enabled by going to View > Smart Guides.
Step 4 - Fill Square With Horizontal Rectangles and Group Them
Click the Selection Tool (V) and the next color. Then select the Rectangle Tool (M). With the assistance of the Smart Guides, click + drag from one side of the large square to the other to add horizontal rectangles of varying heights. See the following image for a better understanding.
Repeat this step with the rest of the colors in your color palette.
Once you’re done creating all the rectangles, select the Selection Tool (V) again, and click + drag over the entire square.
Then right-click and choose Group (Ctrl/Cmd + G).
Step 5 - Create Rotated Copy of Group
With the group still selected, go to Object > Transform > Rotate.
Enter 90° for the Angle and click Copy.
There now is a group with vertical rectangles exactly on top of the group with horizontal rectangles.
Plaid version 1 consists of solid lines/rectangles. Continue to Step 6 for version 1.
Plaid version 2 consists of lines/rectangles with a woven pattern. Jump ahead to Step 7 for version 2.
Step 6 - Plaid Version 1
Delete Square Background of Top Group
With the Selection Tool (V), double-click on the top group to enter Isolation Mode. Click the square background and press Delete. Then press Escape to exit Isolation Mode.
You can leave your plaid pattern as is, but we will lower the Opacity of the rectangles to create a slightly more realistic look.
Lower Opacity of All Rectangles
Click on one of the vertical rectangles to select the top group. Lower the Opacity to about 60% in the top toolbar.
Now double-click on the square background or a horizontal rectangle to enter Isolation Mode for the bottom group. Then select only the horizontal rectangles and lower their opacity to 60%. Press Escape to exit Isolation Mode.
You have completed the first version of the plaid. Jump to Step 8 to create a pattern swatch with the plaid.
Step 7 - Plaid Version 2
This step continues from Step 5. Continuing from Step 6 will not work.
Create Woven Lines
Hide Bottom Group
In the Layers panel, click the eye icon of the bottom group to hide it.
Enable Smart Guides and Snap to Point
Make sure Smart Guides and Snap to Point are enabled in the View dropdown menu. Disable any other snapping options.
Create a Long Thin Rectangle
Create a long thin vertical rectangle with a length/height that’s double the width of the square. Click Transform in the top toolbar to edit the height. Set the Fill color to a color that’s not part of your color palette. Because our square is 600px, our long thin rectangle is 1200 px tall, and we filled it with black.
Rotate Thin Rectangle
Go to Object > Transform > Rotate with the thin rectangle still selected.
Enter 45° and click OK.
Align Center of Long Rectangle to the Top Right Corner Point
Zoom in and using the Selection Tool (V), click + drag the long rectangle to the top right corner of the square. Line up the exact center of the long rectangle to the top right corner’s point. You will know the long rectangle is in place when you see the word “Intersect” with hot pink lines running along the square sides. See the following image for a better understanding.
Duplicate and Align the Long Rectangle
Copy (Ctrl/Cmd + C) and Paste (Ctrl/Cmd + V) the long rectangle. This time, align the center of the long rectangle copy to the bottom left corner’s point. You should now have a long rectangle at the top right corner and one at the bottom left corner.
Select both long rectangles and go to Object > Blend > Make.
This will create a third long rectangle in the middle of the other two.
Enable and Set Blend Options
Without deselecting, go to Object > Blend > Blend Options.
In the Blend Options dialog, select Specified Steps for Spacing and enable the Preview.
Then click the input box for the number of specified steps. Using the up arrow key, increase the number. We want the spaces to be the same width as the long rectangles. The number you pick must be an odd number. Click OK when you’re happy with how the diagonal lines look. We stopped at 69.
Now go to Object > Blend > Expand to turn the lines into vector shapes.
Divide Long Rectangles and Vertical Rectangles, Then Ungroup
Select the set of long rectangles and the group with the vertical rectangles. Then go to Window > Pathfinder to open the Pathfinder panel.
In the Pathfinder panel, click the Divide function.
Before deselecting, right-click and choose Ungroup (Ctrl/Cmd + Shift + G).
Select Original Long Rectangles Outside of Square and Delete
Click outside the shapes to Deselect (Shift + Ctrl/Cmd + A) everything. Then click on part of a long rectangle outside the large square. Then go to Select > Same > Fill Color and press Delete.
Group All Pieces Left Over From Divide Function
Select all the shapes left over from using the Divide function, right-click, and choose Group.
Show Bottom Group
Go to the Layers panel and show the bottom group again by clicking the empty square where the eye icon was previously.
Our completed plaid version 2 is shown below.
Next, we will make a pattern swatch with the plaid so that you can use it over and over.
Step 8 - Create the Pattern Swatch
Open the Swatches panel by going to Window > Swatches. Next, using the Selection Tool (V), click + drag over the entire large square to select the plaid.
Then drag + drop the selection into the Swatches panel.
Step 9 - Save Swatches
Save the swatches to use the plaid pattern swatch in other documents. Click the Swatch Libraries menu icon at the bottom left corner of the Swatches panel and choose Save Swatches.
Now you can load the saved swatches into any Illustrator document and fill vector objects with the plaid pattern you created!
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