Deke’s Techniques 154: Designing a Seamlessly Repeating Hex Pattern in Illustrator CS6

154 Designing a hex pattern in Illustrator CS6

By now, a few of you may be using Illustrator CS6. In which case, you have access to the new Pattern Options panel, which—-among other things—-allows you to create hex patterns. By which I mean, patterns that are organized into hexagonal tiles instead of the regular old rectangular ones. And it designs the patterns seamlessly, with remarkably little planning on your part.

Here’s the official description from

Although tile patterns have been around since the early days of Illustrator, CS6 has a new Pattern Options panel that helps you wrangle your repeating patterns into place and keep them seamless as well. In this week’s free episode of Deke’s Techniques, Deke shows you how to use this feature to create a pattern of arithmetically defined spirals (those same spirals he showed you how to create in last week’s free movie).

Deke begins by arranging the spirals in a cluster that will become the core pattern element, and showing you a few tips for getting that kernel of creativity into place. Once you’ve got your base the way you want it, you select it and choose Object > Pattern > Make to enter the new pattern-editing mode and display the new Pattern Options panel, both of which are new. (Did I mention the newness of it all?)

In the movie, Deke demonstrates how the panel gives you options for defining the type of tile you want (a standard grid, an offset brick pattern, or a hexagonally repeating tile) as well as how you want the pattern to offset and overlap. The result is this sea of swirls:

A seamless hex pattern of sea spirals in Illustrator CS6

Which, thanks to the pattern-editing mode’s ability to make copies, you can easily duplicate with different colors, overlaps, sizing, etc. Like this:

The garishly colored copy of the previous pattern in Illustrator CS6

There are a couple of qualities to this panel that may not be intuitive (like when to click Done or Cancel versus when to hit the Esc key). Naturally, Deke reveals all within this week’s episode.

If you’re not yet working in Illustrator CS6, but still want to explore hexagonal tile patterns, Deke has an exclusive movie for members of in which he shows you how to create the exact same effect in Illustrator CS5 and earlier.

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  • The main reason for upgrading to CS6

    I love playing with this one feature in CS6. As far as Illustrator goes this one feature is enough reason to upgrade. Thanks for another great tutorial on getting the most out of this amazing tool Deke!

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