Any Adobe Illustrator user is likely familiar with the “untouchable” pattern library. It is filled with strange pattern fills then never quite seem to be the right size or color. This tutorial changes all of that by explaining how to change those parameters. Some creative ideas will be shared along the way as well.


Pattern 1

To begin, a basic “microbe” pattern is selected. It has potential to be fun and active, but in black it feels stiff and unusable. Time to edit the colors.

Pattern 2

Within the Illustrator “Edit” menu lies a gem which may come as news to many. The “Recolor Artwork” option opens up the ability to recolor any artwork, patterns included!

Pattern 3

In the “Recolor Artwork” dialogue, it is critical that the arrow symbol between “Current Colors” and “New” be on (which it is above). Once this is clicked, the HSB sliders allow for endless color exploration. This example uses red-orange.

Pattern 4

Part of the beauty of patters is they work like fills, meaning anything can be filled including typography. In the example above the eye dropper tool was used to apply the red “microbe” pattern to some text.


Pattern 5

In the previous example, the pattern fill felt slightly out of scale. Here, yet another Illustrator gem comes into play. In the “Object>Transform>Scale” dialogue box, there is a checkbox which allows for the pattern to be scaled independent of the object. Notice how only the pattern is brought down to 72%.

Taking it further

Pattern 6

At this point the only limit is one’s own imagination. In the example above the “microbe” pattern was doubled on a yellow background with the opacity of the double set to 30%. Notice how it begins to feel organic or hand stamped.

Pattern 7
Pattern 8

In the two examples above a dot pattern and loop pattern were recolored to white then placed over black. Not so unusable anymore!

Pattern 9

The recolor artwork feature also, of course, allows for the recoloring of patterns with multiple colors, such as this pattern from Illustrator’s “Decorative Legacy” collection.

Pattern 10

Notice how patterns with triadic color schemes can be easily made analogous, changing the entire mood and atmosphere. Not to mention how the typography suddenly becomes lively and activated.


The examples above are just a taste of what can be done with Illustrator pattern fills. Using just the “Recolor Artwork” function in combination with the “Scale Pattern” function opens a vast array of styles that can be explored. Did I mention endless fun?

Know another way to benefit from the Illustrator pattern library? Post in the comments!