Tutorial: Drawing a rectangular (not square!) repeat of diagonal stripes in Adobe Illustrator

Recently, when creating coordinating patterns for my Maypole fabric collection, I was stumped how to make a repeat with diagonal stripes on a rectangular tile. There are many tutorials online on how to do this for a square tile. But I prefer to make my tiles in the dimensions of the Spoonflower preview of 21 by 18 inches. I eventually figured out a way to achieve this. If you’re a “Spoonflower designer” and ever want to make a diagonal stripe design, or want to use a rectangular tile shape for other reasons, then this may be useful to you. Any CS version should suffice for this, as the functions I’m using are quite basic. (Update: When I wrote this, I didn’t realize that any dimensions/format can be uploaded to Spoonflower. It is therefore not necessary to upload a rectangular tile.)

I will show you how to make the easiest version of diagonal stripes, using a single colour only. With my method, I find that the more colours are used, the more complex the process (I will touch on that at the bottom though).

1. Set up the artboard & make reference points

Create a new document, measuring 21” in width and 18” in height.

Go to “View –> Show Grid”.

Then go to “Illustrator –> Preferences –> Guides & Grid”. Here I chose “Gridline every 0.3 inches” and “Subdivisions: 8”. Yours can be different, but I’d stick with this if you want to follow along better.

Go to “View –> Snap to Point”. Make sure “Snap to Grid” is unchecked.

Starting at the bottom left corner of the document, zoom all the way in and use the ellipse tool to draw a dot with fill only. Centre the dot exactly over a grid intersection outside the document margins; I chose to place it 1 horizontal grid line down and 1 vertical grid line to the right of the bottom left corner of the document. [It is important that our first stripe overlaps with 2 opposite corners of the artboard to ensure a perfect repeat.] Then, copy the dot over to the intersection of the 1st vertical line to the left and the first horizontal line above the corner. The dots will serve as reference points in a moment.

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2. Copy reference points to the next “tile”

Select both dots, then go to “Object –> Transform –> Move”. Enter 21 for the horizontal and 18 for the vertical values, and click into the “distance” field for the value to adjust. Click COPY. You will now see the copied dots kitty-corner from the original dots.

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3. Create diagonal stripe shape

Uncheck “Snap to Point” and check “Snap to Grid”.

Select the line tool and connect the dots with diagonal lines originating from and ending in the centres of each dot.

Now uncheck “Snap to Grid” and check “Snap to Point”.

Shift-select each end of the lines and extend them further beyond the document margins. It is crucial to hold“shift” while dragging to keep the lines in the same positions, but the exact length of each line is not important. Repeat this at the opposite corner of the document.

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Close the shape with the pen tool to form a diagonal rectangle. Delete the dots. Remove the stroke and fill with a colour. Go to “View –> Hide Grid” for easier viewing. You now have one diagonal stripe that needs to be evenly copied across the page.

4. Copy the shape

Select the stripe and go to “Object –> Transform –> Move”. Enter 0 for the horizontal and 18 for the vertical, click into the “distance” field, then click COPY. Repeat this procedure entering 21 for the horizontal and 0 for the vertical. You now have 3 diagonals intersecting the margins at the correct places.

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5. Use the Blend Tool to fill your tile

Select the diagonal in the centre and one of the two on the corners. Go to “Object –> Blend –> Blend Options”. Set the Spacing to “Specified Steps” and enter 68. [I determined this number by playing around with different values to see how many stripes fit between the two existing ones, spaced out the way I want. You could enter a lower number to get fewer stripes that are more spaced out.]

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Click OK. Go to “Object –> Blend –> Make”. This is what you’ll see:

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If you’re not happy with the spacing, undo the action and redo step 5 with a different number.

6. Expand & Ungroup your stripes

To proceed, click “Object –> Expand” with object and fill checked off:

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Then go straight to “Object –> Ungroup”. You now have individual stripes.

7. Repeat

Select the centre stripe again and repeat steps 5 and 6. You now have evenly spaced diagonals all across the artboard:

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If you’d like a different background colour, make a rectangle, colour it and place it in the back (“Object –> Arrange –> Send to back”).

8. Testing your tile

To test whether the stripes form a perfect repeat pattern, you need to duplicate this “tile” and line them up. Make a rectangle measuring 21” in width and 18” in height. With the rectangle selected, go to the Align toolbar and click the “Horizonal Align” and “Vertical Align” buttons. Select “Align to Artboard”.

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Make sure that the rectangle is stacked at the top. Select everything on the artboard. Go to “Object –> Clipping Mask –> Make”. This is what you’ll get:

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Select the “tile” and go to “Object –> Transform –> Move” as you did earlier on. Enter 21 for the horizontal and 0 for the vertical and COPY, then select both tiles and copy them again downwards with values 0 (horizontal) and -18 (vertical). You will now see whether or not your repeat is seamless. Zoom in and carefully check the joint edges shared by the 4 tiles. Sometimes, even when the repeat is perfect, a line shows up that seems like you made a mistake, but when you zoom in closer, the lines disappears. If your pattern forms a ‘broken’ repeat, you may want to start over, make that first diagonal stripe, and make sure that it repeats seamlessly – then the remaining ones will do as well.

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The task is completed! You have made a simple seamless pattern with diagonal stripes.

For a multi-coloured diagonal stripe pattern, the process gets more complex: unless the colours of your lines are supposed to be randomly laid out, the trick lies in figuring out the number of “steps” when using the Blend tool in order for the colours to repeat in a certain sequence, such as a rainbow. At this point, the best advice I can give is to experiment. In the example above, 68 steps with the Blend tool works for repeating 8 colours, like in my Rainbow Stripes fabric pattern:

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I hope you learned something new – if not, perhaps you have some tricks to share on how to make diagonal stripe repeat patterns for rectangular tiles!

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2 thoughts on “Tutorial: Drawing a rectangular (not square!) repeat of diagonal stripes in Adobe Illustrator

  1. I see you are proud of your achievements working with illustrator. congratulations! Your time and effort has been rewarded. Now others can learn from your experience.

    Keep up the good work!

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