Pattern Before/After with Adobe Illustrator

Adobe Illustrator Pattern Before/After

For this pattern, I experimented with making a repeat from one of my cut-paper collages.

The original paper collage was inspired by the circles made from a hole punch. Unintentionally, the punched out circles from whatever I was working on came out looking like little beach balls. I had to do something with that! To go along with the beach balls, I cut out little umbrellas, umbrella poles, and pieces for a tiny fruity drink.

Here is a photo of the finished paper collage:

Beaches paper collage

I scanned the collage and used Adobe Illustrator's Image Trace to turn it into a vector. I added a background and turned the digitized collage into a repeating pattern:

Beach umbrella repeating pattern

I didn't think I was going to like this and I was right. I'm not sure why it doesn't work. Please let me know if you have any ideas: is it the colors? The composition? Something else?

I decided the first step to improve the pattern was to remove all the squares behind the umbrellas. (In fact, I had started removing them before I made the pattern shown above; look closely and you'll spot one white square that's partially removed.)

Unfortunately, each square wasn't a single shape I could click and delete. Instead, the papers I used in the collage had subtle shading distinctions which had been vectorized into thousands of separate shapes. I removed these using the Recolor Artwork Tool and, in some cases, manually selecting pieces individually and in small groups. For example, here's a close up of all the bits around one umbrella:

Vectorized bits around the umbrella

Once the squares were gone, I added another motif along with the beach balls and fruity drinks: stacks of books. These appear throughout the pattern:

Beach umbrella repeating pattern

Next, I worked on the alignment of the umbrellas. I tried and tried (15 tries!) but aligning the umbrellas was impossible, possibly because they are different sizes and tilted at different angles.

At this point, stuck and frustrated, I decided that I didn't like the stacks of books I had added earlier. So, one by one, I started removing the umbrellas that had stacks of books (pattern 16, below). With the resulting negative space, I finally started to like the pattern:

Beach umbrella repeating patterns that won't align

I kept removing umbrellas until I was happy with the balance of umbrellas vs. negative space (patterns 1 - 4, below). Along the way, I played with background colors, added scattered sand texture, and broke (5), then fixed (6), the repeat:

Beach umbrellas repeating pattern

Here is the final pattern in 2 colorways:

 Beaches repeating patterns

Biggest lesson? I need to learn more about creating repeating patterns in Photoshop. My understanding is that artists prefer Photoshop for working with textured art like acrylic painting and, possibly, collage. Painters and collage artists, let me know if you have any insight about Illustrator vs. Photoshop!


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