How to Use Adobe Illustrator to Create Sewing Patterns – Basic Tools



hi i'm melissa blogger at Melly Sims and owner of blank slate patterns welcome to my class on digital pattern making this is the first lesson in the unit and today we're going to cover basic illustrator layout and tools that you will use for pattern making welcome to illustrator today I'm going to give you an overview of the illustrator workspace and the primary tools I use in illustrator for pattern drafting and design the first thing that you're going to need to do is to open a new file in Illustrator to do this you will go to file new and you're going to choose one artboard and make it ten inches by 10 inches this is just to give us room to play today the orientation doesn't really matter this bleed stuff down here I never use and so just set yours up like this and you're going to hit OK I'm going to hit cancel because I've already got mine on the screen this is my 10 inch by 10 inch artboard if you look over here on the right hand side the very bottom one this is the artboard menu if I click on this you can see that I've got one artboard here you can create multiple artboards in Illustrator and we will be doing that in a future lesson multiple artboards are used when you are creating a PDF pattern because each artboard corresponds then to one page of the PDF so you can easily design draft and set up your whole pattern and when it prints each artboard will print out as one page in illustrator you can design out here outside the artboard but only the things on the artboard will print when you send something to print we're going to go over several of the primary tools that I use in pattern making you'll see right now I've got the black arrow that is the Select tool and I can't really show you what it does because I don't have anything on my artboard to select so what we're going to use first is over here this one and this is called the pen tool and if I click on that what I'm going to use it for what a pen tool does is when you hold it on the artboard and click it creates this dot and that is called an anchor point anchor points are the foundation of anything you create in Adobe Illustrator if I have a highlighted Anchor Point like you can see this is highlighted because it's bright blue right now if it was a color and then white in the middle that's a non highlighted Anchor Point and you'll see that in just a second if I have a highlighted Anchor Point and I click anywhere else with the pen illustrator is going to draw a line between the two so let's pretend I was going to just draft a bodice ish pattern as you notice this only does straight lines between the anchor points so I'm just going to do straight lines and kind of a bodice shape you'll see the green guide that's popping up on the screen that helps me know that I am currently aligned in a straight line with that anchor point above me there and let's come over here and you can see the green line pops up again and that means that I'm aligned with the horizontally with the other anchor point I'm going to come up over here and when I go from the last highlighted thing to click again on the first anchor point I made what I've done is created a closed path that means that this path and is joined and when I move move this if I select it it'll all move together because it's a closed path so let's talk about the Select tool now that we have a chance now that we have an object to select the black one is the Select object tool so when I select it you'll see it highlights every single anchor point if I um click and hold down I can move it I can drag it around my screen and the whole thing is coming together okay if I use the white arrow this is a direct selection tool it's only going to select one part of a thing so if I click it on here well first all my anchor points are selected right now but let's say I click it on just a part you see how all my anchor points are not highlighted and that means that if I drag just this line it's going to drive just that part of the line I can also use this to select only one anchor point for example if this is going to be my shoulder of my bodice I've made it way too wide so I might select just that anchor point and I'm going to move it over on the path so that that shoulder is more shoulder width not so wide okay again this still doesn't look quite like a bodice because it's not a light trapezoidal and not curved so we're going to go over here to the pen tool again if you click and hold down on the pen tool you'll notice that some different pen tool options pop up the one I'm going to use is the bottom one here called the convert Anchor Point tool what this does is takes an anchor point that is just creating straight lines right now and it turns it into an anchor point that you can curve so if this is going to be my sleeve here I'm going to click on this anchor point so that's where I want to create the curve I'm going to click and I'm going to drag out to the side and you see it creates these handles here those handles will allow me to create the curve the way I want it to look I'm going back to the direct selection tool the white arrow and I'm going to pull the handles and you see how they behave in tandem like it's like a seesaw if I move one handle and I'm clicking and dragging if I move one handle the other one doesn't equal an opposite reaction so I'm going to look at the bottom of the sleeve first and I'm going to pull it out to a sleeve like curve and this still doesn't look right to me so I'm going to pull this over and aha now it's starting to look kind of like a sleeve I'm actually gonna move this side of the handle closer and voila now we have something that more closely resembles what you're used to seeing as a bodice pattern if I do the same thing again convert anchor point over here we can create this to a nice smooth neckline and I'm going back to the direct selection tool because I only want to work with this anchor point and I'm going to pull this handle a little bit and you can see now how I've created something that resembles a neckline so now I have something that more closely resembles a bodice piece the shoulders still obviously I wasn't using any measurements so the shoulder still looks a little funny here that's a deep armhole I've made I could fix that by selecting again with the direct select tool just these two anchor points which is going to move this whole line in you see how it changes the curve a little bit too so ok now we're starting to look a lot more like a bodice um just because I'm being picky there there we go another tool that you might use quite a bit in pattern making is the text tool so if I click on that I'm going to then click somewhere on my artboard and you'll see up here this gives me my text size and options and I'm going to use this font that's fine but I'm going to make it a little bit bigger so that we can see it easier and then you just type on your screen and it creates the text once you have finished creating the text you want you can select text just the same way you so we selected and move to the bodice around so I can use the select tool here and I'm going to just click on and drag my text right into where I want it let's talk about a couple of other things all of other variations that you can do with the lines here your pattern lines when I select this I up here in the top it shows me the stroke and the fill so let's talk about what stroke and what's fill stroke is the outline of any object so right now you see I've got a black color selected for stroke if I click on the drop down arrow I can select any color I want maybe I want this to be green for some reason because this size is going to be green and that's how I differentiate my sizes so now you can see that this is a green outline of a bodice typically the default on illustrator is going to be to fill in your object with white I actually like to remove the fill from my object which is this red slash through the white box and that means there's no fill in the object and the fill is what goes in the middle the reason I do this is when I am looking at a paper image that I scanned in and it's a digital picture and I'm lining it with my pen tool I don't want the white fill because that would cover up the image that I'm copying basically so you use that no fill button to change it but if for some reason you wanted like you're drawing a paper doll or something and not just making a pattern let's use a fill color and then you can see the whole object gets filled in I'm going to go back to no fill here and I'm going to go back to a black stroke to show you something else with the stroke strokes also have a wait and the stroke wave is indicated here and in another place I'll show you in a minute but the way is how wide basically that the outline is if I change it to something huge you'll see that suddenly the outline becomes a lot darker um I typically design with one pro ink strokes for pattern design because you don't want big fat lines and then have people like cutting and guessing where within the line to cut and there are a few places I will use a wider stroke and that will be the subject of upcoming lessons but typically I use the one-point stroke you can also because I don't use colored lines to differentiate my pattern sizes I use dashed lines and that is over here on the right side of the panel it's very easy to create a dashed line in Illustrator all you do is select the path or the object that you're trying to make a dashed line and you'll go and you'll hit this is the stroke menu over here when you click on it you can see that you can change the weight of the stroke from this menu as well but you can also very easily turn this into a dashed line by checking this box and so the dashed line that I've created right now is a one-point dash and then a two-point gap a three-point dash and then a four-point gap and what that looks like on the object and let me zoom in for you here so that you can see a little better you can see that the dashed line is a little – and a big – and some varying spacing in between you can change that and the default one that will probably pop up for you is going to be a a 12-point dashed line and so if I again select the object and then I can change this to a 12-point dashed line and you can see this is what a 12-point dashed line is so you can make any size – and you can play with it anything that you want in there we do want to look at the corners real quick so I'm going to scroll up here so you can see the corner right here this is one of the corners if you select a different kind of corner it will have your dashes well I have to have the object selected but if you select a different kind of corner you can see how it changed it to make sure that the dash actually went around the corner instead of just dash lines meeting at the corner which is what we had at first I'll go back to show you the difference so you see how this one here it kind of leaves up to guess where guess work where the corner is so I prefer personally to change mine to these kinds of corners and that's easier than I think for the person using the pattern to see where to cut so these are the basic tools that I use for Illustrator these are the most often used tools there are a couple of keyboard shortcuts I do use a lot that I'll talk about real quick to zoom in and zoom out what I'm doing here I'm hitting I'm on a Mac so I'm hitting command and – zooms out command + + zooms in I believe that on a PC you can hit ctrl + – or ctrl + + and that will zoom in and out for you the other thing that I use quite a bit is the command Z on a Mac or ctrl Z on a PC which will undo whatever you just did so let's say I accidentally like did something funky and I completely oh wow what did I just do there that's awful command Z and it all goes back to where I had it and what I accident actually did there was I had created um I had pulled out a curve and messed with those handles that I had created earlier so command Z I'm back to where I was don't freak out you can even like mess up a whole bunch of stuff like or what did I do here and oh man I've created like and then I moved that and this doesn't look like a bodice at all anymore command Z command Z command Z I'm back to where I was so that is a huge useful tool again for PCs it's control Z not command Z but if you don't have that shortcut memorize you should because you will use it all the time um finally let's say that I wanted on purpose that I'm making this bodice a little longer because I want maybe a drop waist so I've selected those points I've moved them down and accidentally command Z oh and I want it back to where it was this is going to go shift command Z and that will go redo what I undid and it's the same as command Z that you can use it multiple times to keep redoing redoing redoing and I on PCs that's going to be shift control Z instead of shift command Z but those two get used quite a bit by me those are the two or three I guess keyboard shortcuts is the undo redo and then the zoom in and out and that's it those are really like there are all these tools over here and I don't really use them too much in Illustrator there are a couple that come in but the primary tools that you use for pattern design the select the direct select the pen tool which has the convert anchor point within it and and the text tool the rest of these some of them never get opened and so hopefully I've made this not scary for you if you're thinking that you want to use illustrator for pattern design and in future lessons I'll cover how to scan and digitize your patterns how exactly to trace them out with a pen how to draft within illustrator using measurements how to add markers and formatting so that your patterns print easily and are easy for your customers to assemble and um how to grade there's actually a way I've discovered within Illustrator that makes grading patterns fairly easy so all of these are upcoming lessons or future lessons in this course that I hope you will take thank you

38 thoughts on “How to Use Adobe Illustrator to Create Sewing Patterns – Basic Tools

  1. Wow! Thank you SO MUCH for this! I design bag patterns and am just now trying to learn how to digitize them or, better yet, design them completely on the computer! This clear walk-through of the anchor points and creating curves from anchors was just what I needed! I'll definitely be signing up for the full course in the near future! And I didn't find it difficult or complicated at all (in response to an earlier rude comment about how "there must be an easier way"). No shortcuts when it comes to gaining knowledge and expertise! Practice, practice, practice!

  2. I have a question about making these patterns. Would it be best to get the measurements of the body so you can use it as a reference while making the pattern? I can see how to make the bodice, but do you have any pointers in making the sleeves and the pants?

  3. I like making my patterns on paper. I would like to learn how to digitize them to create PDF patterns. Do you offer tutorials aimed at learning how to digitize patterns?

  4. Thank you Melly! I took a class on Illustrator for fashion design several years ago, but I'm just now starting to design some commercial patterns and I needed a good refresher. This was exactly the information I was looking for.

  5. I wish I had found this tutorial 2 years ago when I had to design my outfit for my sons wedding. I was so overweight because of steroids nothing in the stores fit me and I had to figure it out having never done this before. I'm looking forward to designing more for myself but I needed your tutorial to help me build my confidence. This is just what I needed and so are you. Bless you.

  6. Hi Melly!
    Really good video! Do you have a specific video about measuring curves? I'm finding hard to measure it or a section of it. And I cannot find a way of measuring the centre of a "free" curve path. Any tips?
    Thanks!

  7. Wow, this was a really GREAT video! Will you be continuing this series, I would really love to see further instruction in how to scan in and digitize a hand-drafted pattern, how to size the pattern to inches/cms, how to grade a pattern in AI. Wonderful lesson, especially for those unfamiliar with using AI!

  8. This is great! I design and create leather armor, masks etc and I've been been looking for an AI tutorial like this for a while. Never thought about searching sewing patterns, duh. You've already made my life easier =). Your presentation is clear and easy to follow. Just wanted to say Thanks. Vince

  9. I have often wondered about how to use these tools and would not because I was afraid I'd destroy my laptop. Thats a shame, but thanks to you , I have a little more courage and confidence that I can do some od this designing thing at least for my self if no one else. Thanks again Melissa, I love your tutorials on pinterest also.

  10. Thanks for the demo. How do you draft to correct measurement on illustrator and print exact size as indicated? Now that I have learned (from you) how to use illustrator to draw the pattern, I need to make sure that it prints the pattern just like those I purchase on Burdastyle or pdf patterns where I can just cut and join. Is there any kind of measuring tool in illustrator that can draw and print to scale? Printing multiple sheets just to check the size would waste a lot of paper (and money). Thanks.

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