Friday, March 6, 2009

PDF Patterns 101

I was just working on a new pattern for my Etsy shop, and I thought I'd share my method for transferring a pattern to PDF format.

You will need:

your full size pattern, drawn on tissue paper, newspaper or what ever you have available.

plenty of 8 1/2 x 11 paper to mount your pattern pieces on.

a glue stick, clear tape or double sided tape


A square (optional) will help you divide your pattern into neat pieces.

a scanner

Adobe Photoshop or Illustrator(optional) can help you create professional looking patterns.

A program capable of creating PDF files. Cute PDF is a free one.

Microsoft word or similar software for creating multiple page documents.

Adobe Acrobat can do both of the last two jobs.


1. Draw a 1" border around one of your 8 1/2" x 11" sheets of paper.

2. Use this as a guide for cutting your pattern into pieces. Every piece needs to fit into the inner square.

3. Use tape or glue to mount your pattern onto sheets of 8 1/2" x 11" Paper.

4. Label each piece. I like to go from top to bottom. This will help you assemble the pieces later. You can also use symbols on the edges that match up to their neighboring pieces.

5. Scan each piece.

6. Now if you are not using a graphic editing program to make a professional looking pattern, and you are happy with they way your hand drawn pieces look; you are ready to print them as PDF files. You can stitch them together with Acrobat, or paste the images into a Word document and print as a PDF using Cute PDF. (if using Word, you really need to check that your images have printed true to size. Use the originals to verify this.)

If everything looks good, print out and assemble your pattern. Make sure all your pieces line up correctly, and look as you'd expect.

7. If you would like your pattern to have a professional appearance, you will need to use your graphic editing software. I use Adobe Photoshop.

* You will use the images of your pattern pieces as guides.
* make a new layer.
* make a new path.
* Use the pen tool to trace the outline of your pattern piece.
* Select the brush tool and choose the brush and color you'd like to use to outline your pattern piece.
* Click "stoke path" it is the little outline of a circle tab at the bottom of the paths window.
* Add any text or graphics your like for you pattern.
* Hide your background layer and save. Make sure you save as a Photoshop file and a JPG or PDF file, just in case you need to edit it later.

*Repeat these steps for each piece.

8. Follow step 6 to create your PDF file.