Monday, November 19, 2012

Tutorial: How To Create An Ikat Effect In Illustrator

Ikat, or Ikkat, is a dyeing technique used to pattern textiles that employs a resist dyeing process similar to tie-dye on either the warp or weft fibers prior to dyeing. The word ikat derives from the Indonesian word mengikat, meaning "to tie". Ikat is one of the oldest forms of textile decoration. There is a long and varied history for the technique, and no one is certain where, exactly, the technique originates from. But one thing is for certain, the look of ikat is very popular right now, and many designers are busy trying to figure how to re-create the look digitally. There isn't a specific shape for ikat designs. What they all have in common is the irregularity along the edges of the pattern design that causes a "streaky" look. So, if you are a designer and you haven't figured this out yet...good news! It's actually quite easy.

So, let's dive right in! I'm going to show you, step by step, how I made the diamond ikat pattern shown above.

*NOTE-This tutorial assumes that you already have a basic working knowledge of Adobe Illustrator.*

1.  The first thing I did was change the corner radius settings in Illustrator. Go to Illustrator---Preferences---General---Corner Radius. Set your corner Radius to 1 inch. The reason for this is because we are going to be using the Scribble effect, and this effect doesn't work well on pointy edges. A 1 inch corner radius will get a much better result.

2. Make a square using the Rounded Rectangle tool. Hold the shift key down as you drag the mouse to keep the shape a perfect square. After you draw the square, rotate it 45°. You should now have something of a diamond shape that looks like this...

3. Now you are ready to apply the Scribble Effect. Go to Effect---Stylize---Scribble. You will most likely need to make some adjustments in the pop-up dialog box. You will find the settings that I used in the image below. Turn the angle dial to get the desired angle of your effect. I chose 90° to get a straight up-and-down effect for mine. Adjust your "Path Overlap" and variation until you get a good length on the scribble lines. "Stroke Width" will adjust how thick or thin your lines are. Set "Curviness" and its variation very low or your lines will end up looking like loops. Also, keep the "Spacing" setting low as well to keep the ikat look. Every shape will end up with different results, so play around in this dialog box for awhile until you are satisfied. You probably won't get an absolutely perfect result on most shapes, but remember that you can always outline the effect and adjust the individual points later to get a fine-tuned result.

The diamond should now look like this...

4. Now to create the shapes inside the shape, just duplicate your shape on top of itself and then reduce the size of the top shape while holding shift+option to keep it proportional. If your scaling settings are set to scale strokes and effects you will need to go into your preferences and turn that off in order to keep the ikat "streaks" the same size. Go to Illustrator---Preferences---General---then uncheck "Scale Strokes and Effects".  After duplicating the shape, change the fill color to something different. Then just repeat this step a couple of times until you have something like this...

5. Now, just make a repeating pattern and add a background color!

The Scribble effect will work on many different shapes. Chevron style zig-zags are very popular right now too, and you can create a "zikat" (zig-zag + ikat) effect on those as well.

Here is an example...

Tip: If you have a complicated shape that isn't getting a good result, try this: Take the shape that you want the effect on and duplicate it on top of itself. Now, take the shape that's on top and remove the fill and add a stroke instead. Leave the shape on bottom as it is. Now, apply the effect to the shape on top that has only a stroke. Adjust the settings to get your desired look. I have found that this works quite well, although it won't work for everything. Your best bet is to just give it a try and see what happens!

I hope this tutorial has been helpful!


  1. thank you Very much! :)

  2. Exactly what I've been looking for!!! Thank you!

  3. So clear and so helpful. Thank you!

  4. amanda, you are my hero:) thank you!!

  5. Very helpful and clear! Thank you!

  6. I was wondering if you have any advice on creating a circle ikat? This tutorial was very helpful! Thank you!

  7. I like this idea of making ikat pattern. Thank you so much for sharing, I really like this. oriental rugs for sale

  8. I like your post, thank you for your How To Create An Ikat Effect In Illustrator good tutorial