I am trying to "actually" fill a shape with a Pattern in Illustrator.

When I create a shape, then use the Window > Swatch Libraries > Patterns > Basic Graphics > Basic Graphics_Textures feature, the shape appears to be filled with a Pattern:

enter image description here

But what is actually happening is:

-Illustrator places several seamless pattern "tiles" next to each other (but that are overlapping);

-it then creates a Clipping Mask in the shape of the Object, and hides what is outside its bounds.

enter image description here

enter image description here

This process doesn't work at all for me, as the shape isn't actually "filled" within its bounds, it's an illusion.

I need a way to "actually" fill shapes with a Pattern in Illustrator, without involving messy overlapped lines or Clipping Masks. When using a pen plotter, Clipping Masks are ignored and overlapping lines produce visual defects.

Can Illustrator "actually" fill a shape with a Pattern?

(I am ok with external plugins or third party software, exporting/reimporting - etc - but I would like the result to be as clean as possible and to be what it looks like - a Pattern inside a Shape).

  • Maybe... These screenshots were just made for illustration purposes, to get the question across. Commented Nov 15, 2020 at 9:48
  • 1
    This goes deep into who illustrator is designed for. Its designed for people who design for print. Its designed as a WYSIWYG program. If you did what you asked, then there would be no what you see for edges. All illustrator tools reinforce this. For example youcan not use patfinder to disect lines. Only outlines. Even shapebuilder jumps to building closed shapes when there is a possible conflict. Its simply a tradeof between least suprise for a crowd that designs with fill priority. If you want to use line priority use a app thats designed for it like say rhino or autocad
    – joojaa
    Commented Nov 15, 2020 at 11:20
  • Expand and crop --- removes the "live' pattern, but will also remove the superfluous elements. Essentially "bakes in" the mask used for the pattern fill.
    – Scott
    Commented Nov 15, 2020 at 17:19
  • @Scott Expand and crop does come close, but the two problems are: lines are converted to filled shapes (they must remain lines), and I have to select each shape individually to "Crop" it - if I select them all and Crop they all disappear but one. Commented Nov 16, 2020 at 2:50
  • Well as far as I know Only Shape Builder will allow you to keep stroked paths as stroked paths. (And that's not able to be automated)
    – Scott
    Commented Nov 16, 2020 at 4:27

2 Answers 2


If your goal is to use a cutter, then patterns won't work. Instead it's probably better to create the lines yourself manually, using a step blend. Expand the blend, ungroup it. Then add your shape on top, then use the Shape Builder while holding down Alt to physically remove the overlapping lines.


enter image description here


There is a trick! That only works for hatching and hatching likes. You dont actually need to design your hatch as a square you can design it as one line and then one square with no strone or fill to model the gap. And then use the alt rotate dialog to rotate your pattern only.

Whats the benefit? Well the benefit is that since you only make one line you can make it as long as you like, say length of a A0 then you do not get into the problem of the tiles.

You can then easily use shapebuilter to trim the excess.

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