How To Step And Repeat In Illustrator

Do you want to make a pattern with the same object repeated all over? Let us introduce you to a feature that helps you accomplish this quickly and easily. 

To step and repeat, create a new layer and draw the object you want to work with. Now press Ctrl + Alt + T. Click and drag the object to a distance. Now press Ctrl + Alt + T + Option to continue to repeat the process. Then merge all the layers and save the document. 

For further information, please continue reading. 

What Is Step And Repeat?

Step and repeat are when a specific pattern is drawn over a canvas. It is the repetition of one particular object or multiple objects, depending on the preference. 

Watch this video for a detailed tutorial on creating a backdrop with step and repeat. 

Step And Repeat In Illustrator

Let us begin with our process. Below is a detailed guide on carrying out and repeating the step. 

  1. Open a new document in Illustrator.
  2. Choose a background color or image of your choice. This background should be the layer you wish to build upon and make a pattern. 
  3. Create a new layer in the layers panel on the right of the window. 
  4. Choose the object you wish to step, repeat, and draw in this layer. 
  5. Once you’re done, deselect it by clicking anywhere on the canvas. 
  6. Select the following keyboard keys together:
    • Command or Control
    • Option or Alt
    • The letter T
  7. This helps you transform a copy, not the original layer you drew the object on. 
  8. Now press and hold the shift key. Click on the object and drag the cursor as far away as you wish the distance to be for your step and repeat. 
  9. Release the cursor and hit enter. 
  10. Notice that this creates a new layer in the layers panel. 
  11. To repeat the process that you just did, hit the following keys together:
    • Command or Control
    • Option or Alt
    • Shift
    • The letter T
  12. Continue doing this until you have adequate repetitions on your canvas. 

How To Change The Number Of Repetitions?

You may have made an error when making repetitions. Below we have discussed how to reduce or increase the number of repetitions. 

Reduce The Number Of Repetitions 

To reduce the number of repetitions:

  1. Open the file where step and repeat have been done. 
  2. Go to the layers panel on the left. 
  3. For every layer that says “copy” at the end, select it. 
  4. Now hit delete. You can also right-click on it and delete it. 
  5. Continue until you get to the number of layers that you need. 

Increase The Number Of Repetitions

To increase the number of repetitions: 

  1. Open the file where step and repeat has been done. 
  2. Press Control + Alt + T. 
  3. Now press the Shift key and drag the object to the distance you want. 
  4. Keep pressing Control + Alt + Shift + T to further make the repetition.

How To Perfectly Space The Repeated Objects In Illustrator?

To perfectly space the repeated objects out on a canvas: 

  1. Go to the layers panel on the left of your window. 
  2. Please select all the layers that have repetition on them.
  3. Go to the tools panel on the left and choose the move tool. 
  4. In the options panel that appears on top, choose one of the distribution options. 
  5. The “distribute by the center” option spaces objects out across the line. 
  6. The “distribute on the right” feature moves the objects to the right. 
  7. “Distribute on the left” moves and distributes the objects on the left side. 

Finishing Off The Step And Repeat In Illustrator

A document with too many layers can be difficult to work with as it can confuse. Once you are sure about the pattern and do not wish to make further changes, merge the layers or turn them into a smart object. 

Merge Layers

To merge the layers:

  1. In the layers panel on the right of your Illustrator window, select all the layers that incorporate together to form a step and repeat pattern. 
  2. Go to the Layers panel option.
  3. Select Merge Selected. 
  4. All your layers will disappear, and one layer will be formed. 

Create Smart Object

To create a smart object from the layers: 

  1. Select all the layers. 
  2. Right-click on them. 
  3. Choose Convert To Smart Object. 


Step and repeat are wonderful when you wish to save time and have artwork involving a lot of pattern repetition. This can also be used in more complex designs if you are an expert at this. Use our guide to get the hang of it, and you will also get there.