What is Digital Pattern Making

by | Dec 6, 2023 | All Documentation, Basic Pattern Making | 0 comments

Digital Pattern Making Tools

Welcome to the exciting world of digital pattern making, where creativity meets precision through the power of technology. In this article, we’ll provide a quick comparison between digital and traditional pattern making tools. Explore the most commonly used digital pattern making software applications and shed light on why PatternLab. London and Adobe Illustrator stands out as the preferred choice for independent digital pattern makers, sewing enthusiasts, fashion students and other creatives on a budget.

What is a Pattern Maker?

Computer screen with a digital pattern making program, Adobe Illustrator open, showing a dress basic block pattern, on a desk with modern design tools.

Traditional Vs. Digital Pattern Making Tools: Bridging the Gap

Traditional Paper pattern making

Before the rise of digital pattern making, the art of pattern making primarily relied on traditional paper-based methods, where finished patterns were meticulously drafted from basic blocks using physical tools like pens, rulers, and French curves. These hand-crafted finished patterns were then carefully stored on clothes rails on Manilla cardboard or paper format. This traditional pattern-making process is still embraced by both couture and commercial fashion brands today, demonstrating the enduring power of time-tested techniques.

Learn More About Traditional Pattern Making Tools

Digital Pattern Making

Traditional pattern making tools have seen a remarkable transformation. From the humble paper, pen, ruler, and French curves, they’ve evolved into a collection of virtual, digital, precision tools integrated into software applications like Adobe IllustratorGerber AccuMark, and Lectra. While the basic techniques of pattern making remain the same, these digital tools offer a space-saving and more efficient way for pattern makers to create finished patterns. Each digital pattern making software is fundamentally the same, achieving the same goal with similar tools modeled on their traditional counterparts.

Below is an overview of some important digital pattern making tools used within these platforms and their traditional counterparts. We can’t cover each and every tool in each different platform in a single article, but we’ve listed the basics, used in Adobe Illustrator, to give you an idea of how these traditional tools have evolved.

Illustrator & Artboards

Adobe Illustrator offers digital pattern makers a remarkable advantage – the freedom to work without the need for large studios, tables, or pattern paper. Within the software, a workspace, called an artboard, can be created, sometimes as large as 50 meters by 50 meters. This large digital canvas allows pattern makers to draft patterns of considerable size. Furthermore, a pattern maker can efficiently work on multiple patterns simultaneously, all within this single digital platform. Think of the studio space, tables, and quantity of pattern paper required for doing the same job in the real world.

Traditional tool: Studio, Table, Pattern Paper

Learn More About Digital Pattern Making in Adobe Illustrator

Copy & Paste Tools

The “Copy and Paste” function in digital pattern making mimics the traditional paper tracing method. It involves selecting a pattern in the digital workspace, copying it, and pasting it into another document or workspace. This process replicates the traditional method of using tracing paper to duplicate a design from an existing pattern, but it’s much faster and more accurate.

Traditional tool: Hand tracing, pattern paper & pens.

Learn More About Duplicating a Pattern in Adobe Illustrator

Pen Tool

The Pen Tool in digital pattern making combines several traditional tools into one. It offers precise control over line thickness and color. Unlike traditional pens or pencils, it can create perfectly straight lines and right angles, crucial for pattern symmetry. It’s also excellent for drawing smooth curves, ideal for necklines and armholes.

Traditional tools: Pencils, pens, markers, rulers, French curves, & Pattern Master.

Learn More About the Pen Tool in Adobe Illustrator

Pathfinder Tools

The Pathfinder Panel in digital pattern making has two key functions: the “divide” tool for cutting patterns into different panels and the “merge” tool for combining panels. These tools are useful for creating facings, dart adjustments, and connecting panels to create simple and intrictae patterns.

Replaces: Scissors, sellotape & hand tracing.

Learn More About the Pathfinder tool

Rotation Tool

The rotation tool in digital pattern making simplifies tasks like opening and closing darts or matching and aligning pattern pieces. The process is also incredibly precise and a valuable tool in any pattern makers tool kit.

Learn More about the Rotation Tool

Seam Allowance

The offset path tool offers one-click seam allowance, streamlining the process of adding seam allowances and replacing the manual approach of using a Pattern Master tool. With a single click, the software automatically applies the required seam allowance to all pattern edges, infinitely saving time and ensuring absolute accuracy and consistency.

Replaces: Pattern Master

Learn More About Adding Seam Allowance

Pattern Storage

Pattern storage has gone digital, replacing physical paper patterns. They are now stored electronically on computers, USB drives, or in the Cloud. This shift offers benefits like easy access, quick sharing, reduced need for large storage areas, and improved pattern version control. It’s also more eco-friendly and efficient for pattern makers.

Replaces: Studio space, clothes rails, pattern paper & Manilla card. 

Different Brands of Digital Pattern Making Software:

Gerber AccuMark, Lectra, and Optitex are prominent names in the digital pattern making sector, primarily catering to large-scale commercial garment production. They share key capabilities and limitations:


  • Precisely create, edit, and optimize finished patterns using simialr digital pattern making tools previously mentioned.
  • Efficiently grade patterns to different sizes.
  • Nest patterns to optimize fabric usage.
  • Design and visualize garments in 3D.
  • Manage a library of pattern designs.


  • With the exception of Optitex, they don’t automatically generate basic blocks; these must be imported or manually drafted by a skilled pattern maker.
  • They require a skilled pattern maker to adapt patterns and adjustments.
  • Cannot replace the expertise of pattern makers in garment design and fit assessment.
  • Not suitable for tasks unrelated to pattern making, such as sewing or manufacturing.

Cost & Scope:

Our understanding is that these platforms are tailored for large-scale manufacturing, typically coming with a substantial price tag. They often require a demo before revealing the cost, specialized training, and equipment, which can pose challenges for fashion students, sewists, independent pattern makers, and individuals on a budget.

So, if you find yourself in one of these categories, what are the alternatives?

PatternLab – Affordable Digital Pattern Making!

PatternLab.London was created to address this very issue. We aim to offer a cost-effective solution that is both user-friendly and accessible right now!

PatternLab.London provides a range of products tailored to independent pattern makers, fashion students, and fashion enthusiasts. You get the same high quality but at a lower cost, and it’s available immediately. So, what products do we offer, what are their prices, and how can they significantly streamline your garment design and manufacturing workflow?

digital pattern making the lab automatic basic block drafting software

The Lab – Automated Basic Block Drafting Software:

Our cutting-edge automated basic block drafting software can create bespoke or custom-fitting basic blocks in minutes. Bespoke Basic blocks can be drafted for as little as £4.99

Draft a Bespoke Basic Block Using the Lab

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Standard Basic Blocks:

We have an extensive library of standardized, professional digital basic blocks, providing a dependable foundation for your next finished pattern or garment collection.

Browse Our Full Collection of Basic Blocks

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FREE Digital Pattern Making Courses:

We provide a selection of courses and tutorials covering digital pattern making techniques using Adobe Illustrator as a powerful and user-friendly platform. These courses are designed for absolute beginners in both Adobe Illustrator and pattern making. You can learn the basics of digital pattern making and add design details such as pockets, pleats, collars, and more to transform your custom-fitting basic blocks into beautiful full-scale finished patterns.

Learn Digital Pattern Making Techniques

We Champion Adobe Illustrator

Adobe Illustrator is rapidly becoming a digital pattern making powerhouse. With its wide range of tools, features, and visually appealing, user-friendly interface, you can effortlessly adapt your digital basic blocks into stunning finished patterns. It’s also a cost-effective digital pattern making platform, offering a monthly subscription with a 7-day free trial.

Try Out Adobe Illustrator for FREE.

Draft and adapt basic blocks in adobe illustrator. Digital pattern making
Draft and adapt basic blocks in adobe illustrator. Digital pattern making


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