What is a Seamless Pattern Repeat?

So, you’re wondering…what is a seamless pattern repeat? What does it mean? and What are the basics on how to create a seamless pattern repeat?

photo: Cutting yardage fabric at the Dear Diary Design studio

 

What is a Seamless Pattern Tile?

How does it make a Seamless Pattern Repeat?

 

A seamless pattern repeat is made up of image ’tiles’ that repeat edge to edge. When the ’tiles’ are placed next to each other, above and below each other, they create an endless print, also known as a seamless pattern.

The key to creating a seamless pattern is to create an image ’tile’ that can ‘repeat’ itself with no mistakes showing when placed either above, below, diagonal or next to itself.

TILE (also referred to as a Repeat Swatch, Square, Unit)
A square or rectangle containing the graphics that repeat edge to edge, that is then ’tiled’ out to create a seamless pattern.

MOTIFS (also referred to as the graphics, drawings, artwork, icons, vectors, sketches, elements)
The characters, flowers, leaves, shapes or graphics you have created to be in the pattern.

SEAMLESS PATTERN (also referred to as a repeat, pattern, print, textile design, yardage, rotary print, edge-to-edge screen print, roll print) This is the term used for the finished design when all the tiles are placed together.

SLICING / CUT LINES (also referred to as repeat lines, seam lines, mistakes, blips, glitches)
When a designer refers to cut lines in the ‘seamless pattern’, it often means there is a mistake in the print. The ’tile’ is not repeating correctly because some of the ‘motifs’ may look like they are ‘cut’ or ‘sliced’ and missing a piece.

So, How do you create the ’tile’ to make the ‘Seamless’ Pattern?

Below I have created a textile design tutorial on understanding the Principles of designing a seamless pattern tile. In future tutorials I will be explaining more in depth on how to create them using specific design software, but the below information can be applied to any graphic program such as Adobe Illustrator, Adobe Photoshop or traditional collage methods.

 

1. START WITH YOUR MOTIFS

These are your drawings or graphics.

 

2. CREATE A BOX FOR YOUR TILE

(It doesn’t have to be an even square, but let’s start with a basic, even-sided square for now)

TIP: It’s easier to create an accurate repeat tile if  your box is an even number for width and height.

Make sure you are aware of the width and height measurements. Eg: 16cm x 16cm

 

 

3. START WITH THE TOP CORNER

Place your graphic elements on the top corner and along one edge.

 

4. DUPLICATE THE EDGE MOTIFS
+ MOVE THEM TO THE OTHER SIDE

The edges of the box is where the elements will need to be placed side by side, so they must be accurately aligned both in height and width. My box is 16cm wide, so I will duplicate and move the motifs 16cm to the other side.

 

5. DUPLICATE THE EDGE MOTIFS
+ MOVE THEM TO THE BOTTOM

The edges (or seams) of the box is where the elements will need to be placed side by side, so they must be accurately aligned both in height and width. My box has a 16cm height, so I will duplicate and move the motifs 16cm down to the bottom.

6. FILL IN THE MIDDLE OF THE BOX
WITH MORE MOTIFS

The motifs in the middle do not need to be duplicated or moved, as they are not touching the ‘seams’ / ‘edges’ of the tile.

7. CREATE A CLIPPING MASK TO
FINISH THE TILE NEATLY

It is good practice to create a clipping mask (if working in  Adobe Illustrator), or to crop your artwork (if working in Adobe Photoshop) or to cut around the artwork box (if using a traditional physical method of paper and cut-outs), when finishing off your repeat tile. Doing this will ensure you are left with a neat box with no over-hanging elements.

TIP: Visit my Pinterest Board to Save the above tutorial infographic for future reference.

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