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REPEAT PATTERNS LESSON 1

This lesson demonstrates how to design a 'mirror' repeat pattern using any image (photograph or drawing) as your source material.

Repeat Pattern - Lesson 1

This lesson illustrates and explains how to design a 'mirror' repeat pattern based on any image.

Our lesson is divided up into 3 sections:

  1. Designing your repeat unit.

  2. Constructing your repeat pattern.

  3. Developing your design.

Part 1 - Designing your repeat unit

Designing a Repeat Unit

A 'repeat unit' is the section of the design that you duplicate to create a pattern.

  • When designing a repeat pattern, many artists and designers find inspiration for their 'repeat unit' in images that already have their own in-built pattern. Natural objects such as leaves, feathers, flowers, shells and insects make excellent visual references as they already contain an variety of patterns and forms. Man-made objects such as mechanical or electrical equipment also offer a similar visual stimulus.

Step 1 - Choose an image that inspires you.

Step 1 - Choose an image that inspires you.

For our source image we have chosen to use the color pencil study from our Butterfly Drawing Lesson.

  • This type of observational drawing lesson, which develops your awareness of natural pattern, is the ideal preparation for this project.

Step 2 - Select a section of your source image.

Step 2 - Select a square section of your source image.

Draw a square onto a sheet of tracing paper and use this as a frame to select an interesting area from your source image.

  • This is done by moving the square around the image until you find a section that is visually appealing.

  • The area that you select will become the 'repeat unit' that you use to create your pattern.

  • Note: We have chosen a square to frame our selection as it is the easiest shape to arrange as a repeat unit. The size that you draw the square will also be the size of your repeat unit. Around 6cm. to 8cm. is a comfortable size to use.

Step 3 - Draw or copy your selection.

Step 3 - Draw or cut out your selection.

For our 'repeat unit' we selected an area of the butterfly's wing that creates a diagonal movement of lines and shapes across the image.

  • Note: Diagonal arrangements on square units seem to form the most dynamic designs. They work better than horizontal or vertical arrangements as the unit already includes these elements in its horizontal and vertical edges.

Step 4 - Simplify your 'repeat unit' into lines and shapes.

Step 4 - Simplify your selection into lines and shapes.

After selecting your 'repeat unit', take the sheet of tracing paper and trace a simplified outline of its shapes inside the square. This will become the basic design for your repeat pattern which you may now develop by applying tone and color.

Step 5 - Enhance your 'repeat unit' with tone and color.

Step 5 - Develop your design with tone and color.

Trace and transfer technique: Take the tracing of your 'repeat unit and draw carefully over the back of your design so that you have the same image pencilled on both sides. Now place your tracing onto a sheet of paper and draw heavily over the lines of your design to transfer the image. You can repeat this process to create as many duplicates as you require.

  • 'Trace and transfer' your 'repeat unit' onto an sheet of paper a number of times so that you have several images to develop. Use a soft grade pencil (grade B or 2B) as this will transfer your design more clearly.

  • You can then explore the different effects of tone and color on your design until you begin to discover certain combinations that appeal to you more than others. Click here for a blank template of our development sheet that you may print and use.

Step 6 - Select your best design.

Step 6 - Select your best design.

Finally, select one design from your development sheet that appeals to you more than the others. This will become the 'repeat unit' that you use to construct your finished pattern.

Part 2 - Constructing your repeat pattern.

Constructing a repeat pattern.

There are many different ways to design a repeat pattern. This method uses the 'trace and transfer' technique to construct a four unit 'mirror' repeat pattern.

Step 1 - Start with a construction grid of four squares.

Step 1 - Start with a construction grid of four squares.

Draw a grid of four squares with each square the same size as your 'repeat unit'.

Step 2 - Transfer 'repeat unit' 1.

Step 2 - Transfer 'repeat unit' 1.

Trace and transfer your 'repeat unit' into the top left square.

Step 3 - Transfer 'repeat unit' 2.

Step 3 - Transfer 'repeat unit' 2.

Flip your tracing to form a 'mirror' image.

  • Transfer your 'repeat unit' into the top right square.

Step 4 - Transfer 'repeat unit' 3.

Step 4 - Transfer 'repeat unit' 3.

Flip your tracing again.

  • Transfer your 'repeat unit' into the bottom right square.

Step 5 - Transfer 'repeat unit' 4.

Step 5 - Transfer 'repeat unit' 4.

Flip your tracing again.

  • Transfer your 'repeat unit' into the bottom left square.

Step 6 - The finished four unit repeat pattern.

Step 6 - The finished four unit repeat pattern.

Once you erase the grid lines from your pattern you can see movements and rhythms of your design more clearly.

Part 3 - Developing your design.

Step 7 - Developing your design.

Once you complete your four unit pattern, you will find that you can repeat it continuously to form the type of pattern suitable for a wallpaper or textile design.

Experiment with color.

Repeat Patterns

Finally, never automatically settle for the first colors you choose. You should always try different color combinations to see how they impact on your design.

Color Variation 1

Repeat Pattern - Color Variation 1

In this example we have limited the design to the three primary colors (red, yellow and blue) which contrast with shades of black, white and grey.

Color Variation 2

Repeat Pattern - Color Variation 2

In this example we have limited the design to the warm colors of the spectrum, ranging through yellow, orange, red and purple.

Color Variation 3

Repeat Pattern - Color Variation 3

In this example we have limited the design to the analogous colors of blue and purple with some pink and black added for contrast.