One of the key skills of a surface pattern designer is learning how to create surface pattern repeats. Although you don’t always need to put a design into repeat it is a key skill that you should spend the time learning how to get right as it’s one of the key things that separates pattern designers from other designers.
There are 2 main things to consider when you are creating a seamless repeat and we’re going to have a look at what they are
Before we get started if you’re not sure, let’s first take a look at what a seamless repeat is.
So, a pattern repeat should be able to form a continuous length without you seeing where it starts and finishes. So when you do see those gaps within the designs, your design isn’t seamless. So those gaps that you’ll see if you haven’t repeated out your design properly are known as tram tracks or tracking. And it becomes really, really obvious when you see a length of fabric when you have these when your design isn’t seamless. And when you see these areas of spaces that are unintentional and aren’t meant to be there.
So there are a couple of things that you want to think about actually when you’re creating your repeat and the first one is that you’re actually repeating it out properly.
So you want to make sure you’re repeating out all of the elements because if you forget to repeat out one element, then when you repeat it out as a length then you’ll have bits of different elements of your designs that are missing. So it won’t be in technical repeat and therefore it won’t be technically repeated correctly. Even if it’s the smallest of bits that are missing from your motif, it’s so, so, so obvious when you do repeat it out. So if you are creating a pattern repeat to either send to a client or to put on a print on demand site or whatever it might be for, make sure that you repeat out your design a number of times and then make sure you zoom in and you check all of the design to make sure that you haven’t forgotten to repeat out an element.
Now if you have a really complex design, it can be super easy to forget to repeat out elements even for an experienced designer, especially when you’re going in and changing things as you’re working, such as adding elements, removing elements or moving elements. So it’s easy to forget to repeat something out or have it repeated incorrectly. So make sure that you thoroughly check that you’ve repeated all elements before you send it to a client or manufacturer. This is very important because there’s nothing worse than sending off a design getting it printed and then it’s not in technical repeat.
The second thing you need to consider when creating a seamless repeat which is more challenging is making sure that it just looks good. So you might be able to create it technically okay but for some reason you find that it doesn’t look seamless and it looks really obvious.
Now sometimes that’s okay. We don’t always have to create a design where the repeat isn’t obvious, for example, you might have a simple, stripe design or a simple spot design or something like that where you can see the repeat really easily. But more often than not, if we’re creating beautiful, complex designs, you want to try and aim to make that repeat looks seamless and not obvious. So some of the things that you want to think about are the spacing of your design elements and where they fit within the space. So if you see a big gap, you might want to move some elements so the space isn’t obvious or that it’s well balanced. You might want to make some elements larger or make them smaller. You can also consider playing with scale, playing with overlapping your elements, playing with rotating some elements or duplicating elements. You want to just move them around and play with them until they sit within the space until and fit the space well so that you don’t see those unintentional gaps.
Now my biggest tip for creating a pattern repeat, and I know probably some people don’t like to do it this way but is to take one element and start repeating one element first rather than just creating lots of random elements and expecting them to fit together. To help make sure that your design is cohesive and works together a great process to follow is to create an element, repeat it out, and then add in the next elements.
So basically you’re layering and repeating out each element as you go. That way you’re not creating something that you’ve just kind of stuck within a square space and you’re repeating it out and you just fitting all the elements in like a jigsaw piece.
You’re actually creating it from the get-go to be seamless and to be more complex, more interesting. And I think that this is a really important way of being able to, create beautiful and complex designs. So make sure that you think about not just creating designs and feeling like they just that you have to create motifs just to fill in the gaps in your design, but also thinking about how each and every motif that you add relates to one another so that every motif is there for a reason and all of your motifs have a good relationship with one another.
So once you’ve created your design, just be sure to, as I said, repeat out all of the elements correctly and test it, test it and test it before you send it to make sure you haven’t missed technically repeating out any elements.