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How to Create Seamless Pattern Repeats

One of the most important skills a surface pattern designer needs is to be able to create seamless pattern repeats.

Sometimes we don’t mind if a repeat is obvious, for example in a simple spot repeat but more often than not, designers strive to create a seamless repeat.

So, what is a seamless pattern repeat?

A seamless surface pattern repeat should be able to form a continuous length without showing a seam ie. You shouldn’t be able to see where the pattern starts and finishes. Therefore, in a good repeat, you should have to search to find the repeat unit. It shouldn’t be obvious.

‘Tram tracks’ or ‘Tracking’ are the terms given to the unintentional space that is created within a repeat design.

Surface pattern design showing tram tracks


Surface pattern design showing ‘Tram Tracks’

Green lines showing where the tram tracks appear in the surface pattern design

Green lines showing where ‘Tram Tracks’ appear in the surface pattern design

In order to see if there are any unintentional gaps within your design, you need to put together several units of your repeat pattern to see if any unintentional lines or gaps appear. This is easiest done by standing back from your design. If you do spot any ‘tram tracks’ then you should alter your design to remove them.

Seamless surface pattern repeat

Seamless surface pattern repeat

It takes practice learning how to create seamless pattern repeat but here’s some tips to get you started.

You can learn more about surface pattern repeats here and can also get my FREE eBook of the most common surface pattern repeats by signing up below. If you want to learn step by step how to create seamless repeats in Illustrator, you can find out more here.

7 tips: How to create seamless pattern repeats:

1. Make sure you repeat your elements out at the beginning stage of designing. It may take more time initially but will save you time in the end. You should start by repeating one motif and then gradually adding more motifs. This gives you greater control over your design and allows you to objectively make decisions about what to add or remove.

2. Place your elements within the design in a random format.

3. Play with the size and direction of the motifs. You could try rotating, mirroring, enlarging or reducing them.

4. Select a repeat size that is large enough to add in a range of elements.

5. Try joining some elements together to help the design flow and so the motifs don’t appear as separate islands.

6. Think about both the positive and negative space. The negative space can be just as powerful as the positive space.

7. Try different repeat systems. If one isn’t working then try another. Half drop, brick and random repeats are often easier to disguise seams in your repeat designs. You can find out more about the different types of surface pattern repeats here or you can sign up below for your comprehensive FREE DOWNLOAD of 12 different surface pattern repeats.

It may sound a little complicated, but with lots of practice, you’ll find it easier and easier to create wonderful seamless, surface pattern repeats.

P.S. Don’t forget to sign up below to get access to my FREE eBook of the most common surface pattern repeats and find out how to  create seamless repeats in Illustrator step by step here.


How to Create Seamless Pattern Repeats

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