Repeat Patterns - Lesson 2
A repeat pattern of abstract forms designed on a template.
This lesson teaches you how to design a repeat pattern by using a template to construct abstract shapes and colors drawn from your imagination.
There are so many options open to you when you are designing from your imagination that the choice can be overwhelming. Consequently, most designers find it helpful to start with some kind of plan that limits their options but not necessarily their creativity. They usually refer to this plan as a 'Design Brief'.
The Design Brief
Repeat Pattern Template
In this lesson we are going to use the template above to provide an organized framework upon which we can design our repeat unit.
- The template has fixed key points (blue circles) through which the design can flow to form a pattern whatever way you rotate the unit.
- The arrangement of the shapes in our design should coincide with these key points to create the links between each repeating unit.
- The shapes of our design are drawn on two layers: one a background layer and the other a foreground layer. Dividing the arrangement of the shapes into separate layers will enhance the illusion of depth in our design and it is also a good way to keep control of a complicated pattern.
To construct the template:
- Start by drawing a square.
- Draw the diagonals.
- Divide the square into four smaller squares by drawing a horizontal and vertical line through the middle.
- The key points (blue circles) are created where the horizontal, vertical and diagonal lines meet the outline of the square.
Note: You can click here for a blank template that you may print and use.
Step 1 - Drawing the Background Shapes
The first shape of the background layer
The first shape on our background layer is a combination of gentle curves that fill the top left quarter of our design.
There are several points to bear in mind that may help you when you are drawing your shapes:
- Start to draw your shapes in the corners of the unit making sure that they touch the adjacent key points (red circles).
- Try to be conscious of how the outline of a shape aligns with the key points (red circles) as these are the points of connection between the repeat units through which the movement of the pattern is created.
- Try to be conscious of the balance between the positive form (grey shaded area) of your shapes and the negative space (unshaded area) that surrounds them.
- Your shapes do not have to fit exactly into each quarter of the square. The suggestion of using quarters is simply a device to help you balance your shapes in the overall design.
The second shape of the background layer
Our second background shape fills the top right quarter of the design. The curves that we have used for this shape are in harmony with our first shape and initiate a visual interplay between them.
The third shape of the background layer
Our third background shape fills the bottom right quarter of the design. This shape continues the interaction of curves and builds on their relationship.
The fourth shape of the background layer
Our fourth and final background shape fills the bottom left quarter of the design. It balances the interplay of curved forms and leads us in a clockwise direction back to the first shape.
Step 2 - Drawing the Foreground Shapes
The first shape of the foreground layer
The foreground layer of shapes in our design is necessary to enhance the spatial depth of the image and to augment the interaction of curves.
The first of our foreground shapes is a vigorous whiplash curve that travels down one diagonal (red circles) of the unit. Its speed is conveyed by the variations in its thickness and direction. The path that it follows is also calculated to break up the shapes and spaces of the background in as interactive a way as possible.
The second shape of the foreground layer
Our second foreground shape is a similar whiplash curve that travels down the other diagonal (red circles). This also interacts with the shapes and spaces of the background but adds some necessary contrast to the sinuous curves with a couple of sharp angular twists.
The completed drawing of the repeat unit
Once you have finalised the shapes for your repeat unit you are now ready to apply color and tone to enhance the mood and depth of your design.
Step 3 - Develop your design with tone and color.
Explore the effects of tone and color on a development sheet
'Trace and transfer' your repeat unit onto an sheet of paper to form a layout like our illustration above. 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.
'Trace and transfer' technique: Take the tracing of your unit and draw carefully over the design on the back of your tracing paper 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. Use a soft grade pencil (grade B or 2B) as this will transfer more easily.
Step 4 - Select your best design and build a pattern.
The final design unit for our repeat pattern
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.
Building a repeat pattern.
Building a repeat pattern using a template offers you more possibilities than the 'mirror' repeat technique oulined in our previous lesson. When arranging a layout, the key points in the template will link the design whatever way you rotate the unit.
Our slide show above illustrates several layouts:
A straight repeat - where all four repeat units are arranged to face in the same direction.
A rotational repeat - where each unit is rotated 90° in a clockwork direction.
A mirror repeat - where each unit is flipped to mirror the adjacent unit. You can find out more about the advantages of 'mirror' repeat patterns in our previous lesson.