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Design A Repeat Pattern from Invented Forms

 

A repeat pattern drawn from the imagination.

A repeat pattern drawn from the imagination.

This lesson teaches you how to design a 'tile unit' for a repeat pattern by using a template to organise the shapes and colors that you have drawn from your imagination.

Note: Throughout this lesson we use the term 'tile' to describe the unit that will be duplicated to create a repeat pattern. Although you can use any rectangular shape for your tile we recommend that you use a square as this is the most regular shape to repeat.

Designing from your Imagination

There are so many options open to you when you are designing from your imagination that the choice can be overwhelming. You are able to design any type of pattern that you wish and you can use any type of shape to do it: abstract or realistic, geometric or organic, monochrome or color, flat or shaded.

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'. We have constructed our own design brief for this lesson below but you could easily invent one of your own.

 

The Design Brief

In this lesson we are going to design a template for our tile unit which will limit our options in some ways but help us in other ways:

  • The template will provide an organized framework upon which we can design our tile unit.
  • The template will have fixed key points through which the design will link to adjacent tiles when the unit is repeated to form a pattern.
  • The advantage of using this template is that you are no longer restricted to the 'mirror repeat' technique of our previous lesson. You now have many more options when it comes to arranging a pattern as the key points in the design link together however you rotate the tile unit.

We have also decided to limit the type of shapes that we use for our design and the way we arrange them on the template:

  • The design of our tile unit is restricted to curved organic shapes with added color and shading to increase the depth of the image.
  • We are going to arrange the shapes of our design on two layers: one a background layer and the other a foreground layer.
  • The background layer of our design comprises four curved organic shapes, each loosely filling one quarter of the tile. Each shape will link to a different corner of the template and intersect with its adjacent key points.
  • The foreground layer comprises two elongated whiplash shapes each aligned to a different diagonal of the template.

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.

Step 1 - Designing a Template for your Tile Unit

 

A template for the tile unit in our repeat pattern

A template for the tile unit in our repeat pattern

To create the tile unit for our repeat pattern you need to construct a template like the one above. Note the key points marked with blue circles as these will become the location of links between the design on each tile. Using this template you will find that you can build up a complex design by drawing simple shapes aligned to the key points.

To construct the template:

  1. Start by drawing the square outline of your tile unit.
  2. Draw the diagonals of the tile unit.
  3. Draw a horizontal and vertical line through the middle of the tile unit to divide it into four small squares.
  4. The key points (blue circles) are created where the horizontal, vertical and diagonal lines meet the outline of the tile unit.

NOTE: The arrangement of the shapes in your design must coincide with the key points on the template. These are the points on your tile (blue circles) where the shapes you have drawn will link with adjacent tiles in order to create a sense of movement and rhythm throughout your pattern.

 

Step 2 - Drawing the Background Shapes

 

The first shape of the background layer

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:

  1. Start to draw your shapes in the corners of the tile making sure that they touch the adjacent key points (red circles).
  2. 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 tiles through which the movement and rhythm of the pattern is created.
  3. 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.
  4. 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

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 second shape of the background layer

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

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 3 - Drawing the Foreground Shapes

 

The first shape of the foreground layer

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 tile. 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

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 tile unit

The completed drawing of the tile unit

Once you have established the shapes for your tile unit you are ready to apply color and tone to enhance the mood and depth of your design.

 

Step 4 - Develop your design with tone and color

 

Explore the effects of tone and color on a development sheet

Explore the effects of tone and color on a development sheet

To develop your tile design, 'trace and transfer' the image several times onto an A4 sheet of paper using a layout like our illustration above. You can then explore the different effects of tone and color upon your design until you begin to discover certain combinations that appeal to you more than others.

Note: You can click here for a blank A4 template of our development sheet that you may print and use.

Trace and Transfer Technique:  Make a tracing of your tile then draw carefully over this image 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 over the lines of your design to transfer its image. Use a soft grade pencil (grade B or 2B) as this will transfer more easily.

Media: The best media to choose for this project if you are creating your image by hand are color pencils, paint or even collage. You could also complete the project digitally using imaging software such as Photoshop, Illustrator or CorelDraw.

 

Step 5 - Select your best design

 

The final tile unit for our repeat pattern

The final tile unit for our repeat pattern

Finally, from your development sheet select one design that appeals to you more than the others. We chose the design above as it uses the entire spectrum of color and we feel it may prove more interesting than the others in a repeat pattern.

Once you have chosen your 'tile unit' you can use it to construct your repeat pattern as illustrated in our next lesson: Designing the Repeat Pattern.

Lesson One: Repeat Patterns from Natural Forms

This lesson teaches you how to design a repeat pattern using any drawing from nature to create a 'tile' unit. This unit is then 'mirrored' like a kaleidoscope to produce a repeat pattern. The inspiration for this design is based on our Drawing of a Butterfly.

 

Lesson Two: Repeat Patterns from Invented Forms

This lesson teaches you how to design a repeat pattern using a template to organise the shapes and colors of a 'tile' unit. The design is composed of invented shapes drawn from your imagination.

 

Layout and Development Templates

You can click here for a blank A4 template of a four unit layout plan that you may print and use to build your repeat pattern. The scale of the units in this template correspond to the size of the individual 'tile units' on the blank A4 template of our development sheet so that you may use them together.

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