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The Art of Pattern


Repeat Pattern

A repeat pattern composed by mirroring a single tile unit.

Pattern in art is the repetition of lines, shapes, tones, colors, textures and forms. Artists, designers, architects, mathematicians, scientists and engineers have all explored the patterns of nature to discover their decorative elegance and to understand their structural form.

A knowledge of how to design repeat patterns is an essential skill for any designer. Today, repeat patterns are seen almost everywhere but  they also reach back through the history of design and across all continents and cultures. They are used in tiling, wallpaper, textiles, packaging, backdrops for text or illustrations in graphic media, jewellery and  architectural details. They are created using a wide range of media in both two and three dimensions. Most modern pattern design is done on computers for speed and accuracy but historically it was a craftsman-like skill that identified some of the greatest artists and artisans of their day.

In December 1881, William Morris, who was one of the greatest pattern designers of the Arts and Crafts Movement, delivered a lecture on 'Some Hints on Pattern Designing' at the Working Men's College in London. He described good decorative pattern as "Something that will not drive us into unrest or callousness; something which reminds us of life beyond itself and which has the impress of imagination strong on it; and something which can be done by a great many people and without too much difficulty and with pleasure."

Our lessons on repeat patterns were inspired by the art of William Morris and the Arts and Crafts Movement.

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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