Creating a simple pattern repeat

posted in: Design, Graphics
I recently created a simple watercolour painting of leaves filling a rectangular piece of paper, and instantly saw the opportunity to turn this into a pattern repeat.

I painted watercolour leaf springs freehand onto a 9″ x 12″ 200gsm cold pressed watercolour / multimedia pad by Winslow from Eckersleys in Australia, using Winsor and Newton paints Burnt Sienna, Burnt Umber, Indigo and Prussian Blue, with a golden taklon no. 10 round brush.

Blue Brown watercolour leaves painting ©Karen Smith

The reason this painting is suitable for turning into a very simple pattern repeat is due to a few factors:

  • My painting covers the entire rectangular space up to the edges
  • All of the leaves are painted as complete individual elements (not cut off at the edges)
  • My leaf sprigs are all of a consistent size, colour and style
  • The leaf sprigs are multi directional
  • I laid down the paint in a consistent manner
  • Tonal values are evenly distributed across the page.
  • A rectangular block is the basis of most pattern repeats.
painted watercolour leaves

More complicated pattern repeats will have elements that share the boundary lines when the rectangular block is repeated, this is where things can get complicated.

With this post I just wanted to show how effective a simple cut and paste process could be if your original artwork is suitable.

My half block repeat process

Using the copy and paste command in an image editing software package, I duplicated my original rectangle placing each new copy in a half brick repeat. This is an offset pattern which helps to minimise the visual uniformity that a grid of duplicated blocks could have.

I like to use A3 as my go to pattern development document size, it generally allows for a number of repeats within the pattern (it is also the largest format that I can print at home).

If you are creating a pattern to be used in conjunction with a third party printer (e.g. for wrapping paper, fabric, cushion covers etc.) I recommend carefully looking at their pattern repeat size requirements before you start – it will save a lot of time.

Place your scanned image centrally

  • Using a basic image editing program I scanned my painting.
  • I created a new file A3 in size, with a 300dpi output resolution, which is ideal for printing.
  • I imported my original scan into my A3 file, and placed it centrally.
  • The green background is just for this demo – in reality my background was white.

Copy and paste your first half repeat

  • Select your original image and copy it.
  • Paste the image directly above and to the left of your central image, moving to the left by half the overall width of your original image.
  • This is a half block repeat pattern.

Continue to copy and paste around your central image

  • Again, select your original image and copy it.
  • Paste the image directly above and to the right of your central image, moving to the right by half the overall width of your original image.
Continue copy and pasting your original image in a brickwork pattern
bottom left
middle right
bottom right
middle left
Continue pasting your original image until your A3 sheet is full and you have a complete pattern. I usually save my files in jpg and pdf formats for printing and transfer.
full pattern repeat
pattern printed onto A3 copy paper with inkjet printer and used as gift wrap
Follow karen:
Karen Smith Freelance Designer. I’m a Melbourne based designer, with over 20 years experience specialising in design. I enjoy working in a variety of mediums, including pen & ink, acrylics, watercolours, ceramics, wood and also textiles.
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