Surface pattern design is not just for the professionals! If you’ve ever browsed our Marketplace for unicorn, confetti or even motorcycle fabric, there’s a good chance you’ve been curious to know how designers have created their seamless repeats. Today we’re putting the tools into your own hands (professional, aspiring or otherwise) with a simple step-by-step tutorial that shows one way to create your very own seamless repeat design, no fancy editing software required!

Tools required:

  • Tape
  • 8.5″ x 11″ piece of paper
  • Pens, pencils, markers or crayons
  • A straight edge or ruler
  • Craft knife or scissors
  • Optional: Cutting surface
  • Access to a scanner

Step 1: Create your drawing. The key is not to let any of your artwork go off the page—keep it contained!


Step 2: Cut your paper in half. Once you have your drawing how you’d like it, cut your paper in half lengthwise using a craft knife or scissors.


Step 3: Swap and tape. Switch the two pieces of paper without rotating them and tape them together on the reverse side.


Step 4: Cut your paper in half again. Using the same process, cut your paper down the middle widthwise.


Step 5: Swap and tape. Switch these two pieces of paper without rotating them and tape them together on the reverse side.


Step 6: Brainstorm. You will now see that you have bisected your art in both directions and there will be an empty area in the middle of your drawing. You’ll need to fill in the blank space.


Step 7: Keep designing. Use your pen or pencil to add to your design so there aren’t any gaps and the spacing of your artwork feels consistent. You can continue to add design elements throughout, just remember to stay off the edges.


Step 8: Color your artwork. Use markers, pencils or crayons to color in elements of your pattern if you’d like. Leave the background white for best results.


That’s it! Scan your artwork into your computer as a JPG at 150 DPI or higher, and upload* the file to Spoonflower as a basic repeat. You now have a seamless design that’s ready to turn into fabric, wallpaper or gift wrap. For more inspiration and tips such as how to choose a color palette for your new repeat, check out our 12 Day of Design blog post!

*You may wish to “clean up” any stray lines in Photoshop or Illustrator before uploading to Spoonflower.

Recommended Posts

Spoonflower Marketing team member Kristina and her niece with matching tie dye bandanas

Make the Most Unique Tie-Dye Bandanas for the Whole Family

1 comments

2 Ways to Make an Easy No-Sew Notebook Cover

3 comments

A illustration in a sketchbook shows next to the final surface pattern design

Announcing Our First Surface Design Symposium

14 comments

69 comments

Leave a Reply to nicola english Cancel Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  • I am so excited to have discovered Spoonflower! And I can\’t wait to upload my first design.

    This tutorial is great, especially with kids. I will use it myself and with my grandkids since they are still to young to be able to use photoshop, etc. I\’m planning on letting them create their own designs to upload! What a great tool to teach business, entrepreneurship, creativity, and technology. I can must see their faces when they get their first order for wrapping paper, fabric, or a pillow. My mind is just swimming with ideas and possibilities right now.

    Thank you so much!!!

  • Oh my goodness! This tutorial has finally made me understand how the repeat process actually works, I have been trying to learn Photoshop and Illustrator for months and how to repeat a pattern and now I understand the process from this very clever tutorial. Being a senior patternmaker I should understand these technicalities but trying to change my career using my cat art and learning all of this has been a nightmare.
    I would really love to know if anyone at Spoonflower offers tuition with this, especially file and image sizing.
    Thank you again for a fabulous tutorial.

    • Hi Victoria,

      We’re so happy to hear you found this tutorial helpful! We are always adding design resources and have a roundup of all of our repeat tutorials here. We also have a help center with information about uploading to Spoonflower that may answer questions about preparing your file. I hope that helps, but please let us know if you have any further questions.

      Take care,
      Amy
      Spoonflower

  • Thank you for the great information. I have always wanted to do this. The only problem I had was your links are so light I couldn’t read them until I clicked on them. Just wanted you to know. I’m using an iPhone 11 ProMax, so I don’t think that is the problem. Again thank you for the easy to understand information and everyone’s questions and comments helped as well.

    • We apologize for the issue when viewing the post on your phone. We are working on updating our blog’s accessibility and we really appreciate you letting us know.

      Take care,
      Amy
      Spoonflower

  • FUN! show it on a video
    I’m a painter illustrator and enjoy the simplicity1
    What kind of markers do you use!

    • Hi Emelie,

      You can see how to create a seamless repeat in Procreate here! I hope that helps, but if you have any more questions don’t hesitate to ask!

  • Thank you for all the questions and answers, they are very helpful. I, like many others, do not know how to use Illustrator or Photoshop. I am a painter (oils and acrylics) and just started to learn about putting my paintings on fabrics. I am so excited to start! and the tip for the GIMP and Pic Monkey was the answer I was looking for.

  • Miranda Harmata

    Hi,

    Is it possible to use an A4 piece of paper or does it have to be the exact dimensions?

    Thank you,
    Miranda

    • Hi Miranda,

      An A4 piece of paper should do the trick. Just remember to follow the steps when cutting and drawing. Good luck!

    • Tiny scanner is a great app for the phone. It is pretty inexpensive for all features to work and does as good a job as a regular scanner. You just take a snapshot with your phone, adjust the corners and it even removes any shadows automatically.

    • Hi Shawlin,
      Have you tried taking a picture with your cell phone in natural lighting? This is a great trick if you don’t have access to a scanner. You may also want to look into downloading a free scanner app! I hope that helps, but if you have any more questions don’t hesitate to ask! – Meredith from Spoonflower

  • nicola english

    Thank you for your repeat pattern instructions. I’ve completed my pattern following the instructions… just one question …. do I need to trace and redraw the pattern before sending for print so the cuts and joins on the original are not on the submitted pattern?
    Thank you.

    • Hi Nicola,
      Thanks for your question! If you are experiencing cut lines, we suggest scanning your drawing and touching up in a free design program like Canvas. I hope that helps, but if you have any more questions don’t hesitate to ask! -Meredith from Spoonflower

  • You can make a wallpaper style half-repeat using the same process. You simply cut the 4 quarters (upper-left = UL, upper-right = UR, lower-left = LL, and lower-right = LR) as in this process and (without rotating any of them) reassemble LR and UL into the top row and UR and LL into the bottom row. Now your pattern seems to have a diagonal repeat.

  • Lisa Llewellyn

    I’m confused about step 7 – The example design goes all the way to the edges of the paper, yet the instructions state to keep away from the edges. Please clarify for me. Thank you!

    • The idea is not to add any art that goes to the edge, because you aren’t seeing what it would be adjacent to. the art has to go to the edge, so that when the pattern is tiled there won’t be any gaps.

  • This is an excellent tutorial on “quarterizing”. It’s exactly how I was taught to make seamless repeats at Central Saint Martins School of fashion and Textiles. Now I just use virtually the same method in Photoshop.

    • Hi Patrick,
      We’re so glad to hear you found this tutorial useful! We love this method for creating a seamless repeat and it sounds like you do too!

  • Can I ask, what do you do with the line that shows up after having cut the paper, as this shows up on a scan. Do you scan it in and remove in photoshop? I’m creating repeat patterns for a friend,and doing it like this, for fabric. Is there another way where I don’t need to cut the paper? A way I figured was to do like this,then get tracing paper and trace the image and then there’s no chance of lines in the scan. Many thanks!!!

    • Hi Kate,
      Great question! If you have any obvious lines after scanning, we recommend cleaning them up in a design program like Photoshop or Illustrator. We cut the paper to allow for a more intricate repeating pattern that is still seamless. You could create a repeat all on one piece of paper but you’d stop at the first step.

    • Hi Sharon,
      Thanks so much for your question! This tutorial is great for drawn elements where you have control of the placement but unfortunately would not work for a photograph.

  • Lime Soda Kids

    This method would be especially effective as a project for kids with their own drawings. Thank-you for sharing the method

    • It’s brilliant! I did it with both my kids’ classes at School. We did an Alice in Wonderland theme. We also created pictures with their favourite things. We printed the images onto A3 paper so that they used them to wrap xmas presents for parents.

    • It would! If you give it a try, we’d love to see photos. We can only imagine the feeling of excitement the kids would have when receiving their own custom designed fabric!

    • Hi Marcye,

      This process works for any size of paper as long as it is square or rectangle. One thing to keep in mind is that you will scan your artwork into the computer, so choose a size that gives you the greatest flexibility in completing that step.

      Laurie (from Spoonflower)

  • Thank you for simplifying this process. I originally came to your site years ago for help in repeats for gift wrap. So now I have it again, but in an easier way. Great!! Thanks, again.

    • Hi Sheila,

      Thank you for being a long time supporter of Spoonflower! I’m happy you’ve found this tutorial useful.

      Laurie

  • Tess Dillenberger

    Thanks for the repeat design instructions! I’m a small format illustrator, and have been looking for a new way to showcase/print my designs. Will let you know how this turns out!

    • Hi Tess,
      Yes, please let us know! We can’t wait to see what you create. 🙂

      Laurie (Spoonflower Blog Team)

  • Thank you for these instructions.
    A few years ago, I ordered material from spoonflower, which was great! I have been receiving wonderful emails ever since. I am a coach, who enjoys sewing and quilting and colouring. I have always wanted to create my own designs. Now I am going to do it.

    • Hi Rose,

      Thank you for the compliment, that is so nice to hear! Sounds like you’re ready for a design adventure—we fully support this decision!

      Laurie (Spoonflower Blog Team)

  • Oh my goodness this is amazing, thank you!! I have wanted to sketch my own fabric for quite awhile and just could not figure out how to do this, I’m so excited to get start.

    • Hi Denise,

      We’re so happy to hear that you’ve been inspired! We’d love to see how your pattern turns out. You can always share with us by using the #spoonflower hashtag on social media. Hooray!

      Laurie w/ Spoonflower

  • You can do the exact same thing using a computer from start to finish (with Photoshop, Illustrator, Pixelmator, etc.). Split the initial drawing into the same 4 pieces, rearrange those pieces, then finish the drawing.

    • HappyLlama

      If you use Photoshop you can also do this using the Offset filter.

      Find the width and height of your digital image by going to Image>Image Size, work out what half of those two dimensions are and then go to Filter > Other > Offset and type the two numbers in the offset and select Wrap Around and your image will effectively be split into four.

      • Lisa D\'Innocenzo

        I\’m pretty new to the digital version of this process, and have been working on my iPad with Pixelmator. I followed the guidelines in a Spoonflower article exactly, but I still have issues with the images not lining up precisely. I noticed that for some designs, even though I size them at 1500 x 1500 to create the repeat, when I duplicate the design and place it into a 3000 x 3000, they don\’t align correctly. Each quarter measures 1500 square, but there is evidently a blank area at the edges that is throwing off the repeat. This is making me crazy; do you have any suggestions?

        • Hi Lisa,
          Thanks so much for your message and we’re sorry for the trouble! If you’d like to send an email to help@spoonflower.com with a link the design in your Spoonflower account, they’ll be happy to take a look and see what the issue might be.

  • I don’t get how this works… might be one of those things I have to DO to SEE… fun stuff here!

    • And luckily, this is an easy one to practice! We hope you have some fun with it, Katie!

      -Laurie

  • Sorry..
    I meant- is it all the ORIGINAL outer-most corners of drawing all pointed to dead center?

    Thank you!

    Hope

    • Hi Hope,

      Yes! After you make that second and final cut, the original corners (white space) of the paper are now the very center of your pattern. You will want to be careful to place the cut pieces precisely as shown in the tutorial so your pattern will repeat seamlessly.

      Good luck!
      Laurie from Spoonflower

  • Hi spoonflower,
    In the process of cutting and taping together the second (and last) cut,

    Are all the ORIGINAL outer-most corners that are pointed to dead center? It looks like that’s what it is. But want to be sure!

    Thank you!
    Hope

  • Loved this way of doing it! What kind of paper do you use for coloring with tombows? The paper I’m using just soaks and peels. Thank you!

    • Hi Melissa!

      I’m using regular printer paper here because I left a lot of white space in my design (less area for the markers to bleed) and scanned my image in almost immediately after I was done coloring. However, I would definitely recommend a sturdier illustration or bristol board for something a little more substantial. Let us know how it goes!

      Laurie (from Spoonflower)

        • Hi Jane,
          You may notice the seams depending on how close the paper edges line up and the scan quality, but if needed you can work to erase errant lines in any photo editing software (such as PicMonkey, Photoshop, etc.). Hope that helps!
          – Suz from Spoonflower

          • Suz, thank you for your response above. I found the seamless repeat tutorial in the catalog and created my first one today. However, the seams do show and I do not have Photoshop or Illustrator to erase them. Do you have any other suggestions? My artwork is quite complicated, so I also feel that even if I had one of those programs, it would be really challenging to erase the seam lines without messing with the drawing.

            I also noticed in the tutorial above, that in the step 7 photo I can clearly see the seam lines, but in the step 8 photo, they are gone and it appears that the altered drawing was scanned and reprinted before coloring. Am I right? If not, did I miss something?

            I suppose that if did the taping and scanned the drawing, reprinted it and then filled in the center / colored it the seams would be gone. My concern is that the printed lines would not have the same look as the original lines filled in the center, so the piece would not look the same if I had drawn on the original.

            I’m really excited about playing with this concept and printing my own seamless repeats on fabric so I hope I can figure this out! Thank you any advice you may have.

          • Hi Esther,

            Thanks so much for sharing your feedback. If you don’t have access to design programs like Adobe Photoshop or Illustrator, we recommend trying to upload your artwork to a free design program like GIMP or PicMonkey to touch it up. We appreciate the suggestion and will update the post with helpful information such as this!
            -Meredith from Spoonflower