One of the most common questions we get asked by the artist community is how to create a seamless repeat. If you’re looking to take your surface patterns to the next level with seamlessly repeating designs, you’ll be happy to learn it’s easier than ever thanks to Procreate, the go-to design program for many artists! In this advanced Procreate tutorial, Spoonflower artist Jennifer Nichols shares how to create a seamless repeat using Procreate using design elements you’ve already created.
As such, this is a great resource for artists who already have experience working in Procreate or other design programs. If you’re new to Procreate, we suggest starting with either Anda Corrie’s guide to creating a seamless repeat with Procreate or Jennifer’s Guide to Procreate class on Skillshare (free 7-day trial included!). Want even more Procreate tips? Learn all about Rhianna Wurman’s journey with the app in her post Procreate 101.
Jennifer: The Procreate 5X update has a new Snapping feature that makes repeat patterns in Procreate incredibly easy to do without any outside help from other design programs. I love repeat patterns and Procreate and I’m super excited to show you my technique! Before you jump into the step-by-step instructions, be sure to watch my video instructions below.
How to Create a Seamless Repeat With Procreate’s Snapping Feature
1. Create Your Procreate Canvas
I start my repeats with a canvas size of 3000px by 3000px at 300dpi and sRGB color profile. Sometimes I go up to 3600px by 3600px but this results in fewer layers. After illustrating each design element you would like to use in your pattern, duplicate the entire canvas so you can leave the original intact and then edit the duplicate. Once you are in the duplicated canvas, flatten each design element into a single layer for each item. This will free up many layers for you to work with while making your repeat pattern. Turn on the 2D drawing guide with the size set to Max so you can see the center lines of the canvas.
2. Place Your Design Elements
Begin placing most of your design elements, making sure you do not let anything touch the edges of the canvas AND be sure to place things so the center lines are being overlapped. This is important in this first step of the layout because these lines are essentially turning into the edges of the final design and you won’t be able to place things along those lines in the next step. This is something that takes some practice as you don’t want to leave big gaps along the lines but you also don’t want your design elements to be placed in a way that ends up looking very linear in your final pattern design (or maybe you DO want things to be linear)! You can also turn your grid lines off at this point, we don’t need those any more. During this stage, leaving open spaces in the four corners is ideal. Those corners will merge into one big space in the center and will provide more flexibility when placing your final design elements later.
3. Add Corner Marks to Your Canvas
Now it’s time for the “corner trick”. You will need to add a solid color to opposing corners of your canvas so you have color touching all four sides of the canvas. This is how we trick Procreate into capturing the entire canvas size once we turn the background layer off and copy the canvas. This is a very important step. The corner marks will be removed later so make sure they are not touching any other design elements.
4. Copy Your Design Elements
Now you need to turn off your background layer so you can create a design that is independent of the background which will offer you the ability to change the background color later! With the background layer off, three-finger-swipe down on the canvas to reveal the copy/paste menu and select Copy All. This will capture everything that is visible on the canvas, not including grid lines. I also like to keep things tidy by grouping all of the layers that are currently visible.
5. Create a New Design Layer
At this point, you can turn the background layer on. Create a new layer above all others and three-finger-swipe down again but this time you will select Paste. Now you have everything on one layer. You will need four identical layers. You can continue to Paste each one or you can duplicate the first layer you pasted.
6. Snap Your Design Elements in Place
Here is where the new Snapping tool comes into play (I know, I am way too excited about this feature, it’s a game changer)! Turn all of your layers off except one of the newly pasted layers and Select it with the arrow icon. You need to be careful not to tap anywhere on the screen while something is selected because it will get Nudged in that direction by one pixel which will make your design have gaps along the seams. While you have the layer Selected, go to the bottom left and turn on Snapping. I keep my Distance maxed and my Velocity at 5. Snapping will now stay on until you manually turn it off.
Slide the full-sized image to a corner until it snaps perfectly into place with the outer edge now directly in the center. You will see golden lines to indicate the center (sometimes the golden line that overlaps the dotted border of the selection can be blue but you will still see the golden lines extending past that). Be sure not to change the size of your layer, so don’t grab anywhere near the blue dots.
Now repeat this process for the other identical layers, moving each full-sized image into four corners. Be sure you are seeing the golden lines.
7. Merge Your Layers
Once you have all four layers placed into the corners, you can merge those layers by pinching them together (a fun Procreate shortcut!)
8. Remove the Original Corner Marks
Erase or freehand-select the center marks that once were your “corner trick” marks and remove them entirely. I turn Snapping off at this point, otherwise, it will interfere with placement of the remaining design elements.
9. Complete Your Pattern Design
Add the remaining design elements and fillers (polka dots, in this instance). This is your complete pattern block!
10. Create a Larger Repeat
You have a couple more things to check so now it’s time to repeat your design so you can check for seams (gaps and/or offsets down the horizontal and vertical centers) and decide if you like the layout. Go ahead and group all of the visible layers and turn the background off. Three-finger-swipe down, Copy All, and Paste to a new layer.
You can turn the background on again and continue to paste until you have 5 identical layers (one of these layers will remain untouched as your original pattern block, it can be turned off).
Select a newly pasted layer and turn Snapping on again. This time we ARE shrinking the designs so grab the corner blue dot and slide it to the center. The golden lines and snapping will still happen just like before.
Repeat this process for all four corners. With this grid of four repeating tiles complete, it’s time to check for seams.
11. Check the Repeat of Your Pattern
Zoom in and alternate turning each layer on and off so you can see where the seams are and check for gaps and offsets. You need to check the entire horizontal and vertical center lines. It should be SEAMLESS! If it is, go ahead and merge those four layers. Now you can use either the original design tile or this grid of four tiles to upload to Spoonflower. I usually upload the 2×2 grid of my designs!
12. Adjust the Colors of Your Design (optional)
You have created your pattern in a way that keeps your design elements separated from the background which means you can change the background color and create a variety of options with this single design.
Tip: Sometimes I like to make a grid of 16 tiles just to see what the design looks like at a much smaller scale before deciding whether or not I want to make changes. I don’t save this version as the quality is reduced when you shrink things too much but it’s a great way to view it!
Congratulations! You’ve just created a seamless repeat in Procreate. Remember: Have fun! It takes practice and it gets easier with time. For even more in-depth instructions on creating repeats on Procreate, be sure to check out my Procreate classes on Skillshare.
Jennifer Nichols is an artist on Spoonflower and Skillshare teacher with a passion for teaching art using the Procreate app on the iPad. She loves helping people discover its amazing potential as well as their own potential! Jennifer is also a mother of three tween/teens, a wife, a dog mom, and she loves science and nature (and gnomes)!