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Offset Repeats in Illustrator

Sheree BurlingtonComment

Completing my first complex pattern repeat in Adobe Illustrator (Ai) gave me a confidence boost. I've become a pattern making machine and have even challenged myself to create a pattern a day. I'm better at starting things than finishing them, so we'll see how this goes.


This pattern was created using an offset rather than basic repeat. At first glance, creating offset patterns seems complicated - it requires a little bit of math and a lot of concentration. Because offsets repeat in a vertical brick configuration rather than side by side, offset repeats are more difficult to detect, making your pattern more seamless.  

This pattern began with these simple hand sketches on photo copy paper. Sketching is a new art form for me - though calling my drawings art is generous. Copy paper is less intimidating than any kind of art paper, it's smooth-ish under my Sharpie and my scans come out clean. It's also everywhere I want to be, which means I can create on the fly - at home, at work or at My Guido's kitchen table. 

Unlike sketches brought into Photoshop, which retain their wonky, shaky hand-drawn flaws, sketches brought into Ai are made lovely. Through a process called Image Trace, Ai fairy dust smooths out crooked lines and other hand drawn imperfections. It can also wipe away small details, like it did with the tiny inner and outer dots on these sketches. There is probably a setting that controls that - one day I'll discover where it lives.


Here is what my repeat block looks like before final pattern creation. Since I didn't want to get hung up on color, I used the same color palette as my last design. Here's what I learned about color: 

Lines that touch all end up the same color. Period. This taught me that if I want a flower with different  color parts, they need to be drawn and scanned separately. 

My final repeat makes me happy. I find this whole pattern repeat thing a lot of fun. As I become more familiar with the mechanics, I'll shift my focus more to design. And then color.  I've spent the last decade designing in black and white for my day job. It's time to dust off the color theory book.