hearts and laserbeams how to: repeat yourself repeat yourself!

part 1: what the heck is a repeat!?!

ok it’s been a LONNNNNNNG time since i’ve done a how to, and this one’s a doozy! have you heard of spoonflower? it’s this awesome website that lets you print your own fabric! only problem is, not everyone knows how to make a repeat pattern – hearts and laserbeams to the rescue! i’m working on a series of blog entries that’ll have you ordering your own fabric in no time!

keep in mind – repeats aren’t just for fabric! these same techniques can be used for creating website backgrounds and other stuff, too, so read on!

let’s start at the beginning. before you start designing repeats, you gotta understand how to recognize them in their natural habitat! start looking at anything you’ve got that has some kind of art all over it – pillows, shirts, sheets, shower curtains, potholders – they’re all common things to find em on! take a look:

clockwise from top left: plaid shorts from delias, vintage floral print dress from forever 21, floral pillow from target, paisley quilt and block leaf curtain from urban outfitters, wild side room set from delias, thai silk pillow from target, floral swing skirt from forever 21.

when you’re in a store or even your own home, start paying attention to the patterns and figuring out where their borders are – once you start doing this you’ll begin to get all kinds of ideas on how to create your own repeats!

so let’s get started on a fairly easy repeat – check this out:

this repeat’s made up of rows of hearts – here’s where the edges of the repeat are:

so if you made a blue box with just two grey hearts in those positions, when you repeat it over and over you’d get tons of rows of hearts!

let’s take a look at another one:

this one’s almost the same, but it’s got different colored hearts! what’s a girl to do, can you spot where the box should be?

the repeat is a little bigger, because you’ve got hearts in different colors. but still pretty easy to pick out! what you’re looking for in recognizing repeats is basically that – where can you draw a box (rectangular or square, doesn’t matter) where the elements repeat equally over the surface of the fabric?

ready for a tricky one?

on something that looks more complicated, look for a large main element and then look for where that shows up again. i guaruntee if you do that you’ll be able to pick it out. here’s where the repeat box is!

once you start doing this more and more, you’ll really start getting a better understanding of how repeats work and it’ll make it so much easier for you to make your own! that’s it for now, any questions? leave a comment!

stay tuned, cuz tomorrow we’ll start talking about how to build repeat patterns!

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Steph Calvert is the owner, award-winning designer, and illustrator behind Hearts and Laserbeams. Her work has been seen worldwide on apparel, in print, and online. Steph has been self employed since 2010, working with small business to take their design and illustration to the next level. She speaks at conferences on small business topics, loves Peanut M&Ms , and is working on a childrens book about dreams. Read More.
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  1. Creasol says

    That’s a great post! I always do that with my shower curtain, and oh! my showers get really long!
    Waiting for the second part!

  2. steph says

    HAHAHAHAHA we went to see our friends rachael and justin in portland last halloween and they had the BEST shower curtain repeat ever! it was a huge 25″ square or so, with tons of little elements that looked like they repeated a lot more but no two were the same! it took me a while to find the edges!!

  3. Amber says

    Thanks for this timely tutorial! I am currently in school to try and figure out this whole fabric printing thing, and you have summed it up beautifully in your posts!

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