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About two years ago, I was that person. I didn’t have any digital design tools that could help me with pattern creation, but I desperately wanted to start designing. So, I took to Google and started researching how to create repeat tiles entirely by hand. This became rather frustrating for me though because I struggled to find a decent tutorial that was simple and easy to follow. I came across very few resources that explained clearly how to make a repeat pattern without the need of any digital program to help. I spent hours trying to figure this out, and eventually came across one useful article that was able to point me in the right direction.

Given my own struggles in finding useful resources, this post serves as an outline to a simple, step-by-step process on how you can analogously create your own standard repeat tile, in the hopes that it will help. I also hope it will make the lives of those who are wanting to dive into the world of surface pattern design, but don’t have the electronic tools to do so, a lot easier.

The reason why I didn’t just go ahead and get illustrator to help with the design process when I first started was because I didn’t know if this was something that would stick. I didn’t want to pay for a subscription to something that could have just been a one-week hobby.  Of course, now I use Illustrator and Photoshop to help me create new designs, but I can honestly say that I am so grateful I took the time to learn how to make repeat patterns by hand first. Doing this gave me an underlying foundation and understanding of how these patterns come together. When I use Photoshop or Illustrator now, I know exactly what is happening from a technical standpoint. So, I think this is a great starting point for beginning your journey as a pattern designer.


Since you are probably new to pattern creation, I wanted to first outline what exactly a repeat pattern is.

At first, I was so confused about which pattern type to make and, moreover, what to Google to learn how to create it. I was at a loss for all the technical jargon involved with surface design. So, for those of you who are in a similar boat, here is a simple breakdown of what a pattern repeat is.

In a nutshell, a pattern repeat is when a rectangular or square block matches perfectly on all sides when repeated around all its sides. There is a seamless join when the blocks touch each other.

Now, there are many different types of repeat patterns one can create. Below is a list and explanation of three common types of repeating styles.


The standard or full drop repeat is the type of pattern we are going to learn how to create in this post. This is probably the most basic and common form of pattern creation and is a great foundation to learn how to create when starting out in the world of pattern design.  

With this style, the elements are arranged in a regular and formal manner. The pattern is created by arranging the repeat tile directly above and below, as well as left and right of itself. See below for an example of this style in action.

The repeat tile (left) is perfectly repositioned above and below, as well as left and right of itself in order to create the full pattern (right).

We will get into the nitty gritty of how to perfectly match up each side of the tile in a moment.


The half drop repeat pattern is the second most common pattern you will find, and it’s one that I really enjoy using.

This is when the repeat tile is perfectly repeated above and below itself but drops halfway down on the left and right. I think the easiest way for one to understand this is to just show you.

As you can see from above, the half drop repeat tile (left) is perfectly repositioned above and below, but drops half way on the left and right.

There will be a tutorial coming soon on how to create this type of pattern.

I personally haven’t explored this pattern style too much, but I think it’s a good one to know about as well. If you understand the half drop repeat, then this one will be straight forward to grasp as it is quite similar. With the half drop repeat the tiles are perfectly repeated above and below, and half dropped on the left and right. The brick repeat does the opposite. The repeat tile is perfectly aligned when repositioned on the left and right and does a half ‘shift’ above and below. (I don’t want to use the word ‘drop’ here because technically the pattern doesn’t drop down the page but rather shifts to the side). The below pattern illustrates this style. 

So now that we have an overview of three different repeat pattern styles, let’s jump into creating your own standard repeat pattern.

The below tutorial will provide you with full proof steps on how to create your very own.




  1. Using the drawing medium of your choice draw your first motif in the center of your page. Make sure you do not touch or cross over the edge of the page, as this will affect the seamless effect on your pattern.
  2. Once you’ve drawn your first motif, turn the page over, and number each corner.
  3. Then, using your ruler, mark a point at the center of each side. You can then join these points by creating a horizontal and vertical line.
  4. Now for the scary part… take your scissors and cut the page in half along the lines. If you’re worried about messing up your motif with this step, it might be a good idea to photograph or scan it in before, while it is still intact.
  5. For the next step, we are going to rearrange the pages. Make sure to cross-reference the corners of your page with mine as it is important not to get the placement muddled up. Swap side 1 and 4 with each other, and then side 2 and 3. Basically you need to swop the diagonally opposite corners with one another.
  6. As soon as your pages are reordered tape your page up using the sticky tape.
  7. You can now turn your page back over the right way. You’ll find that the main motif is now separated into the 4 corners of the page, and that the center of the page is blank. This is where you’ll draw your next motif – in the ‘new’ page center. Again, make sure that you do not draw over or touch the edges of the page when you draw.
  8. When you are finished creating the second motif, turn your page back around and ‘unstitch’ the tape on the vertical line.
  9. Now you are going to swap the vertical halves with one another. In other words, you need to swap side 2 and 4 with side 1 and 3.
  10. As soon as the pattern is rearranged, you can stitch it back up and turn the page back around.
  11. You can now fill in any gaps you feel are missing, but again making sure you do not cross over the edges.
  12. When you are happy, turn the page round one last time, unstitch the horizontal line, and then replace the top half with the bottom half i.e., page 1 and 2 with page 3 and 4.
  13. Tape it back up, turn the page over, and fill in any last gaps that you think are necessary.
  14. You can keep repeating these steps as many times as you need to until you feel that the pattern is completed and that all the gaps are filled in.
  15. And that’s it! Congratulations, you’ve officially created your very own standard repeat tile.


Now that you’ve completed your pattern tile, you may be wondering how you can see what it looks like as a full pattern. Well, I have a few tricks to share on this.

If you drew your pattern using pen or pencil, then you could trace it using tracing paper and then manually duplicate the tile on several different pages. This could be quite time consuming though, so if you are looking for a quicker solution, then the next few ideas might suit you better.

You could photocopy or scan the design. Or alternatively, you could take a photo of it using your phone (making sure to get the camera angle perfectly parallel to the artwork). Once you’ve scanned or photographed the design you can open it up on your computer and drop it into a Word or PowerPoint document, and then simply arrange the design in those programs to get an idea of how it will look. To do this you simply need to copy and paste the tile into position. Before I had photoshop, I used to do this quite often to get a visual idea of what I had created. This is also the method I used in the video tutorial below.

Some more creative ideas could be to carve the pattern out into vinyl or wood to create a pattern repeat stamp that can then be used on a multitude of surfaces. This will only really work with a simple pen or pencil drawing though.

You could lastly, take the tile and put it into a site like Spoonflower, which will automatically generate the full pattern for you. If you made it this far, congratulations! I hope you managed to create something beautiful using the steps above. By now you should have a good understanding of what exactly a repeat pattern is, knowledge of three various repeat styles, and the step-by-step process of how you can create your own standard repeat tile. I hope you’ve enjoyed following along and that you’ve been able to learn something new today.


I recently completed a renovation to my kitchen.  As old-fashioned kitchens go, it was small and rather disgusting.  The initial idea, when first moving into the house three years ago, was to spruce up the existing kitchen whilst planning, dreaming and waiting for plans to be passed and the piggy bank to fill up.  Knowing it was only for a few months, I was happy and knew that with my spring-cleaning skills, I would be able to live with the faux renovation for a short while.

Action was initiated and we removed the wooden cupboard doors to ready them for a scrape, sand, and paint.  The idea was to replace the embarrassing counter tops with Formica tops and paint out the carcasses, replace handles and add a little of this and a little of that.  All was going smoothly until we removed the counter tops!  Golly gumdrops…  We encountered unplastered walls built with broken bricks, what seemed like 100-year-old sludge and slime under and around the sink cupboard, spiders galore, mold and more. 

Peter and I looked at each other and we both knew what the other was thinking – rip it all out and toss it away as quickly as possible, including the horrible 80’s style tan coloured brick floor tiles.  So, we did.  We had some help and within a day or two had four blank walls decorated with a gazillion electric wires draping across the room into a very disorganized and uncompliant electrical board.  So much for compliance certificates when you purchase a home. 


This make-shift kitchen was temporary but had to be practical and presentable.  We chose our signature black and white, but budget-wise, floor tiles and ordered flat pack work benches according to the sizes we needed.  These were so easy to assemble and before long we had work surfaces and open cupboard spaces.  We bought a new sink – one we knew we’d use in the final renovation – and the quality taps we wanted from Victorian Bathrooms.  Installing the sink was as easy as cutting out the template with a jigsaw on the wooden countertop and dropping it in.  I painted the workbench tops with Hammerite paint to give them a metal-like finish and it all worked well for over two years.  As time went by, we purchased two display cabinets which remain our pantry cupboards in the new kitchen and an old “koskas” on auction for R600 which also remained in the new kitchen.  We had a beautiful old washed-out piece of wood which we found on the beach that we used as a shelf and added a few other interesting pieces that made our temporary kitchen practical and presentable, as we set out to do.


The time finally came for us to proceed with our approved plans and build our garage which now joins to the kitchen via a pantry and scullery.  We moved out of the kitchen at the get-go and set up a gas cooker in the dining room with the workbenches and everything piled in where it could fit and be within easy reach.  It was chaotic and topsy turvy, but a renovation wouldn’t be a renovation without the chaos, frustration, and agonizing moments.

At one point in time, the kitchen floor looked like the Kalk Bay Harbour beach.  When lifting our cheap black and white floor tiles, we noticed a very large crack in the slab and proceeded to chip it open to repair it.  The chip ended up being a removal of the entire concrete slab and rewiring of an electric cable that barely managed to survive under the crumbling slab.  We threw down a new slab and screed once we knew the electrics were all fine and working. 

As with renovations, the time frame and budget are guaranteed to be blown.  This renovation grew rapidly because as we went along, apart from having unexpected surprises like I explained with the slab, our ideas changed and certain contractors let us down and cost us extra time and money, for example, the plumbers.  We fired two separate plumbing contractors and proceeded to finish the job properly, ourselves. 

The floor tiles delayed us as the colour for the terrazzo stone was mixed incorrectly and given the cost of the tiles, I was not going to settle on something I didn’t want.  The kitchen company pleasantly surprised me although they did mess up with the one thing I asked them to be the most careful with, and that was the painting of the cupboards.  I wanted a hand-painted brush finish, and they gave me a spray paint finish, so, they had to re-do it and it’s never what it should be, but I settled on that and so far, so good.  The kitchen company were willing to make the changes to the plans as it didn’t affect the overall cost to them but rather left us with one unutilized small unit, which we found a practical position for elsewhere.


Looking back, I am so pleased we made the few small changes.  Originally the sink was going to be in the main kitchen, which was always a compromise.  I wanted to fit two washing machines, a tumble dryer, and a dishwasher into the scullery/laundry but it was impossible.  After a lot of deliberation and sketches, we decided to omit the one washing machine from the plans and rather install the full scullery.  We extended the sink counter width to 70cm instead of the standard 60cm, which was genius.  This should be standard for all kitchen renovations.  The extra washing machine was given a new and practical spot in another part of the house and the plumbing in the kitchen was used for a prep bowl. 

Having lived in the kitchen now for almost a year, there is nothing I would change.  If we hadn’t made those minor adjustments, we would be regretting it and wondering how to change it now.  Bite the bullet upfront and don’t compromise, if at all possible.


One of the smartest ideas on the plans was the dog station in the “boot room” area.  We took a standard 900cm oven unit with a drawer at the bottom and countertop, amended the height of the drawer for the correct eating height for two German Shepherds and built a water station next to the eating unit, also at the right height, with a basin with outflow and tap.  The dog food is stored in a large plastic container with lid in the bottom drawer and the rest of the pet accessories and food items are stored in the cupboard above the unit or hang on the rack next to the cupboard.  Life with two large dogs can be messy and chaotic but with our perfectly organised feeding and watering station, it’s a breeze and our two pooches love it too. 


Apart from the planning, the fun is also in choosing the final finishes and décor.  Having a surface pattern designer for a daughter with immense talent and style made my choices difficult because it was hard to choose from her designs and colour variations as they are all good.  The first step was to choose a colour scheme.  I decided on green as the main colour for the space.  Green pairs well with the old-fashioned Cape Dutch style and suits the organic flavour of a kitchen.  Robyn took photos of the tiles, counters, and paint colour and played around with wallpaper and fabric options on photoshop.  This made it easier to visualize the options and decide. We settled on Robyn Valerie’s Trailing Dahlia Green pattern for the wallpaper, and the Japanese Garden Organic for the curtains.


It was an exciting moment when her wallpaper came home.  It was her first run, and the results were better than any of us imagined.  As a family, the four of us put aside one Saturday morning to hang the wallpaper.  It was our second time doing so and we had an idea of how to go about the task.  It was so much easier with four us.  As it turns out with our family, whatever we do together, works out well.  We know our strengths and weaknesses and where our skills fit best, and we get on and do the job.  After two hours, the job was successfully completed.  The next was installing the dado rails and corner edges around the respective areas and finishing those off with a paint.

The fabric was delivered to the seamstress and the roman blind then installed in place.  The fabric is beautiful in design but the colours printed were not as expected.  Lesson learnt here was to first print a colour sample before ordering the full meterage.  It’s worked out okay.  From her new designs, I may decide to re-do the roman blind one day and re-use the current blind in the guest cottage.

Since the laundry come scullery and pantry come boot room with cloakroom were a new build, we sealed the Crete stone on the walls and plaster cornices instead of painting them.  They have a washed look, that looks good and if I were to build a house from scratch, it’s the finish I would have on every wall. 


The scullery looks out of a window onto the guava garden and beyond that, the road.  It is a pretty view and gets an amazing sunset.  The window is finished with an American shutter.

We went bold with the cloakroom.  It was a smelly, moldy outhouse loo/shower room.  We stripped the entire room, continued the floor tiles into it, added the same cornice and pasted the gorgeous bold Climbing Dahlia Red wallpaper throughout, ceiling to floor and finished it off with an American shutter.  American shutters are the way I would finish off every window if budget allowed.  They are practical in so many ways, for cleaning, adjusting light and they add a touch of sophistication.

I am confident to say that we created the kitchen we wanted.  It is brand new, with quality appliances and modern installations but it looks as though you’ve stepped back in time.  It comprises old and new from hand-me-downs to spanking new, adorning hooks and shelves and ready for making new memories with food being a the focal point of friendship and love.

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