Unit #4- Lesson 2 – Making a Mirror Repeat Pattern

This lesson demonstrates how to design a ‘mirror’ repeat pattern using any image (photograph or real object) as your source material.

It will also teach you how to use a simple ‘trace and transfer’ technique where you ‘mirror’ and ‘flip’ your image to create a seamless design.


When designing a repeat pattern, many artists find inspiration in objects that have their own in-built pattern. Here are examples in Natural objects such as leaves, feathers, flowers, shells and insects make excellent visual references and in human-made objects such as mechanical or electrical mechanisms.

Start with a clean page in your sketchbook.


The example chosen here is a butterfly:

Draw an  8 cm. square onto a sheet of tracing paper, tissue paper,  or cut a square hole through a piece of regular paper  and use this as a frame to select an interesting area from your source image. This is done by moving the square around the image until you find a section that is visually appealing. The area that you select will become the unit you repeat to create your pattern.

NOTE: The size that you draw the square will also be the size of your repeat unit. Around  8cm. is a comfortable size to use.

Draw the pattern in the square either by tracing it onto the tracing paper or by copying it into a square on a separate piece of paper.  Here’s my example:

This will become the basic design for your repeat unit which you may now develop by applying tone and colour.

How to Trace and Transfer:   Using a soft lead pencil if you have one (B or 2B) draw carefully over the design on the back of your tracing paper so that you have the same image pencilled on both sides. Now place your tracing onto a clean area of your sketchbook page and draw heavily over the lines of your design to transfer the image. This should transfer the design onto the page.

Trace and transfer your repeat design onto a sheet of paper FOUR times. In each of the four repeated designs you need to explore the different effects of tone and color on your design until you begin to discover certain combinations that appeal to you more than others.   Here’s an example:

Draw a template of FOUR squares together, like you see here:

From the four variations, select your favourite.  This will become your pattern, the repeat unit that you use to construct your finished pattern.

In each square draw your pattern template.  Turn it to draw it on the next square.  Turn it again for the next and turn again for the last.

FYI : In any four unit ‘mirror’ repeat you can get four possible layouts of your design, each one from a different way you turn your original (see outlined in white). However, if you take any one of the four possible layouts and repeat it to create a larger pattern (16 squares total) you will see that the result contains all four layouts in one design.

Colour in your four unit mirror patterns and obscure or erase the lines between the squares so that it is one complete pattern box.

That’s it!

This is how pattern designers design for fabric and other places that repeating patterns are used.

You need to create your repeating pattern and colour it fully.  Please email me a photo of :

  1. Your original source for pattern design,
  2. Your four colour explorations showing four different colour scheme patterns;  and
  3. Your final four unit mirror pattern
  4. IF you would like, for bonus marks, make a 16 unit full page pattern, like the example on the far right.                    Those are the criteria for your mark for this assignment.    Due date is Tuesday, June 9


One final assignment will be posted next week and due the week following.  That will wrap up the course for this semester.

Please know that ALL overdue assignments from all units need to be submitted no later than June 17.  I will be evaluating all work and reporting on the final report card on the weekend of June 20-21.

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