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How to achieve perfect repeat patterns every time in Affinity Designer

Pattern designer, illustrator and online educator Weronika Salach is here to explain her automated repeat pattern process for creating seamless repeats—with no manual calculations required! Creating detailed vector patterns has never been easier!

Calling all pattern designers! Let’s roll up our sleeves, fire up Affinity Designer (any version), and take our pattern game to a whole new level.

I discovered a more efficient way of creating seamless repeat patterns in Affinity Designer that I want to share with you so that you don’t have to struggle with making Transform Studio calculations anymore.

Imagine if you could draw your patterns in real-time and see the repeat created automatically for you–well, you can, through Symbols automation!

I switched from using the Live Pattern Preview Tool to my Automated Pattern Templates approach and haven’t looked back. I have thus far released two self-paced online courses about it, and today I’m excited to share with you my general framework for this technique and introduce you to this new way of creating seamless repeats.

Understanding repeat patterns

A repeat pattern is a form of design that seamlessly repeats in a tile-like manner, creating a continuous visual flow. It has a number of applications in various creative disciplines, including textile design, home decor, wallpaper design, and so much more. A well-designed repeat pattern appears seamless and can be tiled infinitely in any direction without any noticeable edges or disruptions in the design.

I found, for me, that Affinity Designer is THE best tool for my pattern design work. From precise alignment and scaling to manipulating individual elements and adjusting colours; to working with assets (pre-saved design elements), the software gives me exactly what I need to create my patterns without much hassle and in a very time-efficient way.

Save time with Symbols

Previously, I worked a lot using the Transform Studio by transforming the motifs on the edges with calculations on the X- and Y-axis. And then, I changed my approach and started leveraging Symbols in the software.

Symbols save you a lot of time by creating repeatable elements for you, and they can take your repeat pattern design to a whole new level. They allow you to create amazing automations which mirror all the pattern motifs on the edges of the pattern tile to the other side, so that the pattern is truly seamless–without too much effort on your side.

Here is a short video showing how it works:

Creating a standard-repeat automated template

First, you need to create a new document, for example, 4000 x 4000px. Pay attention that you don’t select “Create artboard” at the bottom of the list–leave this option deselected. Please make sure to choose Pixels as your document units.

Create a pattern document

Next, draw a square shape that will cover your entire canvas using the Rectangle Tool. Change your square Fill colour to a brighter hue and change the colour of your Stroke to another contrasting colour. Adjust your Stroke in the Stroke Panel to be a bit thicker, so you can see it better.

Draw a square using the Rectangle Tool

Now it’s time to turn this “background” square into our Symbol. Make sure you have the square selected in the Layers panel, and then head to Symbols in your right-hand menu. For Desktop versions, you need to go to View > Studio > Symbols to ensure the Symbols Studio is visible.

Next to the “Symbols” menu label, you will see three vertical lines, aka the “hamburger” menu. Click on it to open the sub-menu and select “Add Symbol from Selection”. You will see that our orange-coloured square will appear on the list as a Symbol. Hurray!

Turn the background square into a Symbol

Utilising Clip to Canvas

The Clip to Canvas preview option will be your best friend when using this technique of pattern design. You can “unclip” your canvas view and see everything outside of your original canvas. In our pattern design scenario, you will be able to see your pattern on a bigger scale, and you will have the opportunity to evaluate it and make better design decisions, seeing “the bigger picture” of your pattern.

You can access this option from the Document menu > Canvas > Clip to Canvas, or you can use the Toggle Preview Mode button, which is located in the upper right corner to the left of Snapping.

With the Toggle Preview Mode OFF, create a copy of your background square and place it exactly to the right side. Ensure Snapping is on and you see the guiding lines “snap” into position. I have renamed my original rectangle layer to “guide”. You will also see that a Symbol folder was created, and there is now an orange vertical line beside our layer icon.

Duplicate your Symbol

Now, create seven more copies of your square and place them all around the edges of your original canvas, which should remain in the middle of your document. The number one square should stay in the middle like this:

Create more copies

Next, create a new rectangle background shape, change its Fill to another colour, remove its Stroke and then position it at the bottom in the layers panel, behind all the other layers.

Sort your layers: position the middle central square (your main pattern tile) on top and group the remaining squares into a separate folder, which I renamed to “standard repeat”. I have also renamed my Symbols folder to “PATTERN” and my square shape has retained the name “guide”.

Create a new background shape and sort and group your layers

Last but not least, remove the Fill from your original “guide” square, and leave the outline. You can change this outline colour or its opacity at any point. This is only a guide grid for your orientation. When your pattern tile is ready, you will switch OFF the visibility of this guide before you export your pattern tile.

Remove the Fill from your original “guide” square and leave the outline

Building your seamless repeat automatically

Now it’s time to draw. You can draw your elements free-hand using the Designer or Pixel persona (or a combination of both), or you can use your own pre-saved assets from your Assets Library.

Your pattern elements need to be placed inside your main Symbols folder (inside “PATTERN”). As they become part of the Symbol, they will acquire the vertical orange line marking in the Layers panel. Feel free to draw your pattern elements outside of the “guide” line. Those guidelines are only for your reference.

Important: ensure that you are only drawing in the middle square, which is your original canvas. In doubt, switch off the visibility of your “background” layer to locate your canvas to double-check if you’re drawing on the correct layer.

Build your repeat pattern using Symbols

Practice using automated templates

Congratulations! You’ve now unlocked the secrets to achieving perfect repeat patterns every time in Affinity Designer. By understanding how you can leverage Symbols, you can create powerful automations that will speed up your workflow and ensure that your work doesn’t contain any repeat mistakes.

Now it’s time to practice what you learned! Perhaps I’ll see you in one of my automated patterns courses. Stay tuned on YouTube for my upcoming Affinity Designer tutorials, or better yet, join my Facebook Affinity support group for graphic design and pattern design. Happy creating!