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Do Repeat Blocks for Pattern Design Have to Be Square?

Today I wanted to answer a question that many repeat pattern-lovers have asked me over the years – do repeat blocks for pattern design have to be square?  If you love designing patterns you probably know that after designing hundreds of repeats you may get a little tired of working on a square canvas, and switching up your orientation sometimes can help you get a fresh perspective on your process.  There are lots of other reasons to use rectangular repeat patterns in your process and in this post we’ll cover them all! 

Why work with a rectangular repeat block?

Just like any process that switches up the way you normally work, building a pattern from a rectangle helps you get outside of your ingrained same ‘ol ways of doing things.  This usually leads to revelations about new, interesting ways to make patterns, and can lead to more out-of-the-box layouts!

Combine rectangular pattern blocks with half-drop or half-brick patterns, and you’re two steps closer to hiding your repeat seam.

You’ll also find that when you work with a rectangular block, you tend to make taller, more elongated elements which can add a more fluid feel to your patterns.  So if your patterns always feel “boxy”, this is the trick for you!

...but do companies even want square repeats?

I have never had a company specifically ask me for a square repeat (other than print-on-demand companies, which do often require them) but I’m sure that there are some companies that request them from time-to-time!  My way around this issue is to use rectangles that are 1/2 or 1/3 of a square, so if you need square blocks in a pinch, you can just put your rectangles side by side.

Ok I want to try it. So what do I do?

Here is a fun layout you can steal and use right now!  Create a canvas that is 1/2 the dimensions of a square (like 6000 x 3000 pixels for example), the draw a shell shape on it and start filling up your shell with shapes.

Loosely fill to the edge, and then repeat the process so you have two shells with different artwork in each one (or reuse the same shell twice!).  Build your repeat using whatever process you like, or see my process here.

How is the math different when you use a rectangular block?

This may seem like a “no-brainer” for some of you math geniuses out there, but for those of us who took the SAT 3 times to try to get a passable math store (yep, me), writing down your pixel dimensions before you start might be helpful.

If you’re working with the half-square-sized rectangle as I recommended above, your math should be somewhat simple as you’re just using half the pixels from left to right as you normally would vertically.  

Not sure what in the world I’m talking about?  I have an Affinity Designer Foundations course that will help you understand the basics of pixels and pattern math here.

Let me see your rectangular blocks!

You can share your rectangular-block-made pattern with me on Instagram @lizkohlerbrown so I can see it.  See you there!