Creating Seamless Patterns in Affinity Designer

Creating seamless patterns can be a real headache if you don’t have the basic knowledge of how tiling images work. Luckily enough, the trick to make your patterns repeat correctly is quite simple to master. The real problem is you won’t stop making them once you’ve finished this fun tutorial!

Difficulty: Beginner

Knowledge required: 

  • Being familiar with Designer’s interface
  • Assets installation

You’ll discover how to:

Create perfectly seamless patterns using three simple rules and Designer’s Symbols Panel.

Downloadable content:

If you want to skip some steps and jump directly onto the exciting part of the tut, just download the files provided below to go through this lesson right now! The folder includes an Affinity Designer Assets file, with all the elements used to create the featured pattern design and, two .afdesign Documents containing the final base tile design and how the final tiling works using Affinity Designer Symbols.

Step 1: Design your pattern elements

Since we’ll be doing a few sums and subtractions, we better create a Document with even values, to simplify our calculations. A 600x600px Document will work fine.

Tip: It’s better to create the elements we’re going to use beforehand, so we can concentrate on their design first and our pattern design later. Breaking down these two tasks will make our process a lot easier.

If you downloaded the Affinity Assets file included with this tutorial, you are half-way done with this tutorial, otherwise, I recommend you to create at least 10 simple objects of your choice (flowers, animals, ornaments…) that will be part of your final pattern design.

Before we even get started, let’s see the main rules you need to memorize (if possible) whenever you start a new pattern design. Don’t worry, we’ll be explaining these rules along the rest of the tutorial.

Three simple rules:

  1. If an object is placed in a corner, you need to repeat that object in all four corners.
  2. If an object touches any of the four edges of your document, you’ll also need to repeat that object on the opposite edge.
  3. If an object doesn’t touch either a corner or an edge, you’re able to move it freely about your canvas without any worries.

See? It’s super simple. The key here is to know HOW to position the repeating objects in our canvas.

Step 2: Designing your pattern using Rule 1

Pick any object you like and place it precisely at the corner of your canvas. To make sure it is positioned correctly, open the Transform Panel and make sure you’re moving this object around its relative middle center (Fig.A), then type 0 (zero) in the X and Y input values (Fig.B).

Now that our design is perfectly aligned at the top-left corner let’s repeat it on all four corners.

Our document’s dimensions are 600px by 600px, to move our object to the exact opposite corner (bottom-right), we need to input 600, in the X and Y position fields (Fig.C).

Let’s copy this object again to fill the upper-right corner (Fig.D) and the bottom-left corner (Fig.E).

Step 3: Designing your pattern using Rule 2

Now that our corners are safely locked, we can start adding more elements to our composition. However, the little triangle we placed above, needs to be treated using Rule number two, since it’s clearly touching one of our document’s edges.

The first thing we need to do is to make sure that this object is positioned using whole numbers, this way will be more natural to calculate where its opposite position should be. In this case, its X-Y (horizontal-vertical) coordinates are 0 and 250.

So, we need to duplicate the triangle and move it 600px along its horizontal axis (X), being its final absolute position: X=600 and Y=250. Now, both triangles will match perfectly when our pattern gets tiled from its left or right edges.

Same thing happens when an object touches the top or bottom edges:

The selected shape above (x-like doodle), has an absolute position of X=200 px, Y=575 px. Since its bottom part gets cut-out from our canvas, we need to duplicate it and place it at the opposite top edge as well, to make it tile perfectly when our pattern gets repeated vertically.

To match the bottom shape, our duplicated one’s absolute position should be X=200px , Y= -25px. Here, we had to subtract its original Y position (575 px), minus the total canvas height (600 px). 575px – 600px = -25px.

At the beginning this might seem really confusing, but with a little practice and having a calculator at hand, you’ll get used to this method very fast. Trust me.

We keep adding more elements following the same rules we’ve already seen.
Apart from causing you a seizure… I changed the background to give my pattern a vibrant 80’s feel. Once all your objects all positioned on your canvas, you can play around with colors an the rest of the elements in the center, until your pattern look as interesting as possible.

TIP: Keep an eye on the Navigator Panel, to have a better understanding of how your entire composition is working out.

Step 4: Testing and applying our pattern

Now, we’ll learn how to use the Symbols Panel in Affinity Designer, to test our pattern’s tile-ability.

Group all the objects you’ve created including the background, and mask them all using a 600 x 600px rectangle.

To mask your objects, you need to go to the Layers Panel and drag the rectangle’s thumbnail beside your group’s thumbnail as shown in the video above.

Then, let’s create a new document at least twice the size of the one you made to create your pattern design. In this case, I’m creating a 1200 x 1200px document. Go to your original file and copy your pattern to the clipboard (CTRL+C Win, CMD+C Mac).

After pasting it, align your pattern to the top-left corner. Make sure, this time you select the top-left handle to transform your object (see image above). In this case and then input X:0 px, Y:0 px for your horizontal and vertical position values.

Open the Symbols Panel: View > Studio > Symbols. Then, while selecting your pattern choose the option Create. You’ll see your pattern has been added to the Panel.

Duplicate this new Symbol and move it to the right using the values X: 600 px, Y: 0 px.

Duplicate the pattern a couple more times until you fill in all the gaps, using each respective duplicate values as we learned before:

  • Bottom-Right Corner: X=0px, Y=600px.
  • Bottom-Left Corner: X=600px, Y=600px.

Bonus: Editing

One of the advantages of using Affinity Designer’s Symbols for this purpose is that you can edit your designs and test how your changes affect the whole tiling in real time, just by double-clicking your Symbol.

I hope you’ve had lots of fun during this tutorial. I also hope you’ve learned something valuable today, don’t forget to leave your comment if you have any question regarding this technique and, remember all this information means nothing if you don’t keep practicing and experimenting with your apps every day.

See you next time!

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