Half-Drop Repeats in Illustrator
April 11, 2011 1:02 PM   Subscribe

Is there an easier way to preview half-drop repeats on illustrator than this super nuts way I'm doing it?

I've been working on creating some repeat patterns for fabric/surface design on Illustrator, and recently progressed to half-drop repeats. The problem is, I can't figure out an easier way to check my repeats for layout and make sure there aren't mistakes besides *this:

1. Create a rectangle in Illustrator the exact size of the one repeat.
2. Fill that square with the pattern.
3. Copy that square into photoshop file and save as jpg.
4. Upload to spoonflower and set as half-drop/half-brick.

That seems unnecessary. I know there are probably ways to eliminate step 3 (I could maybe save the rectangle straight from illustrator or something? Unfortunately, I haven't yet figured out what going straight from Illustrator to spoonflower looks like...) Really, though, what I'd love to be able to do is preview my pattern through Illustrator, as a half drop. Is that possible? Are there any other ways to cut steps out of this process?

(I've seen this question and looked at the various plug-ins available, but none seemed appropriate.)

*Please be gentle if that is the silliest thing you've ever heard...
posted by violetish to Computers & Internet (21 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
SymmetryWorks and Tessella from that previous question are still the only plugins I know of for Illustrator that do tiling, but SymmetryWorks is the only one that does half-drops.

So, you'll have to be content with simple rectangular repeats if you can't spring for the plugin. See if you can expand your rectangle to include the half-drop repeat.

You can Export all kinds of files from Illustrator: Tiffs, jpegs, pngs, etc.

You might also want to consider this Photoshop resource:
Adobe Photoshop for Textile Design; not cheap but not as much as the Artlandia stuff.

posted by dpcoffin at 1:30 PM on April 11, 2011

What do you mean by "check my repeats for layout and make sure there are not mistakes"?

Can you link to your design or to one like it?
posted by travis08 at 2:21 PM on April 11, 2011

Response by poster: travis08: I meant that I need to preview my patterns to check that my composition is ok and make sure that when the repeat happens, everything matches up. Does that make sense? For example, I was working on this pattern, and it took going through all those steps to see the design on spoonflower and see that the repeat isn't perfect. You can see through the horizontal line at around the 4 inch mark how a few of the petals don't line up nicely.
posted by violetish at 2:34 PM on April 11, 2011

I'm quite good with illustrator and have some ideas, but I have no idea what half drop or any of the other fabric specific terms mean. Do you just want to be able to preview a pattern within Illustrator?
posted by Brainy at 2:50 PM on April 11, 2011

Response by poster: This has a nice visual of what a half-drop repeat looks like.

So, in illustrator I can make a swatch and then apply it to a rectangle to see how my image repeats itself. But, illustrator just repeats the swatch in a plain old grid (the link calls this "block" repeats). So, if I make a half-drop, I can't actually preview it in illustrator without going through lots frustrating steps. Or at least, I don't know if it's possible. Does that make more sense?
posted by violetish at 3:00 PM on April 11, 2011

I often do this to check the quality of repeating patterns:

In Photoshop, look for the Offset filter under Filters - Other - Offset. Set the horizontal and vertical offsets to about half the width and height of your image (in pixels). Set the "undefined areas" option to Wrap Around. That'll move the "seams" between repeats into the center of the image, where you can see if there's any problems.
posted by moonmilk at 3:00 PM on April 11, 2011

I'm sorry, I didn't see your illustration of a half-drop before I posted - I don't think my trick will help you!
posted by moonmilk at 3:02 PM on April 11, 2011

Hey. You need to use Define pattern, it will allow you quickly create a "single swatch" of your pattern and use it as a fill.


Also just Google Define Pattern and Illustrator and you'll likely find other textile creators giving tutorials.
posted by straight_razor at 3:03 PM on April 11, 2011

I think what straight_razor is saying is what was confusing us. You can make patterns in Illustrator (also just drag a bunch of objects—including a square "pattern defining boundary" object—into the swatches palette, tada!)
Here's another helpful tutorial. MeFi mail me if you need any other help.
posted by Brainy at 3:06 PM on April 11, 2011

Also to note. Use Export> in Illustrator for a wide range of options including JPG. You shouldn't need to use photoshop for this. You can define your jpg size by changing the measurements (cmd+k) to pixel, mm, whatever.

You can define the size of your final design by creating a bounding box behind it (just a rectangle) or telling it to use the artboard.
posted by straight_razor at 3:07 PM on April 11, 2011

I'm pretty sure straight_razor has the answer. I use illustrator a lot and although I never have used the define pattern feature myself I have seen others using it for pattern-repeat checks.

I believe that once you have a pattern defined you will need a test document with guides (and smart guides turned on) to left you snap in each instance of the defined pattern.
posted by bz at 3:08 PM on April 11, 2011

I suspect that Define Pattern, like my trick, creates the equivalent of a block repeat, not a half-drop.

Can you do a block repeat and then drag alternating columns down halfway?
posted by moonmilk at 3:12 PM on April 11, 2011

Response by poster: Thanks everyone! The problem is as moonmilk said - the Define Pattern trick works for block repeats, but not half-drop repeats. I guess illustrator doesn't have a half-drop option.

I don't think dragging around the rectangles with the pattern will work, because first, the part of the pattern that displays in the rectangle changes as it moves (I have no idea how to better describe that) and second, I'd need to drag the rectangles very exactly to the exact right spot, and the exactness is already the issue I'm checking for (if that makes any sense). So, I could be easily fooled into thinking I'm fine, when really I'm still off a tiny tiny bit.

I am going to try the export function to save straight from illustrator - thanks, straight_razor!
posted by violetish at 3:17 PM on April 11, 2011

It will not do it automatically if that's what you're asking. But it certainly will, and works just like setting up a physical pattern in real life. You need to figure out how the 1 swatch will repeat, the computer is not smart enough to do it for you as it's not a one size fits all algorithm. A half drop pattern is still a repeating block pattern, but our often more challenging to figure how they will repeat. Ala MC Escher etc.

This would be one of those things that would be a whole lot easier to show in person :) I'm sorry i couldn't be more help.
posted by straight_razor at 3:22 PM on April 11, 2011

Best answer: Here's how to set up a rectangle over your half drop example and make it a working faux-half-drop defined pattern in illustrator. It's just a matter of placing the rectangle properly over your art.
posted by dpcoffin at 3:29 PM on April 11, 2011

Ah, thank you dpcoffin. A picture truly is worth a thousand words.
posted by straight_razor at 3:32 PM on April 11, 2011

Best answer: You can do a half-drop effect with a block repeat. The block would look like this (using the heart sample) heart pattern. Not pixel exact, but you get the idea.
posted by Brainy at 3:32 PM on April 11, 2011

Response by poster: That is a great idea, dpcoffin and brainy. I am going to try that! Yay! Thanks everyone!!
posted by violetish at 3:40 PM on April 11, 2011

Best answer: Heh. I teach this sort of thing at one of the world's top fashion colleges so I guess I should know what's going on here...I think...

Use this tutorial. It uses a half drop but with two different elements but the principle is the same.

To get patterns to move (inc. scale & rotate) with the object they're in you'll need to set the options for the appropriate tool. Details in this extract from Adobe's own literature.
posted by i_cola at 3:51 PM on April 11, 2011 [2 favorites]

One of the interesting things I learned playing around with Terrazzo (see the earlier AskMe ref'ed by the OP) was that all 17 types of symmetrical tiling could be encompassed into a block-repeating rectangle placed correctly, since that was how the plugin would save all tiles: as a rectangle.
posted by dpcoffin at 3:57 PM on April 11, 2011

Great tutorial, i–cola; thanks!
posted by dpcoffin at 3:57 PM on April 11, 2011

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