asking for trouble

How I Design Repeat Patterns: Solar System

I’ve been digging around in various illustration folders looking for unfinished ideas I can use for my 100 Days of Kawaii Characters project. In the repeat patterns folder, I found some work in progress files from finished patterns that I thought would be fun to share. Often I do all the work in one file but sometimes I get stuck and start again, keeping the old file in case I need to go back. I’ve picked out four to share so I’ll split this into multiple posts.

solar system pattern - marceline smith

First up, the Solar System. I usually start in Adobe Illustrator and move all the characters around until they seem like a pleasing group. My aim here was that everything would spread out from the central sun, like the actual Solar System, so Mercury is smaller and closer to the centre than Neptune.

solar system pattern - marceline smith

After that I take it into Adobe Photoshop as I find it easier to check repeats and move things pixel by pixel to line up. This was my first version that I actually entered into a Spoonflower contest. It was a bit basic though (I had to rush to meet the deadline) so I came back to it after.

solar system pattern - marceline smith

I wanted the characters closer together and a lot of rejigging got me to this. Getting a nice balance of space between elements is the hardest part of repeat patterns. I also try not to rely on a simple grid pattern too often and this one was getting a bit too organised with a clear repeat. Your eye is immediately drawn the four Uranus’ and Neptunes in perfect rectangles.

solar system pattern - marceline smith

A bit more rejigging (check how many characters have moved to a different spot beside the sun) and the character group is also stepped so they don’t line up every time. This makes it feel a bit more random.

solar system pattern - marceline smith

After that, it’s a case of cropping out the exact repeating area and checking it works. Even a pixel out of place can be glaringly obvious when repeated. You can see above that I’ve lined up the corners with the edge of Saturn & Uranus’ rings. There will be other points of reference for each character that touches the blue line so their matching partner is in the same place. One is the bottom of Jupiter’s eye

solar system pattern - marceline smith

Once I have a file of just the repeat I can apply it to whatever I want! The first thing I used this pattern for was my Solar System wrapping paper.

So now you know! Next time you come across one of my patterns, you can have a look and try and spot the join.


Hello! I’m Marceline Smith, the designer and owner of Asking For Trouble. I create illustrated stationery, accessories and gifts using my cute characters inspired by Japanese kawaii. This is my business and personal blog where I write about my creative doings, inspirations, travels, Japan trips and daily life. Read more »

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