Facebook Icon Instagram Icon Buy Me a Coffee Icon Google Icon

Abstract Tesselation

I'm pretty proud of this design:

Animation of abstract designs and products

Read on to see how I did it, or jump to the bottom for examples of what I've done with it.

Hand drawn abstract sketch

I love drawing stark, high constract, swirling designs. I do it all the time, and I've enjoyed taking myself a bit more seriously as an artist by making these designs available for sale. But there is a limitation to using this style of art commercially: it doesn't scale or repeat well.

Ugly shirt with art blown up too big

I can't just blow up one these drawing to print on a t-shirt. I draw small, so if I print it big it will look awful, even though I scanned it at high resolution. The lines will be jaggy, errors will be glaring, the space will feel empty, and it will look generally bad.

Ugly pillow with poorly laid out tile pattern

I could just print it small and tile the design... which looks even worse. It's just a grid of disconnected squiggles. It looks cheap and lazy because it is.

These problems are pretty bad on a t-shirt, and far worse on bigger items like blankets.

Hand drawn abstract pattern on graph paper

So I set out to draw one of my typical swirly patterns in a way that I could tile and print at any scale. I needed it to tesselate. The basic approach is simple, and there are plenty of good explanations available. Basically, I needed to work in a square, and any lines that went out one edge of the square would need to fit in from the opposite edge.

In theory, I could have done this all by hand and produced a perfectly aligned design. It might even be a fun experiment someday. But for actually trying to accomplish something, I'm just not that skilled. I have to draw in place, I can't visualize how things would fit together. So instead of drawing everything in the square, I kept going right on outside the bounds and reserved space on the opposite side. Graph paper helped a lot -- though in hindsight I realize I should have done this on a light table so I wouldn't have to digitally clean up the grid."

The best abstract line art

The hand-drawn original looks a little goofy, and I left a too much space in a few places which I had to populate digitally. But it works! Using the grid as a perfect guide, I digitally moved all my "outside the lines" lines back in through the other side of the square. The result perfectly lines up for tiling. Now I have something that looks good printed at a size close to the original, and that I can print on larger products by tiling.

The best abstract line art

I think it looks particularly good on clothes and bags. It's a dense, high contrast design that confuses the eye a bit.

The only remaining problem is that the design is really hard to convey in small pictures, especially computer-generated renders like RedBubble creates.

Several color variations of an abstract design

The original was black-and-white, but I wanted color too, and more shading. So I digitally shaded it and wrote some very simple software to swap the color palette. I can generate this pattern as hot pink shapes, outlined in turquoise, on a taupe background in about three seconds if I want. Which I don't.

I do, however, want some other intense color combinations. I don't know if anybody will ever buy one of these eyeball-searing patterns, but I like providing the option.

Click an image for purchase details, or refresh to see more examples:

Mathena Art