Repeat Pattern Print Block

So this is part tutorial and part ‘look at what I’ve done’. It is my very first attempt at a repeat pattern print block but I still thought it was worth showing you. My method definitely works in principal, but my finish isn’t perfect, it could be a little bit tidier which I will sort out if I decide to take this block past the proof print stage.  

A repeat pattern block is small print block carved in such a way that it can be tiled infinitely across a surface. It will produce a pattern that will cross the edges of the block so produce a much larger (and hopefully) seamless pattern. Designs like this are a key aspect of surface pattern design, you could use it to decorate all kinds of surfaces.

You could use almost any image; something graphic, geometric and abstract, or true to life flowers, animals and objects, what ever takes your fancy.  Lino print is best done on paper or fabric, you could print large sheets of paper and use it for wrapping paper or Découpage and cover a some furniture. If you’re confident printing on to fabric then maybe decorate a tote bag or cushion covers. But you can go as large as your time, work space and patience allows. There are multiple points of registration when printing a complex repeat pattern that you must consider even when carving, not just printing. The left side of the block must register with the right and the top must register with the bottom.   Keep in mind though a perfect seamless finish is difficult to active when hand printing a detailed pattern so if your after a perfect finish rather than something that shows “the artists hand” then this might not be for you.

So here’s how I did it…

First make a repeat pattern tile on paper

  • Start with a small square of paper the size of your intended print block and draw your design in the middle (make sure no part of the design touches the edge).
  • Cut your design vertically down the middle, and swap the halves so the left hand half is on the right and vice versa. On the back tape together what were originally the outer vertical edges paper.
  • Repeat this process horizontally, cutting at a right angle across the first cut and swapping top half for bottom, again tape together across the back.
  • You will now have a tile where the original outer corners meet in the middle, and you have an empty cross shape in the middle that once made the border of the design. Fill this middle gap with more of your design but do not touch the (now) outside edges of the paper.

Prepare and cut your block

  • Tape tracing paper over your paper tile and trace over your design in a soft pencil, I use 8B, remove the paper tile and tape.
  • Flip the tracing paper pencil side down on to your lino block (the lino block must be the same size as your paper tile). Line up the edges exactly and hold firmly in place, rub vigorously with a bone folder/paper creaser or similar being careful not to let the tracing paper shift (creasing the edges can help keeping it in place). This will transfer the pencil on to your lino block.
  • Go over the transferred pencil lines with a Sharpie (the laundry markers are best as they have a finer tip and don’t transfer to the printing ink)
  • Before carving carefully consider whether you will carve the negative or positive.  What will look best and what will be the easiest to register, it may be easier it carve a negative but it might be harder to register. This will depend on your design and skill level with carving and registering. Carve your block, pay extra attention to detail at the edges, you must stick to your drawn design, with only a couple of mm leeway at the most.
  • Clean up your block when you have finished carving.

Set up your registration and print

  • Set up a registration jig so that you have drawn lines on a large piece of paper for each of the positions you will put your block in. Above that set up registration pins then attach registration tabs to all the sheets you will print on to. I used Ternes Burton pins, you may prefer a different registration method but the key thing is to mark the block positions. If you are printing a larger area of pattern (ie a sheet of wrapping paper you will need to mark more tile positions.
  •  Ink up your block (because I was only proof printing I used my proofing ink pad but for a full print run you would obviously use lino ink).
  • Put the block in the first position. Attach the tabs of your first sheet to the pins and lower on to the inked block then burnish/press. Do not remove the paper from the pins, just keep it held up or propped up if you can’t ink one handed.
  • Ink up your block again and place it in the next position, be careful to ensure the top edge of your block is always toward the top of the registration jig, carefully lower that paper and burnish/press again. Repeat over until you have printed all tile positions, always making sure that you line up carefully and the block is always orientated in the same way.
  • When all positions are printed remove the sheet from the pins and hang to dry.

repeat pattern blog post 25


What I learned from my mistakes. Make the block perfectly absolutely square not even a mm out. Keep it fairly simple the first time, just because your carving abilities allow for the design doesn’t mean your registration abilities will be strong enough. So design carefully.

I’m definitely going to try a repeat tile again as a covering for my desk top (my actual physical wooden desk not the computer kind) its looking rather boring.  If you give this a try then I’d love to see what you made.




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