I sell art through Redbubble and Society6 and they both have their pros and cons. I personally prefer the print quality of Redbubble’s apparel but Society6 really shines with their homewares products. I mean you can get boobs on a shower curtain. The absurdity of that speaks to me on a personal level.

Which is why I was genuinely excited when Society6 launched wallpaper earlier this year. I design a lot of repeating patterns. Wallpaper was my time to SHINE.

Or it would have been. But all my patterns to date don’t tile as a perfect square.

Instead, I’m dealing with this shit:

Screen shot of a rectangular pattern tile not fitting the Society6 wallpaper default

Note the cropping at the bottom and top of the pattern tile. If I tried to upload that, the resulting wallpaper would look like this:

Groooossssss

The obvious solution is to design patterns so that their tiles are square which I’ll be doing from now on. In the meantime, I’m rejigging my old patterns to fit the new format and it’s a fucking pain in the ass. So I figured what better way to really feel the burn than to document this process for you guys.

You’re welcome.

I’ll be using my Relaxolotl pattern as a guinea pig today because it’s one of my best sellers.

Also, I’m a bourgeois snob who doesn’t like learning new programs so the following is all Adobe Illustrator specific. You can, however, apply a few of the tips and tricks to your own programs and/or processes if you work with something else.

Onwards!

Editing the Pattern

Here’s the original pattern swatch I’m going to be rejigging. Don’t let the square outline fool you, this tiles as a filthy, filthy rectangle.

Relaxolotl Pattern
I didn’t mean that #AllParallelogramsAreValid

When I open the pattern to edit it I get this:

Edit pattern view in Adobe Illustrator
NB: The teal background isn’t actually a part of the pattern itself so it doesn’t get carried over into the pattern edit interface

My current pattern settings are over here on the right:

Screen shot of my current pattern settings

We’ll be fucking with the following:

  • Tile Type: Hex by Row
  • Width: 2368.2656 px
  • Height: 1841.4199 px
  • Dim copies to: 100%
  • Show Tile Edge (currently unselected)

First things first, I’m gonna down that “Dim copies to” setting. This’ll let me see what elements are actually editable.

Screen shot with copies dimmed to 20%
Gang’s all here!

My usual process for creating my patterns is to freehand fuck around until I have a composition that I like. Since we’re working to a specific tile shape right now I’ll hit that “show tile edge” selection.

Screen shot with the tile edge visible

Yeah, that ain’t a square. Let’s change that Tile Type to “grid”.

Screen shot after tile type changed to grid

Better, but still not a square. Time to fuck with the width and height settings. I’m gonna change it to:

Screen shot of height and width set to 2000px

Save yourself a headache and make sure your “Maintain Width and Height Proportions” is off. You also need to have “Size Tile to Art” unchecked to be able to manually change your height and width.

Screen shot with tile set as a square

Now to rejig your elements to tile nicer with the current settings. Here’re my dudes after I’ve done that.

Screen shot of new square tile friendly pattern

I’m not worried about some of my bros sitting across the edge of the tile because when positioned side by side, the tiling effect will piece them back together seamlessly.

Here’s my final pattern applied to a shape in Illustrator:

Final pattern applied to a shape in illustrator

Lookin’ good. Now to export the square tile itself.

Isolating the Pattern Tile in Illustrator

This is actually the same process I use to isolate the tile of any pattern. It’s helpful when setting up Redbubble products because they give you the option to tile your artwork (functionality Society6 could stand to implement as well honestly). It’s also helpful for platforms like Spoonflower which require you to upload a seamless pattern tile.

Back to Illustrator. With the pattern filled shape selected, go to Object > Expand…

Screen shot of the expand options

The resulting popup should give you the option to expand the “fill”. Make sure that’s selected and hit okay.

Then right click your shape and select “ungroup”.

Screen shot of right clicking and selecting ungroup

Right click again and select “release clipping mask”.

Screen shot of right clicking and selecting Release Clipping Mask

This’ll give you something like this:

Screen shot of the expanded pattern without its clipping mask

From there I can select one of my square tiles and fuck off the rest (including the mask outline because we keep our art files tidy, children).

Final square pattern tile

Tada!

Exporting the Tile

There’re a few ways to position your tile on an artboard for export. My personal fave is to drag a rough artboard outline, select the artwork itself, and then go Object > Artboards > Fit to Selected Art.

Before:

Artboard and art before command

After:

Artboard and art after command

Then comes the export.

I use the Export for Screens option in Illustrator. Society6’s wallpaper dimensions are 3600px x 3600px. I’m going to match that exactly because if I upload something larger I risk their interface doing this:

Society6 art upload tool auto-zooming my pattern

Their scale tool is an inexact science. And inexact doesn’t fly with repeating patterns. One or two pixels out and the wallpaper is gonna look sloppy as balls.

So I’m exporting my square tile at EXACTLY 3600px x 3600px:

Screen shot of export settings and dimensions

And because this just tripped me up – if your export is saving at 3601px x 3601px, look to your artboard reference points to get rid of that rogue pixel.

Uploading to Society6

Here we go. We’re uploading this sucker to Society6. I am a genius. I am god. I am-

Screen shot of my final pattern but it's zoomed out crappily

WHAT THE FUCK SOCIETY6 WAHT-

Okay, if this happens to you, drag that scale all the way up to 100% and then — this is very important — hit “cancel” at the top right of the edit screen. When you click back into edit the wallpaper it will have aligned itself properly because this is a totally rational way to design this process.

Screen shot of my final pattern properly aligned
The web dev in me BLEEDS

Hit “Save and Enable” and then have a fucking beer because you earned it.

Here’s my finished Relaxolotl wallpaper. Only 17 more products to go.


In the spirit of transparency, this post does include a few affiliate links to Society6 (not those that point to my own products though). If you click through them and buy something within the next 30 days I get a kickback. But hey, you might get to own a butthole tapestry. This is win/win, honestly.


I’m able to work on posts like this because of the support of my lovely Patrons. Rosie, Megan, Nicole, Brianna, and Picksleydust are among this rad crowd. Thanks, all!