Illustration

Repeating Pattern – An Adventure In Skullcats | Art Process

You may remember that last year I made a few Skullkitty designs for the Halloween season, and since not only did I love them, so apparently did a decent portion of People Who Are Not Me – a sure sign that I’m onto something good. So this year I decided to revist the concept. Repeat patterns are cool and hard to make, but when Minnie Small put out a video making one, I thought ‘that doesn’t look so hard‘ and also ‘I could totally do that and imagine how many cats I could draw’.

sketchbook wip
Cat anatomy = two squishy balls in a sock + limbs

Smash cut to September, and the realisation that repeat pattern composition is a whole different beastie to wrangle than regular composition. Armed with this tutorial and enough tabs of cat pictures to make my browser beg for mercy, I began on my journey to conquer this new skill.

After spending some time figuring out what kind of poses I wanted for my little gothic kitties, I began the process of attempting to put them into some kind of a pattern. I already knew I was going to do most of the artwork digitally, but I wanted to start off with pencil and paper to get my head around how the pattern was going to fit together – I am not good with spatial things, so being able to physically move things around makes things much easier for me. So the inital lay-in is just very rough sketches of the poses I liked, trying to slot them together in a way that wouldn’t make anyone’s eyes bleed.

pattern making wip 1
*internal screaming* this is what the tutorial said to do it’s FINE EVERYTHING IS FINE

I was pretty pleased with the first half of the layout, so it was onto the middle step – cutting your drawing in half and taping it back together. I am not the world’s biggest fan of destructive editing (layer masks and multiple file versions of projects is more my jam), so this part is…anxiety-inducing.

But it all turned out fine, even though I taped it the wrong way round first. Then I filled in all the gaps and completed the initial pass on the pattern. It was at this point I realised that although the patterns individually were okay, once they were stitched together there were some awkward gaps, and I wasn’t a fan of having both the walking cats right next to each other.

pattern making wip 3
Everything turned out better than expected, except for the parts that turned out worse. 

Luckily, that’s what Photoshop is for! After a bit of playing around, I figured out a new composition that I was much happier with, and now we’re gona jump ahead a whole bunch of steps, because honestly the sketching-inking-flatting process is not that thrilling, and I don’t have any super secret special techniques.

At this point, I should mention that my file sizes are stupidly big because I have an eternal horror of accidentally making a file for eventual print that is too small to print, so I work everything at probably quadruple the size it needs to be. Very satisfying when you shrink it down and everything looks better. Less satisfying the ability to continually zoom in and fix smaller and smaller non-issue issues, and also my poor beleagured computer crying in agony every time I open a version with all the layers turned on. BUT AT LEAST MY FILES WILL BE BIG ENOUGH TO PRINT.

layout test
the (mostly) final layout

 

With everything laid out, there was just the long slog of final minute tweaks and adding extra detail. I wanted to stick to as simple a colour palette as possible, not only to keep the design nice and coherent, but also for my own sanity because there are SO MANY CATS, YOU GUYS. SO MANY.

Originally I had one of the centre cat elements with a larger rose behind it, to call back to one of the original skullkitty designs. When I was testing it as an actual repeating pattern though it looked too weird to just have the one big element like that, so rather than rework the whole design to try adding more larger elements to balance it, I just took the whole thing out. It made the rest of the cats slot together a bit more smoothly, anyhow.

I filled in the gaps between with pretty flowers to carry on the theme of ‘cute things+dead things = my entire #aesthetic’, and then I was done!

header image
The finished pattern! For all your cat-loving, Halloween aesthetic needs

Given that I’ve never made a repeating pattern before, I’m reasonably proud of how this one turned out. I learned a lot, and also rediscovered my love of composition – I definitely want to do more of these, in both a similar vein to this, and also to add to my collection of dice-themed designs. Rainbow dice, anyone?

The Skullkitty pattern, along with the original Skullkitty designs, is available at my Redbubble store on a variety of neat things, in three different colour backgrounds – black, white and purple-grey. You can click here to check it out.

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