How to Turn a Crossword Puzzle Into a Repeating Pattern

For my Literacy surface pattern collection, I wanted to represent a range of literacy skills, from basic letter sounds to more advanced literacy applications. For the latter, I decided to attempt a crossword puzzle repeat.

Here's how I did it:

1. First, I had to create a crossword puzzle. There are software programs that can help with this but I made mine the old fashioned way, on paper. My puzzle's theme is "book genres" (mystery, memoir, etc.). The clues are book titles. Here's my completed puzzle.

2. Once I had the crossword puzzle grid worked out on paper, I built it square by square in Adobe Illustrator. I finalized my clues, numbered them (following the instructions on this page), and added the numbers to the grid.

3. For the repeat, I was aiming for a geometric effect with subtle variation. I excluded the clues and used only the grid:

Five Patch Design Book Genres Crossword Puzzle Repeat Step 1

4. Repeat time! To create the repeat, I first made a 650 pixel square background. I gave my grid a blue outline so I could see it better (I remove the outline in Step 8). Then, I placed the grid, roughly centered, in the upper left corner of the background square and copied it to each of the other 3 corners:

Five Patch Design Book Genres Crossword Puzzle Repeat Step 1

5. Next, I moved a copy of the grid from the upper left corner horizontally so it was equally spaced between the upper left and upper right grids. Then, I rotated the top center grid negative 90 degrees. Finally, I moved a copy of the top center grid to the bottom center of the square:

Five Patch Design Book Genres Crossword Puzzle Repeat Step 2

6. I followed the same steps from number 5, above, to move a copy of the grid vertically to the center left and center right edges of the square. However, instead of rotating the grid negative 90 degrees, I rotated it 90 degrees:

Five Patch Design Book Genres Crossword Puzzle Repeat Step 3

7. I copied the grid from the top left corner to the center of the square and rotated it 180 degrees to be upside down:

Five Patch Design Book Genres Crossword Puzzle Repeat Step 5

8. Before making the repeat, I added 2 book motifs (one oriented normally and one turned negative 90 degrees); changed the color of the background square; and removed the blue outline from the grids:

Five Patch Design Book Genres Crossword Puzzle Repeat Step 6

9. I made the repeat and it worked, but the grids were too far apart. I wanted them much closer together. Here's the repeat:

Five Patch Design Book Genres Crossword Puzzle Repeat Step 7

10. I rebuilt the pattern with a 550 pixel square background, placing the grids closer together. The spacing between the grids was such that I needed to enlarge the book motif to fill one of the gaps between the grids, and reduce the size of the book motif to fill the other, smaller gap. Here's the revised version:

Five Patch Design Book Genres Crossword Puzzle Repeat Step 8

11. This was closer to final, but I wanted to reduce the amount of negative space around the book motifs. I built the pattern a third time. This time, when I moved a copy of the grid horizontally, I rotated it 90 degrees (instead of negative 90 degrees). When I moved a copy of the grid vertically, I rotated it negative 90 degrees (instead of 90 degrees). This allowed me to reposition the grids closer together. Also, when I moved a copy of the grid to the center position in the background square, I didn't rotate it (in the 2 previous attempts, I rotated it 180 degrees). Again, this orientation provided a tighter fit and better composition.

12. Here are the 3 versions of the pattern:

 Five Patch Design Crossword Puzzle Pattern Comparison

Inspired to create your own crossword-puzzle-turned-surface-pattern? Let me know if you have any questions about the process!


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