Favourite subject? Art or maths? How to create more and think less.

Implied Versus Technical Repeats

If you want to see your artwork on a variety of products you need to know how to create a pattern - a repeating image, calculated to run seamlessly, horizontally and vertically, across a surface - usually fabric or paper products (used for soft furnishings, clothing, quilting fabrics, cards, gift bags, gift wrap, etc).

You need to understand how to position the motifs of your design with mathematical precision so that when they’re repeated they tesselate seamlessly and fluidly with one another - from side to side and top to bottom. In order to execute a technical repeat efficiently, you need to be up to date with the correct software and prepared to spend a lot of time shuffling design elements around.

If you’re new to the process or not particularly adept at mathematical precision you may find that the effort required to create a technical repeat starts to suck the joy out of the creative process and the results are less fluid and way more time-consuming than you would have liked.  

I have good news for you. You don’t have to do it. You do need to understand how the process works. You do need to know the difference between a half-drop and tiled repeat. And you should be capable of creating both... if necessary. But when you’re at the stage of creating, with a view to presenting the artwork to clients, in the hope they’ll buy it or commission a project, you only need to produce what’s called an implied repeat.

I spoke to Craig Tudhope, owner of Nuprimary, a leading US print studio, selling to both fashion and home furnishing retailers. They sell an enormous quantity of absolutely stunning designs to some of the best-known retailers in the US, from high-end to high-street. All their designs are presented as swatches featuring implied repeats. They, like most studios, don’t have time to execute so many elaborate designs as technical repeats. They want to knock their clients out with a huge array of beautifully conceived, original ideas like these below. That’s what their clients are paying for.

Most retailers purchase/license implied repeats and employ teams of in-house designers that adapt them to their needs, using advanced software for that purpose. Others purchase or license artwork on the basis of the implied repeat and then ask the original designer (you) to create a technical repeat to their specifications, maybe taking into account fabric/roller width, etc. They may even license/commission on the basis of one design then ask the designer to build that piece out into a series of technical repeats.

The point is that at the stage of purchasing/licensing/commissioning they just want to see how the imagery and concept work and whether it will be suitable for their needs. This removes the need for a lot of work for you.

An implied repeat looks like a technical repeat. It employs the same principles as a technical repeat - the imagery is more or less half-dropped (staggered like laid bricks) or tiled (placed in rows and columns). The difference is that it doesn’t work - because it’s done imprecisely by eye. These are two of mine. If these patterns were repeated endlessly across a page the elements would be badly misaligned and they’d look terrible.

But I can still sell these patterns because they give the overall impression of how the imagery would work in repeat and provide complete motifs that can be extracted by an in-house designer (or me) and arranged to suit the exact needs of the client.

The main benefits of working like this are;

  • It takes you way less time.

  • Your focus is on the aesthetics of the design, not the technical requirements of creating a repeat. You’re concentrating on the style and flow of the florals, on executing an idea rather than a perfect, production-ready piece.

  • You’re enjoying the creative process, playing with composition, tossing the elements randomly around the page until you find a combination that works - without thinking about whether the motif exactly lines up, etc.

If you are a genius at creating technical repeats, if the process comes easily and quickly to you and you enjoy it - don’t stop! 

But - if you aren’t  - learn how technical repeats work, understand the process, then try an implied repeat.

Check out the Nuprimary Instagram page to see more of their gorgeous work and the calibre of their clients.

You can learn more about art and design by taking one of my courses. Create Collections will be running at the end of Oct. Dates and details will be announced first via my newsletter. Classes fill up fast so please make sure you’ve signed up.


Recently, I offered a FREE STEP BY STEP GUIDE TO GETTING YOUR ARTWORK IN FRONT OF CLIENTS, in which I laid out a strategy for assembling a client list and sending your work out. You can get yours here.

However, you may be wondering whether you’re actually ready for that step. To help you decide, I wrote this blog post (then promptly got sick, so sorry for the delay!).

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If you’re venturing into the world of commercial art, you’re working towards a particular goal - to get your work seen by the people that count - the ones who will pay you for what you’re doing and turn your passion into a living.

Perhaps you’ve created print on demand products and are thrilled with the results (that cushion looks stunning on your sofa and everyone you know wants one!), maybe you’ve won challenges and competitions and got some well-deserved recognition, or you’re already working with clients but feel you should be reaching more of them.

On a good day, you feel you’ve got what it takes and you’re imagining your designs on cards, wall art, and dinnerware in your favourite stores. On a bad day you’re filled with anxiety and self doubt and think you just need a bit more time. The worst days find you on Instagram looking at everyone else’s work and thinking it’s hopeless.

At the root of this emotional pendulum is the fear of being rejected. We all experience the cycle - I’m great, I’m rubbish, give up, soldier on. 

It’s very tiring and you know you’re supposed to combat the fear by just going for it. But are you actually ready?

Truthfully, there are a few basic criteria you should aim to meet before taking the leap - and some important questions to ask yourself.


Is there a magic number?? What’s the exact number of designs that’s acceptable?? You’d love to know the answer to this - but there isn’t one.

You just need enough to make an impact. 

Some people will make an impact with fifteen super cohesive, brilliantly conceived pieces that convey a rock solid style. Others will make an impact with sixty pieces that cover every commercial theme in the book - from Halloween to Hannukah. You might have twenty painted floral placements, or fifty vector patterns of dinosaurs and trucks, or vice versa. 

The main thing to consider is whether the designs are strong, consistent and cohesive.


We’re all on a quest for style. But the quest can be made less daunting by thinking in terms of creating cohesiveness and consistency, instead of ‘finding’ your style. One is you taking control, making something happen, the other is something happening to you - as you inadvertently stumble upon it!

This is a huge topic for a tiny section of a blog post but start by asking yourself this - when you look at your work as a whole, does it look like the work of one person, or five people? 

If it looks scattered and disjointed you probably should tighten it up before sending it out.

Your work can hang together by a number of common themes, including subject matter, technique, and colour.

I’m going to go into this in far greater detail in my upcoming course, Create Collections - but for now, here’s a tip.

The hands down, quickest fix for a disjointed portfolio is the application of a unified colour theme. 

It can be a massive spectrum of colours or a limited selection of just a few - but whatever the palette is, it needs to be consistent. This will instantly help your work look tighter and make a greater impact.

Have a look at my designs on the cards by Pigment below (currently sold in Paperchase, UK). Each piece came from a different collection. They were already unified by a common style but I adjusted the colours to make them super cohesive. See how impactful a tight palette can be!


Speaking of making an impact - your chances of doing that are very much diminished if you don’t have a basic online presence. You need a clean, organised website, where your art is the star of the show (Squarespace is great), and an Instagram account. 

These two things are the fundamentals of looking professional. You can base your entire career on only these but they are inescapably important. 

Art directors do look at Instagram and a strong feed (not necessarily with a huge following but with a consistent, carefully planned input) shows that you are serious.

Since Facebook and Instagram are so interconnected and you can shoot Instagram posts to Facebook, why not have a Facebook page too? I have great engagement on my Facebook page even though I have one tenth of my Instagram following on there!

With a body of cohesive work, displayed clearly on a clean website and a well curated Instagram page, you can feel confident about sending your work out, knowing that you look professional and serious about selling your work.

I hope this helps!

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Hundreds of artists have signed up for my FREE STEP BY STEP GUIDE TO GETTING YOUR ARTWORK IN FRONT OF CLIENTS. Here’s just some of the feedback.

‘Just a quick note to say thanks very much for this fabulous & incredibly useful & reassuring guide - much appreciated! I was a purchasing director for 15 years (in hotels not art) so know that buyers are (mostly) human but have still been utterly terrified to approach anyone & am sitting on a pile of unpolished & unseen work just as you say in the document! This is such a useful guide & really breaks everything down into manageable non scary bitesize pieces. Thanks again for your generosity and I can’t wait for "Create Collections.'

‘What a helpful guide to getting organized to get clients! I have had in the back of my mind what I needed to do, but it was all a jumble.You spelled it out so beautifully! I really appreciate it!’ 

‘Just wanted to say thank you so much Victoria. This guide is a brilliant confidence booster! It will really help me prioritise as I come to a point where I'm ready to share my work. Lots of work to do - but having some focus and must-dos is such a great start. Thank you thank you thank you!!!’

‘Thank you so much for your very succinct and useful guide. It's so kind of you to share your experience in this way. I'm just starting out on my creative journey so I'm a little way off selling anything just yet but was keen to get an idea of what's involved.’

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