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A common pattern you will find in ancient Celtic art is the Step or Tile pattern. It was used as a filler for large blank spaces, to give them interest, and also as a pattern within other Celtic designs like knots and spirals. The Step pattern looks like it's made up of small shapes, and these link up and repeat to form a larger pattern. Because you start out with a small pattern, repeat it to make a larger pattern, and then repeat this larger pattern until your space is filled, I like to call them Tile patterns as well, because you are essentially laying in blocks of tiles to make the pattern.

I find one of the easiest ways to build nice, consistent Celtic Step Patterns is to use graph paper. This gives you an even guide to follow as you plot out your design, and you can just follow the graph lines to draw your Step patterns out.




To the left I have drawn some of the more common pieces used to make Tiles, but once you have played around a bit with them you'll see that there are many more pieces that can be made, and many more combinations you can join them up in. On the top row, I've shown some simple pieces, a small triangle and a square. The next row has the tipped over "V" shapes, and variations on that, so that they are either whole "V" shapes, or they have had their backs trimmed off to the tips. The third row has the "W" shapes and their variations.


My first shape I'm going to use is the tipped over "W" shape. I place this somewhere in the top corner, leaving enough room so I can make more to my tile in the next step.


To finish my little 3x3 tile, I have added the square piece to one corner of the "W", and a "V" piece to the other. Notice how they all lock together to form a nice little tile.


Now I take my little tile I just made, and I copy it three times to make a larger tile. Notice that when I repeat my little tile, I am copying it's mirror image on the horizontal and vertical axis. This way, if you think of the "V" shape on each of the little tiles as an arrow, all the arrows are pointing in to the middle of the bigger tile, and the little square pieces should fall on the outside corners.


But what if I want the little tiles to join up differently? Well, take your original little tile, and rotate it around. Then make all your copies of the little tile, again making sure to copy a mirror image of it on the horizontal and vertical axis. As I've shown here, this is the same little tile we just made, but instead I've made it so the "V" shape arrows point outward at the outside corners, and the little square pieces are all in the center of the bigger tile. This way you can take one little tile, and use it to make all different patterns, depending on how you turn the little tiles and how you join them up.


Continue to the Fancy Step Pattern...


All tutorials copyright Cari Buziak, 1995-current