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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.




For this little tile, I am going to make it again 3x3, but you can really make your starting tile any size you want, depending on what you want your final pattern to look like. But to keep it small for the Tutorial, here's my 3x3 little tile. This time I want to start with a "V" shape, that has had it's point taken off at the bend.


To fill the small spot where my "V" is missing it's point, I've added the small triangle shape, and plugged one of the "W" shapes into the other side of the "V". The "W" shape I chose was the one with the tips cut off as well, and I then filled that gap with two more small triangles and a small square. It may seem like you are adding a lot of shapes for no reason in your little tile, but keep in mind that the more little sections and divisions you make in your little tile, the more you'll have in your final pattern to color in and decorate!


Now you flip your little tile like before, on the horizontal and vertical axis, to get a bigger tile. This bigger tile, if you wanted to make a really big pattern, could be flipped again in it's larger form, and made into a larger tile yet again.


Here I've taken our little tile we made before, and then I rotated it and then flip it on my horizontal and vertical axis. This, as you can see, gives a totally different look to the larger tile. In this way you can vary your tiles, and link them together to create a different look.


Now you can add some knotwork or some spirals to your image, if you like. Here I've erased out the little triangles in the center on the tile, and replaced them with a small Celtic knot. I can now leave the tile as it is, or flip it again with the knot to make a bigger tile.


This big tile I made from the same little tile, rotated and flipped and rotated and flipped until I had the big tile done how I wanted it. Then I erased out some parts and added a few knots, to make it more interesting. You can either use Tile patterns to fill spaces between knot blocks in a drawing, or as I've shown here you can use your knots to fill spaces in your Tile patterns!



If you're enjoying these tutorials, don't forget that you can get a collected workbook edition, in both an instant PDF downloable eBook edition, as well as a coil bound print edition! These working copies have much more information than these online versions do, more explanations, examples, exercises to work through... become a Celtic art master!


All tutorials copyright Cari Buziak, 1995-current