Pattern Design for the Rest of Us

Frequently asked questions about SymmetryMill

What is Artlandia SymmetryMill?

Artlandia SymmetryMill is a tool for creating seamless repeating patterns from virtually any image in a standalone application on your desktop. See this video tutorial for a quick overview.

What is the difference between SymmetryMill and your other pattern design tools (SymmetryWorks and SymmetryShop)?

SymmetryWorks and SymmetryShop are for professionals. They are more versatile and powerful, and require Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop to run, respectively. SymmetryMill, on the other hand, is a tool for both professionals and the rest of us, and it does not require any additional software. A more detailed point-by-point comparison of the pattern design tools is here.

I am a SymmetryWorks (SymmetryShop) user. Do I need SymmetryMill, too?

There are several good reasons to add SymmetryMill to your arsenal. You will be able to quickly

  • get up to speed with patterns, symmetries, the control path, and other surface pattern basics, especially if you are new to pattern design
  • generate a large number of patterns from an image—SymmetryMill is unsurpassed in exploring the "pattern space"—even if you want to finish up your design in professional settings
  • create an online portfolio that you can send to potential clients or employers (or let them find you on the web)
How do I make patterns in SymmetryMill?

Just drop an image on any of the SymmetryMill windows (or use the built-in demo image) and SymmetryMill immediately constructs its first pattern for you. Then you move or modify the control path, the symmetry, or blending, and all these changes bring you new patterns. SymmetryMill's tooltips and dynamically changing cursors help you along the way.

Do I need to know how to construct a pattern?

No, you simply use the control path to select a part of the image as a motif and SymmetryMill makes all the necessary transformations (rotations, reflections, and so on) for you. The seventeen symmetry controls let you choose a type of pattern with a click of the mouse. These controls are exactly the same as in SymmetryWorks and SymmetryShop.

Can I create patterns of all 17 wallpaper groups?

Yes, the seventeen symmetry controls in SymmetryMill are provided exactly for that purpose. See examples of the seventeen wallpaper groups here, or all the 17 symmetry types in a diagram here.

Is there a way to change the repeat size?

The control path in the Source Image window lets you interactively change the repeat size of your patterns. The shape of the control path depends on symmetry (and will be familiar to SymmetryWorks and SymmetryShop users too). You can learn about the control path from this short tutorial.

If I like a pattern, can I save it for future use?

Yes, in SymmetryMill, it is called "saving a pattern snapshot." Snapshots are stored in sets (groups) that are kept in your user account on Artlandia servers. If you like, you can share some of your private snapshot sets publicly on Pattern Central. See this video tutorial about pattern sharing.

What images can be used in SymmetryMill?

Virtually any GIFF, JPG (JPEG), or PNG image from your local computer or the internet.

If I use a local image file, does it get uploaded to a server to make patterns?

No, unless you want to share it. Otherwise, your local file remains on your computer.

Can I make a pattern from a scanned image?

Yes, just make sure that your scan is saved as a JPEG, PNG, or GIFF file.

Can I make a pattern from a Photoshop file?

Yes, but first you will have to save your Photoshop image as a JPEG, PNG, or GIFF file.

I am a textile designer. Will SymmetryMill create the standard straight (block) repeats and the half-drop repeats for me?

Easily. Here is a video tutorial with detailed step-by-step instructions for creating brick and drop repeats.

I am new to pattern design. I don't know what all these repeats mean. Will SymmetryMill teach me how to create nice patterns?

SymmetryMill comes with an online user guide, which gives short instructions for creating popular types of repeating patterns. Many more pattern design terms are defined and illustrated in the Artlandia Glossary of Pattern Design. And then there is a large collection of free repeating patterns on Pattern Central, sorted by categories, with some examples that are specifically tagged as "repeating patterns" and "seamless patterns". You can load all these patterns in SymmetryMill and learn by example. See more about pattern lookup here.

Can SymmetryMill create patterns with different resolutions?

SymmetryMill always uses the resolution of the source image. If you want to create a pattern with a higher (or lower) resolution, simply use a higher (lower) resolution in the source image.

Does SymmetryMill create background patterns for web pages?

Yes, you can export a SymmetryMill pattern as a rectangular tile that will perfectly tile an entire web page or part of a page.

Is there a way to make plaid and stripe patterns?

Yes, you can create plaid, stripe, check, and many other types of repeating patterns.

Can I create kaleidoscopic patterns?

Easily. Kaleidoscope is one of the available symmetry types.

Can I rebuild a pattern after editing the source image in an external editor?

Definitely. SymmetryMill's snapshots are simple recipes that you can apply to the image after you edit it—or to a completely different image for that matter. See Advanced Use of Snapshots.

How can I share my SymmetryMill patterns?

Just click the Share button in SymmetryMill and follow the instructions. You can share your patterns publicly or with a group of people of your choice. For more info about sharing, see this video tutorial.

Can I send my SymmetryMill patterns to a client who does not have a SymmetryMill subscription?

Yes, everyone can load your shared patterns in SymmetryMill and see them exactly as you do. The only limitation is that people without a SymmetryMill subscription will not be able to edit your patterns (unless your patterns are created from the built-in demo image).

How can I find what patterns are available publicly?

On Pattern Central, you can browse shared patterns by date, rating, category, and more. There is also a special group of Featured Patterns.

Can I be notified of new public patterns?

Yes, you can follow @symmetrystream on Twitter. As soon as a new submission is received, SymmetryMill automatically posts a message there:

Is there a user guide for SymmetryMill?

Of course. Feel free to browse!

Is there a demo/tryout version of SymmetryMill?

Yes, you can extensively try the free limited version before subscribing to the full version. All patterns that you make with the limited version can later be used with the full version too. Feel free to download SymmetryMill and give it a try.

I heard that SymmetryMill works in a web browser...

The very first version of SymmetryMill was indeed created as a browser plug-in. The current, improved version works as a standalone application on all modern versions of Mac OS and Windows. The detailed system requirements are here.

Can I use SymmetryMill patterns as textures in SketchUp?

Yes and there are two way to do it:

  • For a one-off use, simply export your SymmetryMill pattern as a Tile and load it in SketchUp as usual:
    1. Open the Window > Materials panel.
    2. Click the Texture Palettes button.
    3. In the Colors popup menu, choose New Texture, and then navigate to your exported tile, and load it.
  • For a more systematic use, there is a free plug-in from Artlandia Labs, which does all that and more, automatically. With this plug-in, SymmetryMill essentially becomes an interactive texture editor inside SketchUp. You can instantly apply your SymmetryMill patterns as textures and then edit your patterns and see your SketchUp models dynamically updated. Feel free to take it for a spin.
I prefer to work with Illustrator (Photoshop). Do you have a product for me?

You may want to check our Illustrator and Photoshop plug-ins for pattern design: Artlandia SymmetryWorks and SymmetryShop. Click here for a comparison chart.

I am looking for a replacement for the Terrazzo plug-in from Xaos Tools...

You've come to the right place. If you work in Photoshop, consider Artlandia SymmetryShop. If you'd rather work in a standalone application, then SymmetryMill is for you. Our homage to Terrazzo is here.