Frosty Flakes

When I was in 7th grade my science fair project was on snowflakes, and I learned how to capture snowflakes in a plastic solution on glass slides and then photograph them.  My inspiration was Wilson Bentley’s work.  So, when Spoonflower’s weekly contest was to create a snowflake design, I knew I’d have to design something.

Unfortunately, I don’t have any of my snowflake photos any more, so I looked around the web for inspiration.  You can see many more beautiful snow flakes like these at


I started to create a design with realistic snowflakes, but I realized I’d never be able to do justice to real snowflakes.  Pondering options, I thought since snowmen are made of snowflakes, I’d try creating snowflakes made of snowmen.

All snowflakes have 6 sides (thanks to hydrogen bonding) and are basically symmetrical.  To help my drawing fit into the 6 sided constraint, I drew (in Illustrator) a grid of lines (see below) to get the proper 60-degree wedge for one-sixth of the snowflake.  Using these guidelines, I drew the simple snowman shown below.  (I could have drawn the broom on both sides of the wedge, but it was easier just to draw it on one side and let it spread over into the next wedge.)


After removing the guide lines and repeating the snowman 5 more times (rotating 60 degrees each time), here’s my first frosty flake.


Using the same snowman, I created a number of variations like these


Once I had about a dozen variations, I put them together into a design.  But, when I looked at it in repeat I decided there was a little too much structure to the design and it would be better as a half-brick repeat rather than a straight repeat.  It was a complex design, so it took me a while to rework it into a half-brick repeat.  I’ll show some of my steps here, and I also covered the basics of creating half-brick repeats in this earlier post.

Here’s the original repeat.


And here’s the original tile.


Notice how all the snowflakes along the top row overlap the top of the Artboard (shown by the black rectangle).  These snowflakes are repeated along the bottom row, again overlapping the Artboard — this makes the repeat work without a visible seam.

To create the half-brick repeat, the first step was to double the height of the Artboard (as detailed in the earlier post).  Then I needed to move all the snowflakes in the bottom row down to the new bottom of the Artboard.  This preserves the top-to-bottom repeat.


Next I copied all the snowflakes remaining in the top portion and moved the copy to the bottom-right portion of the Artboard.  This resulted in some overlapping of snowflakes as shown by the pink arrows:


Following the steps from the earlier post, I again copied the top snowflakes and moved them to the bottom left.  Here’s the result after all the copying and moving:


This needs cleaning up because there are too many overlapping snowflakes and too many white spaces.  I first moved all the extra snowflakes to the sides so I could see the design better:


Then I started moving some of the snowflakes a bit, resizing some, and adding in some small ones to fill in gaps.  Some of the changes are shown by the pink arrows.


I kept tweaking it until I was happy with the results.  In the end it’s not a strict half-drop repeat, but it accomplished my goal of making the design less structured.

Here’s the final tile:


And here is Frosty Flakes:


You can see all the snowflake designs here, and the Frosty Flakes design in my Spoonflower shop.

Frosty the snowman was a jolly happy soul,
With a corncob pipe and a button nose
And two eyes made out of coal.
Frosty The Snowman written by Steve “Jack” Rollins and Steve Nelson

Getting an inch of snow is like winning 10 cents in the lottery.
Calvin from Calvin and Hobbes by Bill Watterson
Check out some of the classic Calvin and Hobbes snowman cartoons here.

Snowmen fall from heaven…unassembled.


1 thought on “Frosty Flakes

  1. This is a great tutorial on pattern design! Just what I need to be able to understand how you did the frosty flakes. Thanks for sharing

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