Decoration · design

Beautiful Papers

I’ve had my head into making beautiful papers for different projects I’ve been working on. Thought it would be nice to give a peek at the different ways I go about making these papers. This, sadly, is not a “how-to” post, as each technique has so many steps.

The one thing that these all have in common is that I create them using the computer.. While I have great affection for making decorative papers by hand, it’s been my experience that if I want to use the computer to print papers that it’s best to create them on the comupter.

The paper at the top of the post is created in Adobe Illustrator, using patterning I’ve learned from Islamic Geometry tutorials. These patterns are great to when I am teaching folding methods, as I can size the designs so that the designs line up nicely when the paper is folded precisely. This has made teaching certain things so much easier.

Here’s an origami box, folded with my papers. More boxes below. Same pattern, different colors.

I use Islamic Geometry a great deal on my papers, but not always.

Sometimes I just create from the tools that are unique to the programs I am using. Illustrator’s flare tool is very fun to use.

This one is made by overlaying, resizing and recoloring a rarely used tool in Adobe Illustrator, called the flare tool. It’s hidden at the bottom of the menu that contains the rectangle and circles tools. I love having an excuse to play around with flares. This one I used to build a shape in which I placed the design inside the shape so it only showed when the light inside of it was activated.

Another way a create designs is by starting with graphs of equations. Even if I don’t understand the graphs that I’m working with, I have figured out how to play around with equations then work with the resulting graph.

Playing around with graphs isn’t hard once you get the hang of it. You can do it right now. Click this link and then click the little arrows to start and stop the animation. See what happens. When I get something I like, I copy get the lines in Illustrator, create tessellations, and add color.

The pattern with the orange in it comes from the desmos graph. The blue pattern uses another set of equations. I like that the colored and uncolored versions are showing here.

This flower-like image is made from trig functions. Gold and silver embellishments were added by hand. This one ended up being a thank you card.

Now might be a good moment to mention that I just put a set of beautiful notecards up for sale in my etsy shop.

While Illustrator is my program of choice, I do dip my toes into photoshop once in awhile.

I’m pretty much a novice with Photoshop. Maybe that works to my advantage? (Wishful thinking.)

I’ve discovered I can lay down a gradient, use some filters and the gradient tool and sometimes make some really gorgeous papers. It’s quite a random activity. Soon as a design shows up I save it. There is no recreating these.

These Photoshop generated papers have become all sorts of shapes.

With the holiday season coming, I’ve been using my Photoshop papers to make these paper ornaments.

I could go on and on with the different ways I put designs on paper. Here’s just one more.

The design above started as black and white lines on Dave Richeson’s computer, which then made its way to twitter then made its way to my computer. I did the coloring with Sharpies, colored pencils, and other markers. I did try scanning this, but I knew, from past experience, I wouldn’t like the scan. Here’s what I do when I want to make copies of hand drawn designs: instead of scanning the images I simply lay them on the glass of my copy machine and make copies.


Using the copy machine retains the feel of the hand drawing, which can be really nice, as long as no one looks too close.

There, so I’ve shown you the Islamic Geometry designs, the design made from graphs, flare overlays, random Photoshop gradient washes, and using my copy machine.

Now I need to figure out how to package up some of these items that I’m making so I can justify all this ink that I’ve been using! So easy to just have fun, the business part is still in process.


All Week, designing papers for a project, not done

I would prefer to spend my time finishing a project than writing about how I can’t seem to finish it up. I’m giving up for the night. Tomorrow it will get done (“really,” I say to myself) but I just don’t have it in me to finish tonight.

I’ve been wanting to do a Spring design for the Hidden Boxes (based on Zhen Xian Bao) kits that I sell on Etsy. Wouldn’t it be nice to get this into the world in time for Mother’s Day, I tell myself.  (Seems like I’ve been talking to myself lately. #isolation) I actually started thinking about this design in mid-March. Found a geometry that I loved. Started with pencil drawings.

Worked with it by hand, drew three versions of it so to get a good feel for it. Didn’t feel ready to start in earnest to do the digital designing until about a week ago. Thought it would take 1 to 3 days. That was 5 or six days ago.

Absolutely love this project. Frustrated that I still have some little details to work out, so that I can’t yet put it in my shop.

Venting my frustration by putting up these photos here. They aren’t the kind I’d post with the kit, but this is my blog, where I can post what’s behind the curtain.

Here’s a beautiful photo that I can’t use because it’s not a square.  But, thank you, I can show it off here.

Here’s a screenshot of my digital workspace. I know it’s not just luck, but I feel so lucky that I can make these designs.

Part of my good luck is that Daria Wilbur wrote about this particular variation of the Zhen Xian Bao, which was such good luck for me, as it’s so much more doable for a kit than the full Zhen Xian Bao that I’ve written about. Another piece of good luck is that Samira Mian keeps publishing videos on how to create these geometries that I like so much.

Here’s a peek at the hidden boxes inside. Just took this photo. The photo is okay, but would be better in natural daylight, which is one reason why I will not finish up tonight.

Here it is wide out.  I need one more photo, one that’s in between this one and the one above. That’s on the docket for tomorrow, too.

That’s it. I’ve got this out of my system for tonight. Thank you

Addendum May 2

This kit is up and listed!


Decoration · design · Frieze Groups · Math and Book Arts

Frieze Symmetry Patterns, introduction #1

Frieze border Book Cover 2002
Frieze Border for Book Cover 2002

I call them borders. For decades I’ve been creating lessons for young kids on ways of creating geometric borders in the books that I make with them in the classroom. Kids love these lessons. They sit quietly, raptly attentive, and can’t wait to get to work.

Frieze Storybook Decoration 2009
Frieze Storybook Decoration 2009

Long overdue, I thought I’d take a closer look at these linear repeat patterns. Thought I’d have it all figured out in an afternoon. That was a couple of weeks ago. Now, deep in the rabbit hole, I’m reporting back. What was going to be one post will be many posts. It’s not that any of this is difficult, but there’s much going on that’s not evident with a cursory look or a single example.

Example of Glide Pattern

What’s just as challenging as deciphering the patterns one can make is deciphering the notation that describes them. There are three separate systems of notations that I will be listing, though these aren’t the only systems. Notation will be filling up my next post.

Here’s the first amazing fact about a pattern that grow along a horizontal strip, which I will henceforth refer to as a Frieze as in Frieze Groups or Frieze Patterns, or Frieze Symmetry:

There are only seven possible ways to create a frieze pattern.

Any frieze pattern you see will be some configuration of only one of seven ways of manipulating a base unit.

Doesn’t seem like this could be true, and if it is, doesn’t seem like it would be too hard to figure out.

It is true, there are only seven possible ways that frieze symmetry happen, and it is not easy to grasp. Some symmetries are easier than others, but each of the seven ways have their quirks that need to be addressed, which is something that I will do in one post after the other until I am done.

Here’s a list of the main resources I have been using:

My resources:

Beautiful Symmetry by Alex Berke

Frieze Group, Wikipedia

Talk: Frieze Group, Wikipedia

Gait Sequence Analysis Using Frieze Patterns, Table 1, Yanxi Liu

Gait Sequence Analysis Using Frieze Patterns, Table 5, Yanxi Liu


Geogebra Apps by Steven Phelps:

To be continued…

design · geometry and paper · geometry and paperfolding

Pattern by Rotation

Twist Boxes
Two Twist Boxes

A bit of eye candy tonight.

Here’s the birds eye view of two collapsed twist boxes . What’s wild about these is that they are made from nearly the exact piece of paper.

Patterned Paper
Patterned Paper

Here’s the paper they were made from. Can you see the difference between them?

What’s going on is that the pattern is shifted by just a small amount.  This small shift makes a big difference in the pattern that is created by the folds that rotate the design on the paper.

Here’s another fun rotation.

I have four of these little squares. I can put them together so that the design is rotated around a specific corner. Like this:

Rotation #1
Rotation #1

A design pops out! When I rotate the design around another point, another design pop-out.

and another…

and since this square has four corners there is another design for these rotations to make, but this is all for now.

I should be prepping for the Center For Book Arts class that I am teaching on Thursday and Friday, on how to make Zhen Xian Bao.,,

Good thing I’ve got tomorrow. Have been spending way to much time rotating things.