Stencil Tessellations Cover a Surface

A tessellation is just an arrangement of shapes that cover an entire surface in a repeating pattern without any gaps. The most common example of a tessellation is just repeating squares. You’ve also seen hexagons used to tile a surface, too, I’ll bet.

But you don’t have to stop with simple polygons like squares and hexagons. M.C. Escher famously created a lizard shape which tessellates really well.

With a complex tessellation, it’s pretty important to line up your shapes on a grid. The size and shape of the grid has to do with the way the tessellation was constructed. For a hexagonal tessellation like our lizard, we would align them on a hexagonal grid.

Keep in mind that a tessellation will cover an entire surface in its repeating pattern. That means that

  1. Unless you make special consideration for it, there won’t be any of your surface showing through–often for aesthetic reasons we like for the surface to show through
  2. At the boundaries of your surface, you’ll need to truncate or cut off the image if it doesn’t fall exactly on the boundary

The first consideration might lead you to occasionally leave one of the spaces open (without any coverage) as an interesting ‘negative’ space.

The second consideration may lead you to start your tessellation at the center rather than at one of the sides, so that you are certain your piece feels centered on your surface.