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Tessellation Tips

Suggestions for Making Better Tessellations


What shape do I use? Square, rectangle or right triangle work best with Paint.


Copy the whole side and not just part of the side. This is necessary to have proper alignment. Use the dotted rectangle or the dotted star. When copying shapes from one side to another, sides of the polygon must be the same length. For example, all sides of a square are equal. In a rectangle only parallel sides are the same length.

90 Flip

The Paint program can only flip in 90 segments. Therefore, when using triangles, use right triangles (which have a 90 angle) and not equilateral triangles (all angles are 60) or other triangles which are not right triangles.


When drawing on the third side of the polygon, draw your shape so that it fits in the existing modified shape. Failure to do this will cause your shapes to overlap and then they will not tessellate. Remember: For every bump on one side, make a hole on the opposite side.


Outline your tessellation with a different color from the inside. Also, most designs will be easier to distinguish if you use two or more copies of cells with contrasting colors (Otherwise, it is easy to lose your design when the shapes are fitted together.) You may select your cell and use Image, Invert Colors to provide contrast. Then you can fill the black with white. Save the two tessellations for later use.


Click on the lowest box on your tool bar. This causes the object to be transparent.


Translation, Glide, Rotation and Mid-point Rotation can be used. Using a mirror image (horizontal or vertical flip) can be helpful.


Younger students may want to draw a design in a square and not alter any side. Or they may want to alter one or two sides.


Older students may want to try using right triangles and drawing 1/2 of an insect, bird or fish on each side and using connecting lines of varying width. It is more challenging to make each shape take up the whole side of the triangle. Then no connecting lines are needed. This can be very difficult and necessitate a number of attempts. Color contrast (some shapes with a light color and others with a dark color) is very important to distinguish the shapes.