This tessellation lesson is easy and foolproof.

This particular tessellation tutorial is also a landmark: our first tessellation lesson sent to us by a guest artist, years ago. It came to us from 15-year-old Guest Artist Rachael G*. We salute Rachael's effort and desire to help others.

You can also see this tessellation lesson adapted for Microsoft Windows' "Paint" program and any digital painting program.

Art and Math teacher Jan Miller has this to add, based on using Rachael's tutorial in her classroom:

"The tessellation method from your site which I tried to use with my 3rd graders was Rachel's 'Papercut Method' but I had a lot of trouble getting it to work. I finally added some little refinements which make it work nearly every time. Step #1 and #3 are to get the tessera to tessellate. Step #2 is to help kids cut accurately. Here are those modifications:

  1. Before cutting out the drawn lines we write NW in the northwest corner, SW in the southwest corner, NE in the northeast corner and SE in the southeast corner.

    Note from the webmaster: It may make more sense to you if you label the outside corners PART. In step 3, rearrange the PARTs with the letters at the CENTER, so they spell TRAP.
    Here are some other word combinations that work: PETS/STEP, POTS/STOP, EVIL/LIVE or FLOG/GOLF, BRAG/GARB or TRAM/MART, TIME/EMIT, PANS/SNAP, or RATS/STAR.

    how to make a tessellation: label the quarters of paper

  2. Start cutting either line and cut to just past the point where it intersects the other line and stop. Then cut out the entire second line. Now when the kids go back to finish the first line (starting exactly where they left off) we know they will get an accurate cut.

  3. Lay the pieces out on the table just as they were before cutting, except leave a little gap in between. Now swap the NE with the SW corners and swap the NW and SE pair.

This seems to work nearly every time. The kids really enjoy knowing that someone closer to their own age invented this method."

See how 4th grade art teacher Karen Weber's class made their own tessellations with this lesson. Her class's do-it-yourself tessellation art gallery shows the final tessellation art AND the handmade patterns that the kids made while producing the art.

*UPDATE: July, 2011.
A professional tessellation artist, David Bailey, has pointed out that someone wrote about this method before Rachael was even born. Perhaps Rachael reinvented it, unaware that someone else had thought along the same lines earlier, or perhaps Rachael simply rewrote Bruce Robertson's technique using her own words and artwork. Either way, it's worth noting that in the years since we first posted Rachael's tessellation tutorial, "Papercut Method" has grown to be's most popular tutorial and one of our most visited pages.

For those of you interested in looking at that earlier make-it-yourself tessellation lesson, you can find it on page 179 in the book "Learn to Draw Step-By-Step" by Bruce Robertson. The book was published in 1986 by Macdonald publishing house. It's 192 pages, a little less than 30cm x 30cm, and weighs about 0.75 kilograms. Its ISBN-10 number is 0356107892, and its ISBN-13 listing is 978-0356107899. As of 2010, the book is out of print but many used copies are available on for about US$2 plus shipping. I'm buying a copy now; I'll see page 179 when it reaches me in a few months' time.

how to make a tessellation