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Design Tutorials

How to Make a Step and Repeat Pattern for Step and Repeat Banners

Need to know how to create a step and repeat banner for your event? You’ve come to the right place!

What Exactly is a Step and Repeat Banner?

A step and repeat banner is typically used as a photo backdrop. It is a large banner with one or more horizontally repeating graphics, and are usually logos. You’ve probably seen more than a few, on TV, online, or in magazines as actors and actresses walk the red carpet.  You might have seen one in person even at a conference or other indoor event.

How to Make a Step and Repeat Banner

Vector art is preferred for printing, so Adobe Illustrator works best for this type of design. Step and repeat banners can also be created in Adobe InDesign or Photoshop. When using Photoshop, it is important to be cautious of file size because these banners can be very large in size. There will be more information on file size and raster graphics at the end of this tutorial.

Many tutorials out there make the entire process seem like an impossible mountain to climb, yet in reality, making a pattern for your step and repeat backdrops couldn’t be easier. Using the “Transform” tool in Illustrator is a fast and easy way to make the artwork for your banner printing.

Let’s break down the steps to use the “Transform” tool in Adobe Illustrator.


Step One Step and Repeat Backdrop - Create New Document



Step 1.

Open a new document in Illustrator. This example is set up as 144in X 96in, or 12ft X 8ft. It is helpful to make sure that the item you want to step and repeat is located on a separate layer to the background. There will be a white background, but you certainly can have color. When there is a full-color background, remember to include a .25″ bleed. Keep in mind that a vector logo is going to be used.

Before starting, please outline text and group all logo contents together. It is a good idea to keep one with live text in case you need to make changes later.

Keyboard Shorts:

  • Select all (ctrl + A)
  • Make outlines (ctrl +shift + O)
  • Group contents (command + G)

Step 2.

The next step is to find the starting point for your first row. To keep it simple, this example starts at 2” from the left and 2” from the top.



Go to Effect > Distort and Transform > Transform. Here you will see options for the repeating. This will take a little experimentation and trial-and-error, but in the end is very helpful.

You might find that having the “Baseline Grid” turned on is helpful. You will see “Copies” at the bottom of the “Transform Effect” window. In that field, enter the number of logos you would like in the first row of your banner.

In the “Move” section, you will see the “Horizontal” area. This is where all the magic happens. This determines the space between the logos. Important: Make sure “Preview” is checked so you can see the distance between the logos.

These are the settings that give even spacing on the beginning and end of the first row. The “Baseline Grid” is a good reference.

Step 3.

Making the second row is pretty much the same as the first. If you do not wish to have the second row offset, and would like an even grid pattern, you can skip this step.

You can see that the Move > Horizontal distance is a little different from Step One. Also, there are six “Copies” instead of seven. This will vary from project to project depending on the size of the banner and the size of the logo. This is pointing out that there is a slight spacing variation.

Step 4.

Because this example has the second row pattern slightly offset from the pattern of the first row, this step will require some very precise copy/paste skills.

In most cases, depending on the desired step and repeat design, utilizing the “Vertical” distance in the “Move” section of the “Transform” options can be a huge time saver.

Below, guides have been made that line up with the bottom of the Smartpress.com Tagline so it is known exactly where the next rows should go.



Optional: Turn on “Smart Guides” by going to View > Smart Guides.

Select the first and second row (selecting only the first logo in each row will select the entire row). Make sure you keep the first and second rows exactly where they are. These are important reference points.

Up until now, we have used the “Horizontal” option in “Transform” (I left the “Horizontal” at 0 because I did not want any shift from left to right). Using the “Vertical” option is how we will get more rows. I put “1” in the “Copies” field for this demo, but you can include a larger quantity. In the “Vertical” field, 8 in was the distance to achieve the desired spacing. This will vary from project to project.


Step and Repeat Banner Artwork


Repeat this process until you get to the last row of your banner. It might take a few attempts to get the spacing just right, but using the Illustrator “Transform” tool can be a huge help.

When all the rows are complete, you can see what your banner will look like and you will be ready to make your print ready file.

Using Raster Graphics for Your Step and Repeat Art

Sometimes there is not a vector logo file to work with. Step and repeat banners can be created with raster graphics. Chances are, Photoshop will be the program where the banner art will be created. Here are some pointers for making a step and repeat banner PDF file from Photoshop:

  • It is important to flatten layers before making a PDF – keep back-up of layered files in case changes need to be made
  • Keep file size under 600MB
  • When making a PDF, 120dpi should be plenty
  • Call us at 888.934.6909 with any questions about your print-ready file

Print Your Step and Repeat Banner at Smartpress.com

Ready to order? Now that you have your banner art looking great, it is time to make a print-ready PDF. See our helpful PDF instructions. You can order and fine more information on our step and repeat banners page.


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