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A wallpaper group (or plane symmetry group or plane crystallographic group) is a mathematical classification of a two-dimensional repetitive pattern, based on the symmetries in the pattern. Such patterns occur frequently in architecture and decorative art. There are 17 possible distinct groups.
Additional recommended knowledge
Wallpaper groups categorize patterns by their symmetries. Subtle differences may place similar patterns in different groups, while patterns which are very different in style, color, scale or orientation may belong to the same group.
Consider the following examples:
Examples A and B have the same wallpaper group; it is called p4m. Example C has a different wallpaper group, called p4g. The fact that A and B have the same wallpaper group means that they have the same symmetries, regardless of details of the designs, whereas C has a different set of symmetries despite any superficial similarities.
A complete list of all seventeen possible wallpaper groups can be found below.
Symmetries of patterns
A symmetry of a pattern is, loosely speaking, a way of transforming the pattern so that the pattern looks exactly the same after the transformation. For example, translational symmetry is present when the pattern can be translated (shifted) some finite distance and appear unchanged. Think of shifting a set of vertical stripes horizontally by one stripe. The pattern is unchanged. Strictly speaking, a true symmetry only exists in patterns which repeat exactly and continue indefinitely. A set of only, say, five stripes does not have translational symmetry — when shifted, the first stripe "disappears" and a new stripe is "added" at the end. In practice, however, classification is applied to finite patterns, and small imperfections may be ignored.
Sometimes two categorizations are meaningful, one based on shapes alone and one also including colors. When colors are ignored there may be more symmetry. In black and white there are also 17 wallpaper groups, because e.g. a colored tiling is equivalent with one in black and white with the colors coded radially in a circularly symmetric "bar code" in the centre of mass of each tile.
The types of transformations that are relevant here are called Euclidean plane isometries. For example:
However, example C is different. It only has reflections in horizontal and vertical directions, not across diagonal axes. If we flip across a diagonal line, we do not get the same pattern back; what we do get is the original pattern shifted across by a certain distance. This is part of the reason that A and B have a different wallpaper group than C.
Formal definition and discussion
Mathematically, a wallpaper group or plane crystallographic group is a type of topologically discrete group of isometries of the Euclidean plane which contains two linearly independent translations.
Two such isometry groups are of the same type (of the same wallpaper group) if they are the same up to an affine transformation of the plane. Thus e.g. a translation of the plane (hence a translation of the mirrors and centres of rotation) does not affect the wallpaper group. The same applies for a change of angle between translation vectors, provided that it does not add or remove any symmetry (this is only the case if there are no mirrors and no glide reflections, and rotational symmetry is at most of order 2).
Unlike in the three-dimensional case, we can equivalently restrict the affine transformations to those which preserve orientation.
It follows from the Bieberbach theorem that all wallpaper groups are different even as abstract groups (as opposed to e.g. Frieze groups, of which two are isomorphic with Z).
2D patterns with double translational symmetry can be categorized according to their symmetry group type.
Isometries of the Euclidean plane
Isometries of the Euclidean plane fall into four categories (see the article Euclidean plane isometry for more information).
The independent translations condition
The condition on linearly independent translations means that there exist linearly independent vectors v and w (in R2) such that the group contains both Tv and Tw.
The purpose of this condition is to distinguish wallpaper groups from frieze groups, which have only a single linearly independent translation, and from two-dimensional discrete point groups, which have no translations at all. In other words, wallpaper groups represent patterns that repeat themselves in two distinct directions, in contrast to frieze groups which only repeat along a single axis.
(It is possible to generalise this situation. We could for example study discrete groups of isometries of Rn with m linearly independent translations, where m is any integer in the range 0 ≤ m ≤ n.)
The discreteness condition
The discreteness condition means that there is some positive real number ε, such that for every translation Tv in the group, the vector v has length at least ε (except of course in the case that v is the zero vector).
The purpose of this condition is to ensure that the group has a compact fundamental domain, or in other words, a "cell" of nonzero, finite area, which is repeated through the plane. Without this condition, we might have for example a group containing the translation Tx for every rational number x, which would not correspond to any reasonable wallpaper pattern.
One important and nontrivial consequence of the discreteness condition in combination with the independent translations condition is that the group can only contain rotations of order 2, 3, 4, or 6; that is, every rotation in the group must be a rotation by 180°, 120°, 90°, or 60°. This fact is known as the crystallographic restriction theorem, and can be generalised to higher-dimensional cases.
Notations for wallpaper groups
Crystallography has 230 space groups to distinguish, far more than the 17 wallpaper groups, but many of the symmetries in the groups are the same. Thus we can use a similar notation for both kinds of groups, that of Carl Hermann and Charles-Victor Mauguin. An example of a full wallpaper name in Hermann-Mauguin style is p31m, with four letters or digits; more usual is a shortened name like cmm or pg.
For wallpaper groups the full notation begins with either p or c, for a primitive cell or a face-centred cell; these are explained below. This is followed by a digit, n, indicating the highest order of rotational symmetry: 1-fold (none), 2-fold, 3-fold, 4-fold, or 6-fold. The next two symbols indicate symmetries relative to one translation axis of the pattern, referred to as the "main" one; if there is a mirror perpendicular to a translation axis we choose that axis as the main one (or if there are two, one of them). The symbols are either m, g, or 1, for mirror, glide reflection, or none. The axis of the mirror or glide reflection is perpendicular to the main axis for the first letter, and either parallel or tilted 180°/n (when n > 2) for the second letter. Many groups include other symmetries implied by the given ones. The short notation drops digits or an m that can be deduced, so long as that leaves no confusion with another group.
A primitive cell is a minimal region repeated by lattice translations. All but two wallpaper symmetry groups are described with respect to primitive cell axes, a coordinate basis using the translation vectors of the lattice. In the remaining two cases symmetry description is with respect to centred cells which are larger than the primitive cell, and hence have internal repetition; the directions of their sides is different from those of the translation vectors spanning a primitive cell. Hermann-Mauguin notation for crystal space groups uses additional cell types.
Here are all the names that differ in short and full notation.
Orbifold notation for wallpaper groups, introduced by John Horton Conway (Conway, 1992), is based not on crystallography, but on topology. We fold the infinite periodic tiling of the plane into its essence, an orbifold, then describe that with a few symbols.
Consider the group denoted in crystallographic notation by cmm; in Conway's notation, this will be 2*22. The 2 before the * says we have a 2-fold rotation centre with no mirror through it. The * itself says we have a mirror. The first 2 after the * says we have a 2-fold rotation centre on a mirror. The final 2 says we have an independent second 2-fold rotation centre on a mirror, one which is not a duplicate of the first one under symmetries.
The group denoted by pgg will be 22x. We have two pure 2-fold rotation centres, and a glide reflection axis. Contrast this with pmg, Conway 22*, where crystallographic notation mentions a glide, but one that is implicit in the other symmetries of the orbifold.
Why there are exactly seventeen groups
An orbifold has a face, edges, and vertices; thus we can view it as a polygon. When we unfold it, that polygon tiles the plane, with each feature replicated infinitely by the action of the wallpaper symmetry group. Thus when Conway's orbifold notation mentions a feature, such as the 4-fold rotation centre in 4*2, that feature unfolds into an infinite number of replicas across the plane. Hiding within this description is a key to the enumeration.
Consider a cube, with its corners, edges, and faces. We count 8 corners, 12 edges, and 6 faces. Alternately adding and subtracting, we note that 8 − 12 + 6 = 2. Now consider a tetrahedron. It has 4 corners, 6 edges, and 4 faces; and we note that 4 − 6 + 4 = 2. Let's explore further. For generality, use the term vertex instead of corner. Split a face with a new edge, causing one face to become two. Now we have 4 − 7 + 5 = 2. Next, split an edge with a new vertex, causing the one edge to become two. We have 5 − 8 + 5 = 2. This is not coincidence; it is a demonstration of the surface Euler characteristic, χ = V − E + F, and the beginning of a proof of its invariance.
When an orbifold replicates by symmetry to fill the plane, its features create a structure of vertices, edges, and polygon faces which must be consistent with the Euler characteristic. Reversing the process, we can assign numbers to the features of the orbifold, but fractions, rather than whole numbers. Because the orbifold itself is a quotient of the full surface by the symmetry group, the orbifold Euler characteristic is a quotient of the surface Euler characteristic by the order of the symmetry group.
The orbifold Euler characteristic is 2 minus the sum of the feature values, assigned as follows:
For a wallpaper group, the sum for the characteristic must be zero; thus the feature sum must be 2.
Now enumeration of all wallpaper groups becomes a matter of arithmetic, of listing all feature strings with values summing to 2.
Incidentally, feature strings with other sums are not nonsense; they imply non-planar tilings, not discussed here. (When the orbifold Euler characteristic is negative, the tiling is hyperbolic; when positive, spherical.)
Guide to recognising wallpaper groups
To work out which wallpaper group corresponds to a given design, one may use the following table.
See also this overview with diagrams.
Key to diagrams
Each group in the following list has two cell structure diagrams, which are interpreted as follows:
On the right-hand side diagrams, different equivalence classes of symmetry elements are colored (and rotated) differently.
The brown or yellow area indicates a fundamental domain, i.e. the smallest part of the pattern which is repeated.
The diagrams on the right show the cell of the lattice corresponding to the smallest translations; those on the left sometimes show a larger area.
The seventeen groups
The two translations (cell sides) can each have different lengths, and can form any angle.
(The first three have a vertical symmetry axis, and the last two each have a different diagonal one.)
Ignoring the wavy borders of the tiles, the pavement is pgg.
This groups applies for symmetrically staggered rows (i.e. there is a shift per row of half the translation distance inside the rows) of identical objects, which have a symmetry axis perpendicular to the rows.
The rotational symmetry of order 2 with centres of rotation at the centres of the sides of the rhombus is a consequence of the other properties.
The pattern corresponds to each of the following:
This corresponds to a straightforward grid of rows and columns of equal squares with the four reflection axes. Also it corresponds to a checkerboard pattern of two alternating squares.
Examples displayed with the smallest translations horizontal and vertical (like in the diagram):
Examples displayed with the smallest translations diagonal (like on a checkerboard):
In p4g there is a checkerboard pattern of 4-fold rotational tiles and their mirror image, or looking at it differently (by shifting half a tile) a checkerboard pattern of horizontally and vertically symmetric tiles and their 90° rotated version. Note that neither applies for a plain checkerboard pattern of black and white tiles, this is group p4m (with diagonal translation cells).
Note that the diagram on the left represents in area twice the smallest square that is repeated by translation.
Imagine a tessellation of the plane with equilateral triangles of equal size, with the sides corresponding to the smallest translations. Then half of the triangles are in one orientation, and the other half upside down. This wallpaper group corresponds to the case that all triangles of the same orientation are equal, while both types have rotational symmetry of order three, but the two are not equal, not each other's mirror image, and not both symmetric. For a given image, three of these tessellations are possible, each with rotation centres as vertices, i.e. for any tessellation two shifts are possible. In terms of the image: the vertices can be the red, the blue or the green triangles.
Equivalently, imagine a tessellation of the plane with hexagons of regular shape and equal size, with the sides corresponding to the smallest translations. Then this wallpaper group corresponds to the case that all hexagons are equal (and in the same orientation) and have rotational symmetry of order three, while they have no mirror image symmetry. For a given image, nine of these tessellations are possible, each with rotation centres as vertices. In terms of the image: the centres can be each of three selections of the red triangles, or of the blue or the green.
Like for p3, imagine a tessellation of the plane with equilateral triangles of equal size, with the sides corresponding to the smallest translations. Then half of the triangles are in one orientation, and the other half upside down. This wallpaper group corresponds to the case that all triangles of the same orientation are equal, while both types have rotational symmetry of order three, and both are symmetric, but the two are not equal, and not each other's mirror image. For a given image, three of these tessellations are possible, each with rotation centres as vertices. In terms of the image: the vertices can be the red, the dark blue or the green triangles.
Like for p3 and p3m1, imagine a tessellation of the plane with equilateral triangles of equal size, with the sides corresponding to the smallest translations. Then half of the triangles are in one orientation, and the other half upside down. This wallpaper group corresponds to the case that all triangles of the same orientation are equal, while both types have rotational symmetry of order three and are each other's mirror image, but not symmetric themselves, and not equal. For a given image, only one such tessellation is possible. In terms of the image: the vertices can not be dark blue triangles.
There are five lattice types, corresponding to the five possible wallpaper groups of the lattice itself. The wallpaper group of a pattern with this lattice of translational symmetry cannot have more, but may have less symmetry than the lattice itself.
The actual symmetry group should be distinguished from the wallpaper group. The latter is a category of symmetry groups. There are 17 of these categories, but for each there are infinitely many symmetry groups, in the sense of actual groups of isometries. These depend, apart from the wallpaper group, on a number of parameters for the translation vectors and the orientation and position of the reflection axes and rotation centres.
The numbers of degrees of freedom are:
However, within each wallpaper group, all symmetry groups are algebraically isomorphic.
Some symmetry group isomorphisms:
Dependence of wallpaper groups on transformations
Note that when a transformation decreases symmetry, a transformation of the same kind (the inverse) obviously for some patterns increases the symmetry. Such a special property of a pattern (e.g. expansion in one direction produces a pattern with 4-fold symmetry) is not counted as a form of extra symmetry.
Change of colors does not affect the wallpaper group if any two points that have the same color before the change, also have the same color after the change, and any two points that have different colors before the change, also have different colors after the change.
If the former applies, but not the latter, such as when converting a color image to one in black and white, then symmetries are preserved, but they may increase, so that the wallpaper group can change.
Web demo and software
There exist several software graphic tools that will let you create 2D patterns using wallpaper symmetry groups. Usually, you can edit the original tile and its copies in the entire pattern are updated automatically.
|This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Wallpaper_group". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.|