On length scales from nanometres to metres, partial adhesion of thin films with substrates generates a fascinating variety of patterns, such as ‘telephone cord’ buckles, wrinkles, and labyrinth domains. Although these patterns are part of everyday experience and are important in industry, they are not completely understood. Here, we report simulation studies of a previously-overlooked phenomenon in which pairs of wrinkles form avoiding pairs, focusing on the case of graphene over patterned substrates. By nucleating and growing wrinkles in a controlled way, we characterize how their morphology is determined by stress fields in the sheet and friction with the substrate. Our simulations uncover the generic behaviour of avoiding wrinkle pairs that should be valid at all scales.