I thought it was a good time to write the next blog post in my ‘Working In Surface Pattern Design’ series so in this post I’ll show you how I go from a sketch to collection. I get a lot of emails from students, graduates and new business start-ups asking me all about my work and how I got started but I think one of the most popular questions is where I get my inspiration from and how I develop it into a finished design or collection. So in this blog post I’m going to try and answer that question and hopefully give you an insight into how I work.
I nearly always start out any design work or project by doing inspiration research and building a moodboard which very often happens on Pinterest! I love Pinterest and if I’m not careful I can lose a lot of time ooohing and ahhhing over the prettiest of pins on there! I like to use it as if it were my moodboards. Sometimes I’ll look at my existing boards but often if it’s a project for a client I might create a private/secret board that I can pin inspirational images to and then share that board with them when I’m ready. I have to say though, I’m very careful to not look too much at other designers actual work because I find you can get too easily influenced by it and I always want what I create to be my own work and my own style. I’m not saying I don’t love or appreciate other designers work but I try and save enjoying looking at it until I’m not in the process of creating my own work.
For this particular collection that I’m talking about in this blog post, I decided I wanted to create a delicate, pretty floral collection with a soft painterly feel. This collection wasn’t for client work, which is why I’m able to share it with you, it was for my own website and portfolio. I already have a Botanical pinterest board with lots of beautiful floral imagery on and that I add to regularly, so this is where I went to first. I also take my own photographs while I’m out and about too, so it’s always good to snap things you see that inspire you and that might later spark an idea for a design.
Sometimes I’ll start off drawing in black pen and pencil and decide on the colour palette later on but for this collection I had an idea of the kind of colours I wanted to use. Again, back on Pinterest, I have a Colour board where I pin any yummy colour inspiration I can find that will help me build my colour palettes. One of my favourite sources of colour inspiration at the moment is the gorgeous moodboards by Louise over on Love Print Studio I absolutely adore her Colour Crush blog posts and often find myself being inspired by her latest moodboards! This time it was this beautiful board….
So instead of black pens, I went straight for my trusty coloured markers! I usually start off just by drawing lots of different motifs (flowers and leaves in this case) until I start to have some that I really like. At this point I’m not thinking too much about the pattern layout and it’s more about the style and feel of the flowers and motifs. Here are some of my initial pen drawings.
Once I’ve got enough motifs/flowers drawn out I then scan them in. I start off cleaning them up in Photoshop and then take them into Illustrator where I often use the Live Trace option to turn my drawings into vectors. That’s when the fun begins! I start thinking about layout and how the finished design might look. In this case I wanted to have the feel of a wild garden or meadow where lots of different flowers and leaves would grow. I decided to keep the pattern as a tossed/scattered layout that was one-directional.
I liked the idea of having larger flowers popping out of denser, smaller flowers and this is how the finished design developed. I then spend time getting the layout right and working with the colours until the balance and flow of the design feels right. I wanted to keep the background very light to give a pretty airy feel to the design and imagined this pattern printed on a beautiful soft cotton with a neutral ground. This is the finished design, repeated out. I used a half drop repeat for this one. I prefer to use half-drops where I can as I think it can help the overall design look less repetitive when it’s repeated out and the single repeat is less obvious.
Once I’m happy with the design and if I’m working on a full collection, I’ll move onto the next design. I usually start off with one of the main designs and then tend to work on one of the co-ordinates next. I like to have a couple of main designs in a full collection with a few different co-ordinates to support them but going into how to put a full collection together is a whole other blog post! For now I’ll leave you with the finished collection where you can see how I’ve taken inspiration from my Botanicals Moodboard and one of Love Print Studio’s Colour Crush colour palettes.
Hopefully you can see how I’ve varied the colours and motifs across the collection whilst keeping an overall feel and style to the collection. so although there are some co-ordinates that aren’t actually floral, they still have the same painterly style as the main florals and use colours from the same colour palette but again, this could make up a whole other Blog post!
I hope you’ve enjoyed this insight into how I create my designs and collections and would love to hear what you think, or how you work. I hope it helps answer some of the questions that you might have too. You can see more of my development work which I share a lot of over on Instagram or in my Sketchbook here where I share lots of photos of my initial drawings, paintings and design development and you can find lots more of my finished designs and collections in my portfolio here.