So how do you make a pattern anyway?

Finding Inspiration

It usually starts with an inspiring moment, photo, or idea. That's all it takes to get the flow going. I could be riding in the car and see something I love or be weeding my garden and notice a little detail that I really love like a dried pod or a curling vine. Whatever the inspiration, I pull out my notebook and write down ideas that describe how I'm feeling and some other ideas that go with it.

After that, everything happens in these three steps:

  • Create the artwork

  • Vectorize and color motifs

  • Create the repeat

Create the Artwork

Many of my favorite patterns start with painted motifs either using watercolor or gouache. But sometimes I sketch on paper or on the iPad. But no matter how I'm starting, this step is one of the most exciting and also nerve-wracking. Can I get my ideas to translate to paper? Can I get the feeling to come across?

I usually create a lot that never sees the light of day since it takes awhile to get my hands warmed up. Or, like you can see in the photo above, I will paint the same thing over and over both as practice, and as a way to have more choices when it comes time to get them from paper to digital motifs.

The interesting thing is that sometimes the things you don't love on paper turn out to be some of the most dynamic and beloved pieces once you get them colored and in repeat.

Vectorize and Color the Motifs

I start this part of the process by taking a photo of my artwork, usually just with my phone's camera by my back door (which I showed you in the last email). I send that photo to my computer, and open it up in Adobe Illustrator.

Once in Illustrator, I vecorize them, which means to turn them from pixels into points and lines that can be made different sizes without losing quality. It's a cool process that makes it easy to modify and manipulate the artwork once the pattern building begins.

I also use Illustrator to make any color adjustments so the artwork is in the palette I've chosen.

Create the Repeat

Once the colors are just the way I like them, it's time to put them into repeat. Seamless patterns have to repeat on both the top/bottom and right/left edges of your background, so once you've placed the motifs where you like them in the center, you copy anything that goes over the edges from top to bottom and from right to left.

And that's it in a nutshell. It's quite the process, but there really isn't a step I don't find fascinating. And then to have that pattern on an actual product like fabric? Amazing.

If you haven't already, you can check out my portfolio of patterns. I'm thrilled to share them with you, and if you have any ideas for products you'd love to see this pattern on, hit reply and let me know.