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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

painting flowers in black and white to turn into repeat patterns.
painting flowers in black and white

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.

Regardless of how you create, let your ideas flow and don't worry about doing anything perfect--especially not on the first attempt. Giving myself the freedom to make "bad art" helps tremendously in finding my grove and getting to the final product.

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 although sometimes I pull out the big camera. I send that photo to my computer, and open it up in Adobe Illustrator.

taking a photo by a big window, digitizing paintings

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.

repeat pattern of rust red flowers with teal stems on a cream background. Created by Lisa of Lisee Ree Designs

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.

Now that we've created this pattern, I'd love to share it with you. I've created a digital wallpaper for phones, tablets, and desktops. Click the button below to get it.

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