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Article: Essential Guide to Create a Surface Pattern Design

Essential Guide to Create a Surface Pattern Design

A complete guide to teach you the best steps to create a perfect surface pattern design from your next products. Check this out!

Created by Savvy Agency |

Surface pattern design got more attention as many artists, designers, and illustrators started to take a fancy on decorated objects. One interesting aspect of pattern design is that you can find it almost in everything. You can name it, such as home décor surface, gift product, to wrapping paper surface design. It can be in the form of simple handwriting to any illustration.  

Even though it seems pretty simple and easy to take a look at, creating a surface pattern is not as easy as you think. The artworks can appear on any surface, including printing to digital objects. The idea of this artwork is to create a pattern that has to envelop all design elements, including color and trends. So, to help you, here are some tips you can take on.


How To Create The Best Surface Design

1. Collecting Inspiration 

One of the most significant points for designers is inspiration. In this case, you can collect any materials you found. Let it be an unusual word or typography, objects, photography, or color combination. Gathering as much inspiration as you can help you discover the new surface design and trends, as well as stimulate your creative thinking process.

To ease your gathering process, you have a lot of options to seek. Pinterest is one of the online sources to find some inspiring surface pattern designs. What's more, some of the designs are made by professionals. At the same time, you can find more inspiration out of your comfort zone. Looking at diverse inspiration will keep your eyes open for more creative inputs.

What makes it fun is that you can do this part with a diverse approach. Inspiration can come out of nowhere or anywhere. The internet might be the best way to find some interesting surface design you have never thought about before. You can take a look at different country signature patterns or famous designers' pattern designs that are posted in online sources.

Created by Ira Grishanova |


2. Look Around You 

If you cannot access the internet or the online source wasn't enough, then look around you. You can get inspiration through observing the world around you. What makes a surface pattern fun to develop is that it can be anything. You can say some people get inspired by some trivial things, such as the tiled floor, flower shadow, or colorful house surface design.  

Another good thing to do is to have dedicated time to draw. Spend more time drawing patterns and surface design. It will set your concentration and help you gather some more focus. At some point, sparking ideas will need time or method. If you love the outdoors, then do so. Being comfortable and enjoying your time might help you figure out the surface pattern design. 

One of the surface designers, such as Joe Rogers underlines that he loves the outdoors and gets inspired by whatever he found in nature. He listed the natural sounds, shapes, or any other objects as mediums that help him form numerous pattern designs. Some of the intricate foliage models, contrasting palettes, to blooming flowers will work as surface ideas.

Created by Robinsson Cravents |


3. Idea Mapping 

One thing that you should underline about pattern design is idea mapping. The major point in this part is to keep track of all your inspiration, ideas, models, or anything that helps you develop a pattern. Thus, recording it will help your designer juice flow. You can do this kind of method by simple doodling, drawing, or sketching in a sketchbook. 

In more professional ways, creating mind maps is also the best way to expand your pattern inspirations. You can add or write anything that you think possible for the surface design. List everything such as materials, fruits, places, or materials. Your drawings and repeated sketches will eventually bring up some new ideas.


4. Observe Trends and Set Yours 

Surface pattern design also highly depends on the current trends. As a designer or illustrator, you should understand that this particular artwork can be applied in numerous media. Such as furniture to tote bags. With all of the media around you, it is easy to find the current design trends. For instance, is the growing popularity of typography design.  

But one thing that you should underline is the awareness of the market, especially if you are working with certain products. Forecasting, understanding, and following the directions will help you create pattern designs that stay in the market. However, it is also important to follow or stay true to your style, color, and signature. 

This is where your surface work will set a difference. As you try to take a lot of the trends, you will eventually find some trend forecasts. What you need to do is to take them as per your requirement or inspiration. After that, you can make your surface ideas and add your signature pattern style. Thus, you will not lose touch.

One thing that you should underline is to not purely follow the trend without molding your touch in it. It may not be easy to do, but when you can add your signature style, it will add unique looks and make a difference. You are not limited to create or add your surface style. Changing the color, adding your sketch, etc., are some of your surface pattern options.

Created by Tank Design |


5. Overcome Overthinking – Make It Simple

When it comes to making a design, the chances are that you are going to lose it. The best chance to make it better is to not rush it. Unless you are on a deadline, this kind of idea will help you settle the best design. It is often better to come back to your design or sketch after a days or weeks' break. It will help you gain fresh looks and perceptions. 

It is easy to say that surface pattern design can come in many ways. When you are overthinking or focusing on intricate surface drawing, chances are you will lose in the process. In this case, simplicity can work best for you. It is way easier to start with a simple design and model on a pattern. Planning this kind of motif helps you add many more details in the future. 

So, the idea is to start simple but finish with awesomeness. When you start with a certain simple motif, you get the chance to improve it little by little. But the improvement part also needs a lot of consideration and thinking. Avoid crazy ideas of adding intricate details or color. If you are not careful in planning the surface pattern, it can turn into a bigger problem.

To avoid it, you can take a look at Abigail Borg's ideas. She makes a signature style of creating intricate surface drawing under the flowers and botanical plant representations. It is a beautiful mix of elegance and a twist of the vintage aesthetic. The designers said that she started with a simple motif, repeated it, and developed the surface pattern design carefully.

Created by Sunda Studio |


6. Experimenting 

Probably the most basic of designing steps is experimenting. When it comes to pattern design, you have no limitations. In other words, you can make this design for everything or anything. Underline that the motif is not only for textiles, wallpaper, or printed surface media. At some point, doing unexpected experiments can lead you to discover unique and new ideas. 

Joe Rogers, one of the world's known designers, states that he loves doing experimental works. He plays with ceramics once and finds that it can complement his portfolio as well as adding inspiration. The man loves to use distinctive geometric patterns in his works, but the experiment helps his surface pattern inform his work and make it go in new directions. 

The man also said that this particular method could disrupt the practice time, but in the end, it helps in keeping the inspiration river flow. In this case, it is easy to say that designers need to be bold. Trying something new doesn't always mean failure. It helps in developing your surface pattern design works or portfolio. 

At the same time, by doing experimental work, you will find yourself discovering trials and errors by starting from learning new media, the technical production process to discovering the certain trends of the design. You also got the chance to get out of your comfort zone and try something new—no need to get afraid of anything. The surface pattern is very diverse.

Created by Andre Kulpas |


7. Uses the Repeat Pattern Method 

In this case of artwork, you will work a lot with surface repetition design. In this case, it is easy to start with modest ideas at the starting point. You will eventually expand and improve it in the latter stages. But when it comes to surface patterns, repetition is unavoidable. Fortunately, there are endless ways to form repeating pattern models. 

You can start with some research on how the designers from centuries ago went by the repeated pattern design. In this part, you should figure out how to do the same. One thing for sure, this is not an easy part as you have to make the repetition model without making it obvious. So, what should you do? You can play with many elements from a certain design and make it different. 

Sometimes, this part also needs a lot of experimenting. From using different shapes, colors, models, or drawings, you need to tweak and find the best one. Highly possible that you will find some of the elements do not now flow together. Then, you have to try some other pattern design ideas. At some point, the perfect surface motif repeats are completely accidental. 

To help you create and do this part easier, use some designing tools such as photoshop or illustrator. The software will help you form the simple surface repeat and build it into a more complex design. It is also easier to redo or undo some processes, making the sketching or pattern designing process faster and easier.

Created by Nina Sariashvili |


8. Upcycling The Old Work 

As said in the previous point, you can always take a look at the centuries-old motif designs and discover how the repetition happens. As you do that, take the chance to work again with your older work. Highly possible that your client makes a contract after taking a look at your previous surface pattern design portfolios. 

In this case, take the liberty to upcycle your older work and make the newer version suitable for your current client. The idea is to upcycle, which means you have to make improvements, add, or mold something new to it. Reproducing it and developing it into a motif design will help you start the project and get diverse surface pattern ideas. 

So, what should you do to make it better? Joe Rogers once again explains that he tends to play around with the individual element in it. He underlines that this process helps them create something new rather than making a repeated design. You can play with the color palette, the drawing and create a new dynamic for your surface pattern.

Created by Tank Design |


9. Scale Effect

Just like experimenting with your design, at some point, you have to consider many aspects of it. As you can play with the color palette and other elements, you also have the time to play around with the scale. One thing for sure, your pattern design can appear dissimilar with how it is applied in the long ranges of surfaces and their scale.

The best example is the different look of intricate design for a large-scale wallpaper and foliage. Most likely, the designer will adopt a very detailed surface pattern design to create depth and impressive impact. But for a smaller scale surface, the simpler repeat and drawing can lessen the eye strain. It also helps avoid getting lost in detail. 

Another example will be how your surface pattern has different looks in distinctive media. If you create an impressive design for fabric, will it look better or the same in the digital medium? Will the A3 motif tile look as crisp as it is applied in the printed media or not? That is why you should understand and take a different viewpoint.

Created by Pablo Londero |


10. Understand Contrasting Element

Have you ever considered why certain repeated motifs look deeper than others? One of the answers is how you play with the depth and elements—mentioned in many points that you have to play with elements to create a perfect surface pattern design. So, what kind of elements do you need to play with? Or what do you have to do with it? 

To make a repeated pattern, you can always play with size, texture, and color. These three elements help you create interest and depth, especially if you add some intricate details. To fulfill the idea of improving the design through elements, consider using contrast. You can use opposite values of your surface pattern models. 

If you have an older work that uses a bright color palette, how about turning it into a duller tone? How about you opt for textured areas than just a mere plain spot? You can also play around with the motif scale, such as adding distinctive drawing sizes. This particular step will eventually force you to experiment and make a discovery for your pattern design.

Created by Sewer City |


11. Positive and Negative Space

Did you know about positive and negative space in design? As a designer, this particular perk will help you a lot to create a beautiful motif. Surface patterns that look more than just a repetition will accentuate every part of the design. From the foreground to the background, the design will stand out and complement each other. 

This is where your proficiency in positive and negative space surfaces. The negative space or the background area is as vital as the positive areas (foreground). Stop leaving the background area bland. Try to experiment and add something to it. Make sure it enhances your pattern design. Maybe you can add small details such as marble or simple motifs? Try it!

Created by A Friend of Mine |


12. Make the design Balance

With all of the considerations and ideas, the most vital point of the surface pattern is balance. Creating a repeated pattern and making it clear without making the audience having a headache is your major goal. Is it easy to do? No, big chance that designers are lost in their euphoria of adding details and creating a fancy design. Thus, forget that the result is too much. 

In this case, you have to make sure that the design looks harmonious and visually complete. Every element of your surface pattern design should work together. The colors must complement each other. You also need to choose the correct layout so the design comes out as you desire. How about the size or the design scale and texture? Everything has to balance and work for hand in hand.

Created by Pupila |


Final Words

To make an effective and best surface design, you will need a lot of consideration. The idea is to make a pattern design that envelopes all the elements, which makes your artwork stand out and appealing. In this case, gathering inspiration and making improvements is a vital part. You can do it by observing your surroundings, experimenting, making it simple, upcycling old works, and much more.

So, what do you think of this guide about pattern design? Let us know your comments, and feel free to write them in the section down below. We hope you enjoy reading and have a great day!

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