Pattern Design Process

Some Background Info

During my junior and senior years of high school, I spent half of my school day attending a vocational career and technical high school called Hunterdon County Polytech, in addition to my regular high school. I took the two-year Commercial Arts and Advertising Design program there, where I really got to explore different forms of media, both traditional and digital. This was such a worthwhile experience in developing my skills in the Adobe Suite, as well as devoting half of my day towards different aspects of design and illustration with direction from my wonderful teacher, Mrs. Diaz. To anyone in high school who may be reading this, I would highly recommend enrolling in a nearby career and technical high school program, if you’re able. Whether you have an interest in pursuing a specific major or specialization in college or want to get real-world experience in a trade, it really helped me determine my interests and fine-tune my skills to be better prepared for college. For example, one of the subjects my class at Polytech exposed me to was pattern and surface design. Towards the end of my junior year especially, I really became interested in it, and how different media can influence how pattern swatches turn out. During the pandemic, I began posting a lot of my pattern designs on my Redbubble site, where they could be printed on a variety of products such as shirts, backpacks, stickers, phone cases, and more!

Traditional Pattern Design

First, I created a pattern swatch of some honeybees and sunflowers with watercolor paint and paint pens, which was definitely a struggle trying to draw each individual object the same as the one before in a repeating pattern. I eventually uploaded this single swatch into Procreate to create a repeating pattern, but it still looks a bit choppy in some areas being the watercolor strokes are obviously all not the same. It was a good first start in creating a single swatch, but not something I’d really recommend if you want to create a seamless pattern.

Procreate Pattern Design

At this point, I found myself scrolling through Pinterest, trying to find tutorials that explained how to create a more seamless pattern in Procreate, my favorite digital illustration program at the time. I still wanted that feeling of hand-drawing my designs but without the stress of drawing each object individually and lining them up by hand. In Procreate, I could draw some objects once, and duplicate, resize, and reposition elements so, when repeated in a grid pattern, the designs would line up seamlessly. I’d gotten the hang of this method and found myself going to my iPad to create all of my Redbubble pattern designs. In the process, I also found this fun site called Color Hunt, which has a seemingly endless amount of color palettes and combinations with each color’s hex code.

Adobe Illustrator Pattern Design

It wasn’t until I took Digital Design with Professor Sue Jenkins in my first semester at Marywood that I learned about the pattern capabilities in Illustrator, though. Our first project focused on phone case design, with an emphasis on creating at least two repeating patterns in a cohesive theme. I drew my different foods first with the Blob Brush and took some time arranging them in a way that made sense with how a whole pattern swatch would look. Depending on how they were arranged in a grid, hex by column, brick by column, etc., the foods would move around based on their orientation in the tile type. I decided on the grid formation and began playing around with background colors and positioning on the Photoshop phone case mockups (see my Redbubble “little italy collection” to see these designs on actual phone cases). This method of pattern creation is a personal favorite, even though it takes a bit longer, because of the amount of fine-tuning options and capabilities in Illustrator. Plus, an added bonus is Illustrator creates vector files that can be easily scaled and resized without losing quality in your artwork, versus Procreate’s raster interface. 

To Wrap Things Up

Pattern design is something I got really into in high school, and revisiting it now makes me want to create even more! If this is something you’re interested in, I definitely recommend exploring different programs and tutorials, and figuring out what works best for you!

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