As you know, I’ve just released my new pattern collection Paris Botanical Garden. It was a long process from inspiration, sketching to digitising and arranging the final tile. So far, I’ve done it my own way without following any kind of process.
For the previous collection, Flying Leaves, I made different types of patterns which made it look like a full collection. But it actually lacked a few elements as you will see in this post.
After Flying Leaves, I followed a couple of courses on Skillshare from 2 Pattern Surface Designers who are really great teachers: Bonnie Christine and Elizabeth Olwen. I followed their recommendations to make my first complete collection. I’m writing this post to share them with you.
Theme and story
Before starting drawing, it is very important to define a theme for the collection. It can be anything: a place, a time, a person… If you want to make prints for children it could be dinosaurs. At the moment, we’re all thinking about summer holidays so it could be a good theme. It can be something dear to your heart like your home town or your pet, it can also be something very specific like fairytale fantasy. It does not really matter as long as you feel it provides food for ideas to develop your collection.
It is also valuable to have a theme around which you can tell a story. This story can help you develop the collection but also talk about it at the final stage when you want to share it with others. For example, if you choose a theme like “autumn woodland walk”, it might remind you when you were a child and you used to go for a walk in the forest and collect woodsticks and look for mushrooms… Having a story can help you find some ideas or elements to add in your pattern (like woodsticks or mushrooms in the example). It is always a good idea to use your own memories or feelings because your work is very personal and is deeply associated with your story and your personality.
Inspiration and moodboard
Once you’ve got a theme, you need to find inspiration to start drawing your personal pattern.
You usually already have some ideas that came straight with the theme. But you absolutely have to gather these ideas as well as inspiration in a moodboard.
Before starting the moodboard, I recommend to do some brainstorming around your theme to get ideas of anything associated to the theme.
The moodboard is a collage of pictures to illustrate your topic and the style you want to pursue for the collection. The images can be your own photos or photos found on the web or Pinterest. They can represent an object or an animal that you want to draw and add in a pattern, they can evoke a particular concept or style or you may like the colours in them. Use the output from the brainstorming to search for the images.
When creating the moodboard, it is also advisable to create a first colour palette even if it means to change it a a later stage (when the design of the pattern is finished).
Finally, add some words from the brainstorming to the moodboard.
For Paris Botanical Garden, I made the following moodboard. I called it moodboard but you can already see it is not really one. There is only one source of photos (the photos I took in the garden) and the colour palette is directly picked from these photos. When you look at it, you can’t really get an idea of the style of the collection. Yes, I’m aware that I made the collection blindly.
It is recommended to define the color palette before starting drawing the motifs. It can obviously be refined or changed at a later stage when the design of the pattern is finished. Indeed, you can finally find that it is not working very well with the pattern or that you need more contrasted colours.
Ideally, the colour palette will be part of the moodboard.
For Paris Botanical Garden, I did very differently: I started with a colour palette in the moodboard but finally completely changed it to have the 2 following palettes.
Sketching and digitising
It goes without saying that sketching is an essential part of the process. To build a pattern, you need to create your elements. They can be drawn directly on the computer but I would advise to sketch with a pencil on paper. At this stage and the following ones, you need to have your moodboard within reach to make sure that you’re following the directions you’ve shaped at the start.
Once the sketches are done, they need to be digitised in order to build the patterns on the computer. At this stage, you need to colour these elements. It is now that you use your initial colour palette.
Building the patterns
Now that you’ve got your elements on the computer, you can start building the patterns. As I already mentioned in my previous post Flying Leaves, these patterns have different roles and can fall within 3 categories:
- the hero prints: a couple of prints made of a larger scale, they are more complex with a lot of different motifs and consist of several colours.
- the secondary prints: they’re like medium prints. They are less elaborate than the hero print with less elements and less colours. But they follow the same theme and style.
- the blender prints: they are made of small scale with a couple of colours and very simple motif. A way to make them is to pick a small element of the hero or secondary prints and repeat it.
In addition, you can create spot graphics. They are not essential but I like the idea of stand alone graphics that summarise the whole collection. I like to see them as a logo for the collection. They can be used in different ways: as a logo for the collection when you want to share it (maybe with potential clients), on stickers, stationery cards or pillows!
I forgot to show the spot graphics of my latest collection but it is now done, TADA!
All elements of the pattern have already been coloured but it is now time to check that the colour combination works well with the pattern. Most of the time, you will need to review the colours by swapping or adding/removing/adjusting some colours to make the outcome more pleasant to the eyes. That is why I was saying earlier that it is likely that the initial colour palette will change at the end!
Naming and story telling
Once your patterns are ready and you’re happy with your hard work, you want to share it and show it to the world! It is time to make a simple document to present the collection. This document must include:
- a name for the collection. Look at your moodboard again for inspiration!
- the story: a short text to explain where your inspiration is coming from. It adds a bit of poetry and can help people connect with your collection.
- your patterns and spot graphics. Ideally, each pattern should have a name to make it unique but it can be done later when it becomes really necessary (I mean the day when you’re selling your patterns)
For Paris Botanical Garden, I created 2 documents to present the collection, one for each colour way. I must admit that this time, I did quite well, don’t you think so?
As I have just demonstrated, creating a pattern collection is a long process which requires method and rigour. If you’re attentive to the way I built my latest collection Paris Botanical Garden, it is lacking a bit of both. But do you I really care? No because I learned a lot along the way and I’m still pleased with what I created. But I promise that next time I will follow my own guide. I’m so looking forward to creating my next collection!!!