Surface Pattern Design: Combining Art and Technology ~ Charlotte Raby



First attempt at surface pattern design. 
Take a moment to look around you, and you’ll see designs on surfaces everywhere. Does the clothing you’re wearing have a print on it? What about your coffee cup or that throw pillow next to you on the couch? Did you send out decorative holiday cards this year?

Well, all of those are surfaces with designs on them, and it might not have occurred to you, but some people have careers designing the art that goes onto these things.

Designers create the art you see on yoga pants and mats, water bottles, bedding, fabrics, stationery, wrapping paper, wallpaper, and myriad other items. Some designs are stand alone or single, like a piece of art that can be framed or put onto greeting cards.  And some items, such as fabrics, require repeating surface pattern designs.

Long ago, in the very-old-olden days, repeating designs were made by first creating a design on paper, cutting the paper into equal fourths, and then rearranging them so the inner edges faced outwards. This was then used by weavers. In 1985, Adobe Illustrator was first released, and creating digital patterns became possible.

Adobe Illustrator is a massive, complex program, but it’s also fun to use. And, if I can learn it, so can you – remember my previous post about how older brains work?


Christmas design after a year of learning and practicing.

About a year ago, I took an intensive course in Illustrator, and since then have been working nearly full-time creating designs, learning, and honing my skills, with the ultimate goal of getting my work licensed by fabric makers and producers of other items. Until that happens, I’ve also learned how to use print on demand (POD) sites to upload my work and allow people to find and purchase items with my designs printed on them. 

A design can be started on paper using watercolors or sketched with pen. A photograph can also be used, or a design can be created completely within Illustrator, using digital tools provided such as art brushes, pen, pencil, and shape building tools. If a paper design is used, it would be scanned and saved as a jpeg on your computer, first. A photograph would also be sent to your computer and saved as a jpeg.

Once the initial art pieces are saved to your computer, you would bring your designs into the Adobe Illustrator program and vectorize them. Vector art are shapes that are based on mathematical formulae, and therefore are scale independent, meaning that the images will not lose quality if they’re scaled up, in the way that pixel-based images do. Photographs are pixel images, and a pixel is a spot of color. You know that if you blow up a photograph too big, the image quality suffers. Well, not so with Illustrator. Designers can create one image and use it on business cards or billboards while maintaining image integrity.

Once images are vectorized, designers use Illustrator tools to manipulate them and create a fuller design. Images can be duplicated, manipulated in shape, size, and color, and layered with other images. Groups of images could be saved as motifs that could be duplicated and placed strategically, to create a repeating pattern. The repeating pattern is then saved and can be uploaded to POD sites. Each POD site has its own requirements as to what type and size file they require for their products.


Homemade holiday tablecloth.
As you can see from this overview, there are a variety of things to learn and integrate. While you absolutely can create a repeating pattern after a few lessons, it ends up being a years-long journey. But the challenge is fun, it sharpens the mind, and it’s deeply satisfying to see your own artwork come to life on real products. The possibilities for creative expression are limitless!

If you’re interested in learning more, go to the resources tab on my website for links to course sites and teachers I use as well as POD sites to check out. There, you’ll also find a link for 14 days of free Premium Skillshare access so you can try out my recommended teachers, or any others on any topics you find interesting! Have fun, and Happy New Year!

www.charlotteraby.com

Charlotte has always been creative and interested in
how things work and interact in the world. While she has a BSE in engineering, a M.Ed. in special education, she worked in a variety of positions, including Motorola engineer, special-ed high school teacher, homeschooling-mom, flute player, formalwear alterations business owner,  and writer.  She also cross stitches, paints, cooks, still sews for her family, and has recently learned how to use Adobe Illustrator to create repeating designs for fabrics and other items.  Join her over at www.charlotteraby.com to stay connected and see what she’s up to! 


12 comments:

  1. It's so nice having you with us again, Charlotte. Thank you for explaining how patterns are transferred to fabric. Your creations are beautiful. I'm glad you gave us the link to check out how the process is completed. Looking forward to your next post.

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    1. Thank you, Grace! I'll brainstorm some new topics! I'm glad you enjoyed the post!

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  2. I found it interesting that the process is to vectorize the images. Makes so much sense to not just blow up the image and lose clarity. Thanks so much for sharing this process with us.

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    1. Thank you for having me, Jackie! Yes, it IS a really interesting process - I love creating this way. It's opened more art paths for me, to learn watercolor, sketching, historical patterns, etc.!

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  3. That is so interesting and I bet learning this new process is very good for all those neurons and brain things! I've been following Charlotte for a while and she has a great way of describing the process that makes me want to try it! Thanks girl!

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    1. Thank you! Yes, I have felt my white matter expanding, it's been a bit painful! LOL I have loved learning this stuff!

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  4. Charlotte, whenever somebody says "oh, I'm no good with words" I always feel incredulous -- "of course you are, everyone knows how to talk!" And yet here I find myself thinking "oh, I'm no good with design...I can't make things visually interesting." Any advice on that?

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    1. You know, I've felt that way forever about myself, regarding art, and it was getting into designing with Adobe Illustrator that got me into painting and sketching, even though I KNEW I couldn't do it. But I wanted and felt that I HAD to do it, for my Adobe designs. And now, I see that we all must have a bit of an artist within us, and need to just go for it! There are so many tutorials and books out there on how to paint and sketch, and how to understand color! I NOW know anyone can do it!!

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  5. Wow, what an interesting process! Thank you for the education!

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    1. You're welcome, Marj!! I'm glad you enjoyed the glimpse into this process!

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