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Designing a Surface Pattern Design Collection

Whether you’re a freelancer, business owner or are working for a client, as a surface pattern designer you will often be creating designs that are part of a collection rather than one-off individual designs.

Let’s have a look at what’s involved in designing a surface pattern design collection.

Designing a Surface Pattern Design Collection

A surface pattern collection is a group of designs that work together to form a range. The number of designs within the range can vary and this will be dependent on a number of factors but as a generalisation a collection is typically 6 to 10 designs.

The type of collection you create will be dependent on a variety of factors:

  • You may be designing for one particular client with one specific product in mind, for example a bed linen range 
  • You may design a range of designs for one client to use across a number of products e.g. a  collection of designs to go across a range womenswear products
  • Or you could create a range of designs which will be sold individually to different clients e.g. sold through an agent

A surface pattern design collection is usually based on a set brief and the designs within the collection will be tied together by theme, colour, and style. 

Some key points to consider when creating successful surface pattern design collections are:

  • Make sure that you develop your own personal signature style. This usually happens organically with lots of practice and experience over time. Having a unique look to your work that fits commercial needs is really important
  • Have a very good understanding of your target market. Make sure you know exactly who you are designing for and what their requirements are 
  • Be aware of the current trends and make sure you use these as influences within your designs to attract clients

So how do you start designing your collection?

  1. Research: Understand your client and current trends. Decide on a story for your collection
  2. Collect design and colour inspiration
  3. Create a mood board. Read more about creating mood boards here    
  4. Start creating motifs and design elements to use within your design. These can be hand drawn or computer generated
  5. Create your designs. You don’t have to work on one design at a time. You can work on the range as a whole. If you know what products your designs are going to be used on, consider this during the design development process
  6. Present your designs. This may include showing how your designs work on a product.


It’s really important that within your surface pattern design collection there is a stand out ‘hero’ design. It should be a showstopper and your main print. You can then design your range around this main design. 

Things to consider when designing your surface pattern design collections:

  • All designs should work together as a range. If you look at all the designs together, no design should stand out as not belonging to the collection. They should not look exactly the same but work together like a family
  • In most cases, coordinate designs should use their own independent motifs and images. This allows you to sell your designs to different clients without any legal issues. For example, if your design collection has a geometric theme, you could use geometric motifs on more than one design as long as the motifs were not exactly the same on each design. An exception to this would be if you were creating a collection for one client and the designs were going to work together in a range e.g. if you were designing a bed linen range then as long as your client approves, you may be able to use some elements from the main design within your coordinates. Remember though if you’re selling to separate clients this would be a no no
  • Using the same colour palette within each design will help tie your collection together. You can use a different number of colours in each design or add in extra colours but generally, the palette will stay the same across the range
  • To create interest in your collection consider the layout you choose for each design. By mixing different repeat types can help create a point of difference to each design e.g. add in a placement or tossed repeat. You can read more about the different types of repeat types here

  • Make sure that all of the designs within your collection have similar content and refer back to your theme
  • Ensure that the style of your work across the range is coherent. You don’t want one or more designs standing out as not belonging with the rest
  • Add in lots of detail and interest to your designs
  • Consider the scale of your design motifs. This can add interest to the collection


Make sure that you spend time researching and developing before you start designing. Remember that it’s important to understand who and what you’re designing and to create your own personal style or handwriting to make your surface pattern design collections are unique.

Designing a Surface Pattern Design Collection

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