learn about all things surface pattern design including the creative design process, being a successful creative entrepreneur & stepping into the mindset of a successful designer

welcome to the pattern design blog





Surface Pattern Design: 5 Tips to get you started

Do you have lots of pattern design ideas but are not sure how to turn them into a reality?



I know it’s obvious but it’s really important. Have you ever sat down to start developing your pattern design ideas but you just don’t know where to start? Or have you looked at a blank page and wondered ‘how am I going to fill it?’ I know I certainly have. Just remember, inspiration can come from anywhere so it’s important to always be observant of our environment. Take the time to look around when you’re out and about. You may find an interesting texture that could work well as a background to a surface pattern design or you may find an interesting leaf shape that could be used as a design motif.

Take Photos

One of the easiest things you can do is take photos (so easy with camera phones!) of things you find that you could turn into gorgeous pattern repeats. One of my favourite things to do is to take walks around my neighbourhood. It not only clears my head (all that fresh air) but it gets me away from looking at a computer screen and gives me time to notice the small things. It could be petals that have fallen onto the concrete pavement, shadows created at different times of the day, new flowers blooming …. the list goes on. The great thing is there is always something new to see with the changing seasons and different times of the day. If I have time, sometimes I’ll even stop to do a few quick sketches in my visual diary.

Take photos of your surface pattern design inspiration

Visual Diary

Speaking of visual diaries, they play such an important role in the development of your surface pattern ideas. Carrying a small sketch book in your bag is always great even if you don’t have time to draw, you can always jot down your ideas on the run. I have quite a few visual diaries on the go at once including a small one I can fit in my handbag that goes everywhere with me. You never know when inspiration will strike. I also have a couple of larger ones that I use at home and are permanent fixtures to my desk and kitchen table. Another one of my favourite ways to find inspiration for my surface pattern designs is to go to galleries and exhibitions. I never fail to leave feeling uplifted and ready to jump into creating a design. It doesn’t matter what type of exhibition it is, be it photography, ceramics, painting, I can always find something to take home. Inspiration could be in the form of colour, layout, or even subject matter for one of my future textile designs.

Internet/Social Media

We can’t, of course, forget the internet and social media as a great tool for gathering inspiration. Sometimes other factors prohibit us from getting out of the house so the internet can be a quick and easy way of finding design inspiration. There are many times when I have been given freelance jobs that need to be done ASAP so being able to quickly and efficiently find inspiration via the internet has been invaluable. I’ve only touched on a few ways that you can gather inspiration for your surface pattern designs. There are of course many, many more including magazines, books, looking at historical eras, travel photos…. What are your favourite ways?


Once you’ve collected all your inspiration it’s important that you collate it in one spot. There’s no point in having lots of great images if you can’t find them when you need them.

Digital Files

For digital images, I create different folders on my computer to put my images in. You can do that in so many different ways, it really is just personal preference and will depend on how your create your designs and how you like to work. Headings for some of the folders I like to create include Colour (which can be broken down further into individual colour groupings e.g. Brights, Pastels, Monochromatic etc), Texture, Mood boards, Mark making, Kids etc.. I also have files for different types of textile designs e.g. Conversational, Ethnic, Tribal, Geometric etc. There are so many different ways to collate your images, it’ll be trial and error figuring out the best way for you. Pinterest boards are also a great way of collating images together. For my digital images, I tend to collate them in my own files on my computer as well as on Pinterest boards. That just works well for me. When I have a specific brief from a client I’m able to easily go through my library to find any relevant inspiration for that brief to start me on my way and also to create mood boards.

Physical Objects

Along with a digital library, I also like to keep physical folders of any tactile objects, magazine cuttings, postcards etc that I collect which I group into sections so I can easily find something when I’m looking for it. Physical folders have a personal quality which I like but if you’d prefer to keep everything digital, you could always scan in your design inspiration and then group it into your digital files. Once you work out your method of grouping your images, you’ll find it a quick and easy way of keeping all your pattern and design inspiration easily accessible.


Textures, line work and patterns that we create are all described as mark making. For me, mark making is such an important part of developing my surface pattern designs. I like to get my ideas down quickly in a visual diary as this enables me to play with line techniques and different medias without over thinking what I’m doing. Often the best pattern designs are created without overthinking the outcome. Mark making allows you to take advantage of the beauty of imperfection so I use this process even if I end up creating the pattern design completely in Illustrator or Photoshop.


Just like creating a library for your inspiration, it’s a great idea to create a library of all your mark making, pattern design and motif ideas. I do a lot my mark making in a visual diary so it tends to stay contained in one spot (although I must confess I usually do have a few visual diaries on the go at once). For digital designs such as those that have been scanned and manipulated or created directly in Photoshop or Illustrator, I create different folders to put the design motifs in. I like to keep every pattern design idea I create as I find I often come back and revisit old ideas.


Yay, this is the fun part. You have collected inspiration and developed some pattern design motif ideas, now it’s time to start playing with patterns. Before you start, it’s a good idea to think about the overall look of the pattern repeat. Do you want it to be structured, free flowing, multi-directional etc? This will often be determined by the end the use of the textiles. Keep playing until you create a beautiful surface pattern design!

Find out more about the most common surface pattern repeats here and sign up below to get your FREE surface pattern design eBook- the ultimate guide to the most common surface pattern repeats!


Want to create another revenue stream by turning your art into surface pattern designs?

Get the free guide

Get my FREE Surface Pattern Design Starter Guide