Pattern Applications

During my design process, I always keep in mind the potential applications of a pattern. It never ceases to fascinate me how an adjustment in scale or palette can completely transform a design. As an example, I’ll use this simple pattern, which I developed from a black and white lino print.

On a larger scale, using colourful palettes, this pattern would be perfect for bold and eye-catching cushion covers. On a smaller scale, with a sunrise-inspired palette, it would make a bright and cheerful mug – ideal for your morning caffeine boost. On a much smaller scale, with a subtle sage colour scheme, it adds understated depth and texture to a notebook cover.

Lino Printed Rings

These next patterns were inspired by the recent discovery of my dusty old Spirograph set. Vector graphics are a fun way to recreate these types of geometric shapes, minus the slipping plastic cogs. Here is how they would look applied to fabrics, books, phone cases and travel mugs.

Spiro Geometric Patterns

I love experimenting with gritty, grungy textures. To create this pattern I dragged coated foil boards along rough concrete and scanned the resulting damage. It was time-consuming selecting and arranging the best dings and scrapes, but the results were worth the effort. It would look great as gym wear, a grungy hoodie, a skateboard deck or a phone case.

Seamless Grunge

Here’s something perfect for your favourite space cadet, large or small. It’s a fun, space-themed vector pattern featuring planets and starbursts with a retro twist. It would be ideal for wrapping paper, sleepy-time fabrics and phone cases.

Space Cadets

There’s something deceptively engaging about designing striped patterns. So simple, yet so many variations in width, spacing, palette and medium. For this design, I transformed painted watercolour stripes into a versatile seamless pattern. Here it is visualised on a fun summer dress, a tote bag, a bath towel and product packaging.

Watercolour Seamless Stripes

The next pattern began as a set of gouache painted circles and rings which I vectorised and arranged into two versions. One is an irregular, slightly overlapping design, and the second is a more structured polka dot pattern. Here they are, in a variety of scales and palettes, visualised on cushion covers, mugs and clothing designs.

Gouache Brush Mark Circles

This faux-knitted vector pattern is ideal to make fun products for your favourite knitting fans. Currently, I’ve made two versions – a tight knit stitch and a looser version. These look great with both monochrome palettes and brighter colour combinations. Here you can see a variety of applications from simple, subtle pillows, a fun tote bag, novelty baby suits, bright phone cases, themed mugs and cushion covers.

Novelty Knitted Pattern

I love how a good pattern can add character, individuality and fun to everyday utility items. Here’s a variety of my patterns applied to phone cases and travel mugs.

Phone Cases and Coffee Mugs

Pattern Process

To create the elements that make up my patterns, I use a wide range of techniques. Pencil sketching, doodling, painting, printing, markers, pastels, scraping, scattering, splattering, photography and scanning. My most satisfying designs usually begin with some kind of organic, artistic process. Here are a number of examples.

A Return to Patterns

My work has focused heavily on abstract textures for a while now, but it’s like time for a long-overdue return to making surface patterns. I wish I had photographs of my early pattern doodles. There were hundreds of them over the years, but I can’t remember where they went. I do, fortunately, have piles of my later experiments, produced in the last decade or so.

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Pencil and Biro Doodles
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Ink and Pencil Doodles

I’ve doodled during long journeys. I’ve doodled in cafes. I’ve doodled between call centre calls and while TEFL pupils completed their work. One of the few times I didn’t doodle was when I was a graphic designer – which is partly why I’m not anymore.

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More Doodles

So many years and so many doodles, yet I never explored their full potential. I did consider training as a tattoo artist, but I’m not sure I could make needles and blood my friends.

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Even More Doodles

It feels good to do something that I love, and comes naturally to me. I seem somehow wired to see patterns everywhere I look. Bring on more patterns.

Hand-Drawn to Vector

I’ve been going through some more of my older hand-drawn patterns and making vector versions of them. It is pretty time consuming but I really like the results.

Hand drawn to vector versions of a lime and blue floral pattern
Hand-Drawn and Vector Versions of a Lime and Blue Floral Pattern

I love the pattern making tools in the latest version of adobe Illustrator, they are an efficient way to create complicated and accurate pattern repeats. I’m having a hell of a time getting the pattern tiles not to explode when the file is saved in a legacy version though. Stock agencies like Shutterstock want the file saved as an Illustrator 10 eps so it’s a problem I need to solve. I have some ideas on how to do that which will keep me busy.

I think this one will be good as a fabric pattern too so it will eventually end up on my Spoonflower collection too.

Oodles of Doodles

One of the fun things about going down the stock image route is that I can get out all my old illustration experiments. I’ve always had problems settling on one creative style so there are a few of them. Here’s a pattern I made from a loose doodle style made with watercolour and fine liners. I like the light-hearted brightness of this one.

Doodle pattern using watercolour and fine liner
Doodle Pattern Using Watercolour and Fine Liner

Separating Styles?

One thing I’ve struggled with in recent years is the fact that I like working in different media and styles. I draw, paint, doodle, scan, retouch and vector away to my heart’s content but that doesn’t create a consistent style. Is this a problem I wonder?

I sometimes go fully old-school with acrylic paint on canvas.

Doughnut still life painting - acrylic on canvas
Doughnut Still Life Painting – Acrylic on Canvas
Doughnut still life - mixed media gouache and pastel
Doughnut Still Life – Mixed Media Gouache and Pastel

It was always been drummed into me is that it’s OK to have a versatility of styles as a graphic designer but not such a good idea as an illustrator. I’m considering stepping back from the process of finding a ‘signature’ style and allowing the natural variety back into my work. A lovely friend has suggest that becoming a stock illustrator / designer may be a way to accommodate this idea. The more I think about it, the more I like it.

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Lots of circles

I remember way back when I was doing a BTEC in Graphic design I did a project that needed a design for a Windsor and Newton Gouache box. I painstakingly painted a complicated circles pattern using said gouache. 27 years later and I’m back to drawing circles.

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I was so happy with the result of that project that it was the turning point that convinced me to be a graphic designer. In hindsight I think it was actually the circle pattern I was happy with, more than the graphic design elements that surrounded it.

Hindsight is a wonderful thing.

My Happy Place

I’m fortunate to have a small room set aside for my creative projects. Many a happy hour is spent tucked away in there with mountains of markers, paints, pencils etc. My cat often curls up on the windowsill next to my desk and keeps me company until she gets bored and decides I need a break. Then she’ll start stealing pens or munching on my kneecaps, in a bid for attention. It’s more charming than it sounds.

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