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Never be at a loss for surface pattern design inspiration again

Updated: Jun 6, 2023

Have you ever seen products with illustrations on them and thought, I could have drawn this and then thought little more about it? Well that was me up until a couple of years ago. Thanks to the pandemic I had an opportunity to work from home and because of it I was able to have more time to create. That is how I found out about surface pattern design.


I can tell the biggest obstacle for me at times is mindset. It is reframing thoughts that don't serve me like saying it has already been done. What about saying this instead? That may be, but it hasn't been done with my unique spin on it.


Here are just some of the places I have turned to in order to get those creative juices flowing. I know they can work for you too! Remember you never need to be at a loss for surface pattern design inspiration again.


  1. Look to nature - I don't care where you live in the world; there is bound to be something in nature that could inspire a future pattern design. Here are just a few pictures I took with my iphone 11 right in my own backyard. I thought the board on our backyard fence had some interesting shapes and textures in it. Can you see a face on that weathered piece of wood? That texture can be vectorized and used in future patterns. The flowers and other plants have been perfect references for illustrations. I have also used these photos to create so many color palettes. Nature is the perfect place to turn to for great color combinations. Tip: Using your own photo references makes your work more personal and the bonus is you never have to worry about attribution because these are your images.





2. History - It is no secret that history can teach us alot. Not surprising that this also extends to surface pattern design. Swedish surface pattern designer Barbel Dressler is an expert in historical patterns. She has some great courses on Skillshare. Check her out here. It is possible that as creators we can put a new spin on old pattern styles and create something uniquely our own.


3. Travel Inspiration - I am so glad that I had the opportunity to travel when I did. There are so many photos that I will be pouring over to pull some inspiration from. Whether it was the people, the architecture, the crafts or something else.




4. Fashion - The fashion industry can be a great way to find out what is new and trending. Whether that is a particular pantone colour or a fabric texture. Color and texture play a huge role in illustration as well.


5. Seek inspiration online - You can also be inspired by seeing the work of other surface designers while scrolling through Pinterest or Instagram. But a word of caution, don't get overwhelmed and start going down the road of thinking all designs have been created or you are not good enough. If something you see on these platforms triggers feelings of jealousy or imposter syndrome then you need to unpack these thoughts. What is it about the design that you like? Figure out how the artist may have constructed it or why they made the decisions that they did. Take this information and learn from it and then make your own unique pattern.


So there you have it, there are so many ways to get those ideas flowing. Whether it is nature, travel, fashion or the work of other artists you can find something that gets you creating again. You just need a little nudge. I would like to hear from you, share with me where you turn to get inspiration.



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