Creating pattern collections used to be something I feared and dreaded. I had so much uncertainty around what my process should be, how many sketches and patterns I should make, and how many colors to use! It just wasn’t fun to spend the whole time guessing and then finish up feeling like I had done it wrong.
Fast forward to five years later and building a collection is one of my favorite things to get lost in, and it’s not an easy task to pull myself out of the dreamy world of a collection and release it out into the world.
In this post I want to share my whole collection process with you, so that if you have some uncertainty about your own process you can start to fill in the blanks. Let’s dive right into it!
Brainstorming & Dreaming
In this stage, we get to create a dreamy world full of interesting plants, creatures, and objects. For this collection, Teahouse Stroll, I wanted to create a collection that referenced the peace and serenity of a Japanese teahouse. I came across these early 1700s paintings that inspired the feeling and mood of this whole collection!
This is the most important part of the process because it determines everything about the themes, shapes, and colors you’ll use, so I always spend plenty of time on this part of the process.
Next I get to spend a few hours indulging my desire to go down a reference image rabbit hole. I always limit myself with this task because I could literally decide it was a good idea to categorize every flower on Flickr commons by color and shape, and suddenly realize I had wasted a week just collecting images.
I usually allow myself a few hundred images, or limit myself by time so that I can quickly get to sketching!
Next I spend some time sketching objects from the reference images I collected. Some of these sketches turn into patterns, and others just exist as motifs that may end up in a pattern later on. At this point my goal is just to get a lot of sketches down so I have some shapes to play with!
I try to limit myself with this stage too because it’s easy to spend weeks sketching and not produce any finished patterns. We can always come back to this stage if we need to, but it’s important to keep up momentum so your process doesn’t slow down.
Once I’ve created a huge batch of sketches, it’s time to start inking them for the vectorization process. I always ink in black and white, so my shapes are easy to vectorize.
Not sure what a vector is? Check out this post.
For some patterns I ink an entire pattern at once. For others, I only ink the motifs, then I arrange them, then ink some other shapes around each shape (like the pattern on the right!).
Next, I vectorize all the inked motifs and shapes and start building the patterns. For some patterns, I just need to repeat a single element (like the pattern on the left). For others there are a lot of parts and pieces to match up (like the pattern below).
Color is always the last thing I play with because I need all my motifs and patterns completely built out in order to choose the best palette for the collection. I usually go through 10 or 20 options before landing on one, and it always takes me a few days to play with color and make a final decision.
When I first started building collections, I didn’t take much time for color, but now I spend days on it because I’ve realized how much it can transform (and make or break) a collection!
This is physically the easiest part, and emotionally the hardest part. It’s just a matter of saving some images and putting them in various places on the internet and emails, BUT it’s also the moment when you have to let your baby go out into the world and get judged, used, and eventually forgotten. It’s no longer this fun little secret you keep to yourself, but a surface design on products that you may or may not even want to buy yourself!
I’ve realized that in this stage I need to just “rip of the band-aid” so to speak and get the collection out the door as soon as possible. It helps to have another project waiting in the wings so I don’t get too sad about being at the end of such a fun process.
Pattern Collection Design Process
- See my whole pattern collection design process from start to finish in detail
- Learn how I push past the “sticking points” that often get beginners stuck at some point their process