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Surface Pattern Design - draw, paint, design, repeat...

Updated: Feb 15

Well 2024 has started with an exciting bang; after a lovely festive break, I sat down in my studio and took part in a 5-day Surface Design Challenge, offered by Bonnie Christine – a surface designer and educator based in North Carolina.

What is surface pattern design?

Surface pattern design is the creation of artwork, prints, and designs, which are then applied to surfaces - anything from fabric and wallpaper to notebooks and ceramics. I've created surface pattern designs in the past for clients, but hadn't considered creating my own collection ready for licence. Bonnie Christine's challenge was just what I needed to get my creative juices flowing; I feel inspired, excited and energised to create my own designs, resulting in the opening of my Spoonflower shop.

Spoonflower logo

This is a print on demand site based in the US. They are international selling home decor products: wallpaper, duvet covers, curtains and cushions, as well as fabric by the metre. As an artist you can set up a shop and submit your designs making them available for customers. I receive a commission for every item sold and I get to keep the copyright. Also, this isn't an exclusive licence, so I can use these designs anywhere I like, including licensing them in stock libraries. Additionally Spoonflower run their own design challenges, inviting the pattern artist community to create designs for particular themes. Anyone can vote for their top 3, the top 10 receive prizes with the top 100 featuring on the challenge home-page.

Carpe diem

Seize the day; I checked out their challenge for January, which was Forest Biome. I got started. I mean, perfect! I love nature, so I went about creating a wallpaper design filled with woodland life that was right up my twiggy path! Woodpecker, bat, squirrel, owl, butterflies, stag beetle, willow warbler and hawfinch, fox, stag, oak leaves, ferns, fly agaric, wild blackberries, ivy and Bella donna, deadly nightshade! What a rush.

Of course it didn't happen without at least a couple of hitches; once I'd finished the design, I had to proof the pattern and spotted a number of glitches. I went back to the drawing board for a quick amend, adjusting the position of a few elements.. Additionally I had to decide on a colour palette; I initially thought the design would be on a dark green background, but when I tried that out some elements, such as the bramble bush, were lost. It was only when I tried a mushroom colour that the blackberries popped. And that was that.

Surface Pattern Design featuring stag, squirrel, butterflies, willow warbler, fly agaric , blackberries and leaves

Forest Flora and Fauna Wallpaper Spoonflower

The great thing about the design challenges is the fact they overlap, so even if one design prompt doesn't appeal, the next one is there, ready for you to go get started on.

The current challenge is Leap Frog which will be featured on fabric.

I worked on a few initial elements in Adobe Fresco, then transferred them to Adobe Illustrator. And this is where the fun starts – applying colour to vectors, leading the assets on a merry dance around the artboard, until.... My initial designs were mainly 2 or 3 colours, and I suppose they were okay, but not quite right. It was time to go to the voice of courage, to my husband who always gives me a nudge in the right direction. In this instance it was to introduce more colours and create more depth, so I got busy, and this was the final piece.

surface pattern design of frogs, toads lily pads and lotus flowers

If you'd like to give it a vote, then please, hop on over to Spoonflower to vote. Votes can be cast between Thursday 15 February 15:00 GMT and Tuesday 27 February 20:00 GMT.

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