Design Tips, Surface Pattern Design

6 Essential Tools for a Beginning Surface Pattern Designer

Do you have a passion for patterns? Would you like to design and create patterns but aren’t sure where to start or what you need to get started? 

I’ve been asked what you need to get started to be a surface pattern designer. I can tell you that I don’t believe you need to run out and get the latest drawing tablet or an expensive camera if you don’t have them. Just a few essential items are all you need. So below, I’ve compiled a list of 6 essential items and tools to help you to get started. 


1. Sketchbook, Pencils/Pens

Whether you know how to draw or not, you will need a place to start sketching your ideas. Believe it or not, I’m not the best at drawing by hand, but I keep a small sketchbook (in fact a couple) to put down my sketches when I have an idea. These can be simple marks on a page or detailed drawings or both. Just having someplace to sketch your ideas will help in the process of creating your patterns as well as having a place to refer back to for future patterns once your sketch books are full.

You don’t have to break the bank on what kind of sketchbook and pencils or pens you choose. Use whatever you have handy and you are comfortable with; remember you are just starting out.

2. Notebook or Journal 

Like the sketchbook, this too will serve as a place to jot down your ideas. I like to write down my pattern theme idea(s), along with color palette ideas I want to use. It’s also helpful to write down anything that’s inspirational too.

I’ve recently learned of another helpful tip when creating my patterns; I also write down 20 words related to my pattern’s theme. I can’t tell you much this tip has helped me. I just brainstorm and free write. I use these words to help me with designing as well as naming my patterns. 

I know some designers will do everything in one book – they will sketch as well as keep their pattern notes and ideas together. Do whatever you are comfortable with and what works for you. 

3. Camera or Camera Phone 

Having a camera or using the camera on your phone is great for taking inspiration and reference photos. Having reference and inspirational photos can be a great launching off point for creating a design or a motif. It’s also nice to go out into the world and snap a photo of something that catches your eye and inspires you. 

Personally, I use my camera phone to take my photos. I have had very good results, especially with so many photo editing apps available for adjusting your photos – like Snapseed for instance. 

4. Scanner or Scanner App 

Once you have your sketches, you will need a way to get them into a designing software. One way to do this is by scanning. You can use a flatbed scanner if you have one or use a Scanner App on your phone. (Taking a photo and importing it also works too.) Many printers have copying and scanning capabilities now. Once you have your image(s) scanned you can import them into a designing software.

5. Computer 

It doesn’t have to the be the biggest or the best as long as it has a large amount of memory and a decent graphics card/processor. Pattern and graphic design files are pretty large so having enough memory and fast processor for graphics is important. Otherwise, your computer can lag and maybe even stall on you. 

You can use a laptop or a desktop as long as the memory is large enough, and it has a good graphics card. I have a laptop and desktop and use them both for creating designs and patterns.

6. Designing Software 

Adobe Illustrator software is the industry standard for creating patterns. It is in Illustrator that you can draw your illustrations, import hand drawn elements for creating illustrations and motifs, create color palettes, adjust colors and most importantly create your pattern. 

If you don’t already have Adobe Illustrator, Adobe has many pricing options for students and individuals. If you are wanting to test the waters so to speak, they offer monthly payments which is a great option for those starting out.

Photo Credits

Sketchbook – Background photo created by freepik – www.freepik.com | Notebook – Background photo created by aopsan – www.freepik.com | iPhone Pic – Photo by Cassidy Phillips on Unsplash | Scanner – Business photo created by jannoon028 – www.freepik.com | Computer – Photo by Domenico Loia on Unsplash

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