Brownstone Pattern

I grew up in a suburb of Chicago, and always loved the Chicago brownstone style homes. For this blog post, I decided to do a mini process blog, and share the beginning to end process of making a pattern. I'll keep it brief but if you have any questions please post them in the comments and I'll check back to answer. 

First, I always start out with my sketchbook. I'll begin by just jotting down my concept and a few visuals. I then collect reference material. For this particular pattern, I knew I wanted it to be loosely-drawn and simplified, so I wasn't as concerned with details as I was with the overall shape and style of each house. 

For this project, I limited my drawing time and used one pen for all the details. Here's a few of the sketches I did before scanning my blackline drawings into the computer to digitize and colorize. 

When I begin working with color, I typically do it in Adobe Illustrator. I like to work at a brisk pace so I see results quickly. Part of what I love about Illustrator is how efficiently I can make things happen, and finally get to the point where I play around with pattern and layout. Which is obviously the BEST part. :)

Here are some of my in-progress colorizing:

The final fun step for this piece was to work with textures and paint in Photoshop. I cropped the pattern down to a size I love, and began painting and adding depth and texture to the houses, so no two look the same. The end-use of a pattern sometimes means that I don't do this step - but when I've created it for fun, I can paint to my heart's content. Here is the final brownstone pattern painted, and envisioned as a pair of gift bags. 

Brownstone Pattern ©2016 courtney beth keller 

Brownstone Pattern ©2016 courtney beth keller

Star Wars, doodles & vases

Hi I’m Lisa Kirkbride, one of the UK finches based in the north east of England. I'm taking over the blog today to share my process.

I love vibrant colours, graphic shapes and pattern so I thought I'd show you a piece I have just completed for my Surtex portfolio which ticks all these boxes.

This pattern started with some repetitive vase doodles I did one night whilst my husband introduced my daughter Lily (11) to the Star Wars films – starting at the beginning or the middle film depending how you look at it - I had plenty of time to draw! I love to doodle with Sharpies or Graphik pens and I created this pretty, interlocking vase design which I thought would make a great pattern for gift wrap or stationery.

I scanned my sketch and used it as a guide to trace over in Adobe Illustrator using my Wacom Cintiq (my favourite toy!). The Cintiq allows you to draw directly onto the screen with a Wacom pen which feels fairly close to drawing on paper. I spent some time looking at colour trends and palettes and then selected a range of colours I was happy with and started to create all the quirky, interlocking vases.

Working on layers, and the limited palette, the pattern started to take shape.

When I felt the design was complete, I tested the repeat to make sure the pattern looked balanced and I made a few adjustments to rectify any problem areas. I also experimented with some different background colours to see if I could give the pattern a bit more "pop".

... And ta dah! -  the final design. The pattern took a couple weeks as I dipped in and out of it but I'm really pleased with the result. I'll now look at how I will apply it to mocked up products and most likely create some co-ordinates to complement it. I hope you enjoyed reading about my process.

Budgies (are the new finches)


Welcome to my process blog.  My name is Tanya Paget and I'm a proud member of the Finch and Foxglove collective.  I design under the name Albaquirky; focusing mainly on surface pattern and surface design.   I live in the pretty Chiltern Hills just outside London, with my fiancé and two chatty cats. When designing I work from a studio in my home, looking out over my garden and the village allotments, I love having green space so close.

I work in two main styles: one I would describe as my more 'illustrative' style, and the other my more 'arty' style.  Today I'm going to talk about my process making a pattern design in my more illustrative style.  I'm temporarily calling the design 'Vintage Budgies', but feel free to make some more imaginative name suggestions!  Sometimes a pattern name comes to me really quickly and sometimes they take a while to settle on their names after I have made them.  The 'Vintage Budgies' pattern sits with a collection I've been working on called 'Tiki Time' inspired by vintage holidays and advertising, retro notions of exotica, 50s styling and recently watching lots of the TV series 'Mad Men'!  

I currently don't get lots of hands-on design time in my week, but that doesn't stop me from thinking and creating as I do other things.  Alongside my work as a designer, I teach creativity.  That job involves an exchange of ideas between my students and myself.  I often dream ideas, I don't think I could switch the creative thinking off even if I had to!  

When I get an idea I do one of two things: if it is more of a pure concept it goes down on a (long) written list and if it is more of a visual or compositional idea I sketch it out.  The vintage budgies idea has been on the list since July, it was great to get on to working on it this week! 

Once I'm working up an illustrative pattern concept I start with some research. If I can go to primary sources for references I will (take photos, make sketches), but for this one I was going to find locating flocks of of budgies in an autumnal England a touch difficult! For secondary sources I love pinterest and have lots of boards of inspiration, my budgies (and parakeets) research is here.

Next I print out key references and it is time to get sketching... (yay!) To begin with, I like to work with a sharp, soft graphite pencil (2B or 3B) .  I then develop the drawings in fine liner pen afterwards.  Often my first sketch is not the best, I think of it as a warm-up sketch. The middle drawing in the photo below was my first and it got rejected in the end, as not being right for the final design, but it served an important warm-up purpose. You might spot that for the budgies work I've called in a bird expert...

When I teach my students to draw more complicated things,  I start with breaking them down into the basic shapes.  I use exactly the same technique myself.

When I'm happy with the proportions and composition. I start to add details, still working in pencil...

More detail and more tea is needed...

Now I'm getting somewhere!  I then work over the drawing in permanent ink, using a 0.3 or 0.5 point fineliner.  As I go over the drawing in ink, I am adding further details and refining bits and pieces.

Once I've worked the sketch up to a point that I'm happy with in ink, I rub out all of the pencil lines and clean it up as much as I can with a nice clean eraser. This is then ready to scan into my computer.

I take all the scanned images into Photoshop, do some further cleaning up of the image ready to open in Illustrator and convert into vectors.  It is often at about this time in a piece of design that it is good to have a break. I may go for a swim in the late afternoon if I've been productive and if I need a little thinking time.

After a swim I will then be fresh for the next stage in the process, which can be quite a lot of fun. Adding colour into the work!  For the vintage budgies piece my colour choices were guided by a palette that I had developed for the 'Tiki Time' collection, to help the designs remain cohesive.

I work with colours and also start to group the motifs in different ways and then break for the night.  Reviewing my work before finishing for the day it felt as if there was not enough variety in the range of birds that I had drawn. Something was missing. Some other bird shapes might be needed for contrast. I like to sleep on a piece and process it further over night.  

The next day it was clear I needed more shapes... so back to the drawing board!  First, more researching and referencing of flying budgies, then some more sketching. It was looking pretty cold and damp outside, so was a perfect day to be holed-up in the studio!

This guy below seems to be flying off the page!

With a couple of new bird shapes to bring into the mix, I was back on the computer to work on the pattern layout.

I worked with different compositions.  Experimenting with scale, spacing, placement, juxtaposition and colour of the motifs and a few different options for the background.

Today, for a bit of a thinking break, I walked over to my allotment and did a little harvesting. I love the pinks of the dahlias and the dark, dark, purple of the kale. I'm always finding inspiration in different places!

When I get near to being finished with a design I start printing out proofs.  I print on A3 at both large and small scale. I do this to check the details in the motifs and the tiled repeats, looking at the rhythm in the tile when multiplied up. I also might experiment with possible colourways.

I will often put my favourite versions up on the big pinboard wall in the studio at this point and live with them for a day or two whilst I work on other designs in a collection. There can be up to three collections grouped up on the studio wall at a time, all 'cooking'.  Sometimes a design needs that bit of space and time to settle or develop and a little distance is required to ensure I'm really happy with it.  'Vintage Budgies' has been on the wall a couple of days now and I'm enjoying it. I think it is done.


Thanks for reading all about my process!