Piñata Party Pattern Process

The pattern shown here is now available for sale as fabric, wallpaper and gift wrap on Spoonflower!

Hello from Courtney Beth Keller! I'm sharing my process today in creating a pattern design. The pattern concept I am working with comes from one of Spoonflower's weekly contests: Piñatas! For those who are unfamiliar, Spoonflower is a website that prints custom fabric, wallpaper and gift wrap. Each week they hold a pattern contest which are open for popular vote, and I find the topics are often very inspiring and propel me in my creative process. Below, I will share the wandering path that is my creative process, including a bunch of spitballing and trial and error. In the end, you can see my entry for the contest and a mockup on a paper lantern as I envision what my pattern might look like if used on a commercial product. 

First, I begin by sketching some of the elements that piñatas make me think of: 

I scan  my sketches and using Adobe illustrator, I select my favorites and then colorize. This is really just the beginning - I could play with color for days on each pattern I create. I'll share a variety of examples below, and you can see how I will try many different layouts. This process is a wonderful one that can end up resulting in happy accidents, but also allows for much deliberate experimentation in order to create the desired result. 

Once I find the sweet mix that I like, I often create a mockup using the pattern design on a three-dimensional object. It helps me to envision how it might be used, and is always inspiring to see my pattern appear on a realistic texture and shape. 

My Piñata Party pattern will be available for purchase as fabric, gift wrap and wallpaper(!). I hope you've enjoyed this sneak peek into my creative process! Cheers, Courtney Beth Keller of One Little Printshop

Holiday Cars

Hi, my name is Anne Bentley. I recently made a holiday image & thought I'd share how I came up with the final art.

Vintage toy cars are a major source of inspiration for me, appearing in my work pretty regularly. So I began by selecting a few cars (from my collection) to focus on. I sketched them, making an effort to keep them roughly the same size, because I had a vague picture in my head of how I wanted the final art to look. And in my head, they were alike in size. :)


Next I traced over my sketches, creating a pattern of sorts. Then I cleaned it up & brought the sketch into Adobe Ideas on my iPad mini. This is where I do the majority of my work. It's an older app, but I love it for its intuitiveness, which makes it super easy to use. I draw with a rubber nibbed Wacom stylus.

So now the framework is done & the rest is really fun. I chose a nice red, making it a little transparent. I worked in layers, so I now have the option of removing the Christmas trees and using the image for something else later on, if I want to.

At this stage I may add things, here I drew some trees in the background at the top. I was looking to keep this one very minimal, so I decided that it was finished. Voila!

Thanks for taking the time to follow along. 

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!



Let's snuggle up and have some cookies!

Hi there, my name is Nataša Kaiser and I'm glad you stopped by to read our new Blogpost. I decided to share my process of designing a Christmas Card, which was this week's Assignment for the MATS B online class (by Lilla Rogers) that I'm taking right now, as well as Mara, Lisa, Courtney and Adriana from our collective.

For those who don't know Lilla's classes: beside being BIG FUN because of the awesome and very creative briefs we get and having the pleasure to work among very talented and supportive artists, you also learn tons of new things! It's a totally enjoyable experience and I would highly recommend Lilla's classes to anybody working in the design/illustrating business.

So, this week we started off with a so called Mini-Assignment which is there to get you "in the mood". The call was: Go create Cookies! Any sort and in any style you wish. 

How I went about it is pretty much representative for my way of starting an illustration: First I draw what comes straight to mind. Even if it's the cheesiest thing. It helps me, to bring up more ideas if I pour the obvious stuff on paper first.

Here are some snippets of the sketches I did during the first two days:

Usually I like drawing in a sketchbook (e.g. for daily sketching projects). But one thing I learned in MATS classes is to use cheap paper for the first sketches – and lots of it! You shouldn't feel the pressure of making a wrong mark, but enjoy the process of creating many different icons in different styles and mediums. You can see in the photo that I started with watercolor on cheap copy paper. Only as I started to like the look of the cookies I switched to watercolor paper, so I was able to add more pigment without ruining the "canvas".

Here are some more sketches from this first step:

cookies 1.jpg

And then there were different ideas, too. More of the storytelling kind:

After sketching I started to scan in all of the bits and pieces and prepare the most promising sketches in a way, that I could use them for an illustration. I like having the scans kind of organized, because you never know, when they might come in handy :-) 

At first the three little Star-Cookies (Santa, Angel and Snowman) started speaking to me. So I did kind of a layout idea to get going.

I worked on this for some hours and then got stuck. So I decided to have a look at my other icons and see, what I could assemble from them.

I somewhat liked the boldness of the watercolor cookies. Especially the chocolate covered ones. So I thought about some possible layouts I could try with those icons. Since the thoughts came to mind while I was having dinner with my family I sketched them out roughly and began working on the illustration the next day:

When I worked on placing the Cookies in front of the girl and her teddybear I felt, that the picture got to busy and I decided, to leave the two little friends out for now and focus only on a delicious Cookie arrangement.

When eventually the Cookies fell in place I played with different backgrounds. I had some more colors and tones going on, sorry for not saving all of the steps! Here is where I ended up with:


I wanted to make a nice presentation for the final layout, so I popped over to one of my favorite places in the internet: cgtextures.com! Here you can find loads of great FREE textures and backgrounds to manipulate your illos. I downloaded a plywood background, to complement the cozy, rustic and warm chocolate tones of my illo, but made sure it wasn't too dark, so there was enough contrast and the design has a nice "pop".

I liked it so far, but wanted to create the kind of a setting that looks like someone is just about to write their Christmas cards. So I took some pictures of chocolate cookies (that my daughter luckily bought some days before) and a fresh brewed Latte to Photoshop them into my presentation.  Here are the raw photoshoots:

And this is my final presentation:

…and DONE – yay! 

Since I have quite a few Icons left, that I didn't use for this card design I think I'm going to create one or two more – doesn't hurt to have some yummy seasonal stuff in the portfolio, right?

Thanks for stopping by! If you're curious about the next Blogpost by one of my fellow Finches please stay tuned and watch out for announcements on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram!