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Behind The Scenes - How I Designed My First Pattern Collection

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One of my favorite things to do is just doodle and draw. I've loved it since I was little, and continued to draw through high school, college, and even while teaching. Realistic drawings and paintings weren’t ever really my thing, but little drawings of everyday objects and animals covered every notebook I owned and adorned every note I passed between classes.

Lately, I feel like I’ve lost touch with that side of my creativity. I find that we can get so sucked into our work sometimes, that the creativity gets buried somewhere under order fulfillment, emails, and marketing. A month or so ago, I resolved do just draw more--even if only for myself.

Then a miracle happened. I found out about Bonnie Christine’s course on Creative Live about Designing Surface Patterns from Scratch. At first, I only had a passing interest in pattern design. It’s cool, but I’m a busy lady, and it was a long class. But I saw a few people posting their work on instagram, and I knew I had to check this class out. I watched just a few snippets of the class while it was live, and was hooked! I felt like Bonnie was speaking directly to me. Her soft and honest personality is captivating and her story could be my own. I saw a whole new side of surface pattern design and I knew I had to check it out. I purchased the class so I could watch at my own pace and follow along with the assignments.

Bonnie’s class was incredible. I don’t think I have learned so much from one class in a really long time. And I have had so much fun illustrating and designing patterns! I still love designing invitations--don’t get me wrong! But a whole new world has opened up to me, and this truly feels like it could be my calling! (So stay tuned, because we could see a brand new line of products coming to Fresh Paper Studios this fall!)

I think what I love most about pattern design is that I get to draw and doodle, I get to use Illustrator and do fun computery things, AND it’s mathy! I don’t know if you know this, but I used to be a math teacher! I love that I’ve found something that combines my love of math and my love of art.

I could go on forever about this stuff! But let’s cut to it. Here’s how I built my FIRST pattern collection: Let’s Go Camping!

Let's Go Camping - Pattern Collection by Emily Roach for Fresh Paper Studios

Step 1: Get Inspired

During the course, Bonnie really urged us to think in terms of themes and collections when designing patterns. I was surprised how helpful this was! I thought it might feel limiting, (what if I just randomly want to do a sunflower pattern?) but it actually made it easier to brainstorm and get ideas. It also helped me stay focused so that I could complete a collection instead of ending up with a bunch of random designs. I put together a little inspiration board with photos from our family’s camping trips to keep me inspired and on track.

I chose to create a collection about camping! This summer, my family bought an old bus and we've been busy restoring it, adding bunk beds, and getting out into the wilderness with it. His name is Hank, and he's AWESOME! We've always been a camping family, and having Hank join the tribe has made camping easier and more accessible--no matter what weather Oregon throws at us. I think design should be fun. And I can't think of anything more fun than the camping trips we took this summer.

Let's Go Camping Inspiration Board | Fresh Paper Studios

Step 2: Get Colorful

I love color. Big, bold, bright colors are my jam. For this collection, I really wanted to mix some natural colors of my favorite Oregon campsites with a few of Hank’s signature colors. I used this photo of Hank at Frog Lake on Mt. Hood to pull colors from, then also grabbed a couple oranges from one of our campfires.

Let's Go Camping Color Story | Fresh Paper Studios

Step 3: Get Sketchy

It has been so long since I’ve just drawn. And that’s what I love so much about surface pattern design and illustration--I just get to draw! It’s so much fun. I filled a whole sketchbook with drawings of leaves, branches, pinecones, trailers, busses, RVs, tents, marshmallows, and everything that I saw while camping this summer!

Let's Go Camping Sketches | Fresh Paper Studios

Step 4: Get Illustrated

I’ve been using Adobe Illustrator for years now, but mostly for invitations--and my invitations are pretty heavy on type and not so much on illustrations. So it was really fun to use this program I love so much in a totally new way! And Bonnie taught me so many new tricks and tips that I can use in my everyday work as well.

I became slightly obsessed with pinecones while working on this collection! It was fun to experiment with different illustration techniques to see what style I liked best. I decided that using the blob brush to trace over my sketches gave me the look I wanted to use.

Pinecone Illustrations | Fresh Paper Studios

Step 5: Scale, Rotate, Repeat

Creating the repeating patterns is so fun and so addicting! Just seeing elements come together is magical. I discovered that I lean toward more random, scattered patterns with complex arrangements than patterns that are very linear, geometric, or obvious. I know I need to work more on adding some patterns that are a little more toned down to give some breathing room between the big crazy patterns. That’s my next challenge!

Building Repeating Patterns | Fresh Paper Studios

Creating a pattern collection | Fresh Paper Studios

Step 6: Get Collected

Putting together the collection was fun! It even grew a little bigger than I originally planned. (I was aiming for 6 patterns and created 8. I played with color a bit so that there weren’t too many green patterns or too many browns, and I made sure to create some simpler, smaller patterns to give that resting space. Here’s how they all work together!

Let's Go Camping Pattern Collection by Emily Roach | Fresh Paper Studios

Step 7: Are we ever really finished?

As an artist, it often feels like our work is never “done.” There’s always something that can be tweaked or improved. I have some ideas for how I can make the Camp Homes pattern better. I want to create a new pattern based on different types of pine cones. I think overall I’d like to see more blue. I want to try a second color story. My work is not done.

But that’s the beauty of deadlines. I submitted this collection and the work leading up to it to a contest Bonnie was running for students of her class. And it ends today! I may not feel like the collection is finished, but it’s at a point that I’m comfortable submitting it. My next step is to let it simmer for a bit and come back to it. Tweak the things I want to tweak and try new things I want to try, then start building a portfolio!

Can’t get Enough?

One of the greatest parts of taking has been class is interacting with my classmates and seeing their work! It’s so fun to see everyone’s unique style--there really is room for all of us and all of our talents in this big world of design.

Check out the other participants in this blog tour!

Kate wrote a great piece on Friday, and you can check out her post here: A Southern Lady’s Ramblings

Amanda will be writing tomorrow, here: Amanda McGee Designs I can't wait to learn about her collection!

And you can check out the whole list of participants and follow the entire tour on Bonnie’s blog! Going Home to Roost.

And if you'd like to see what else I have in store, take a sec to sign up for my newsletter here! I'm sending out a super fun free printable tomorrow!

Are you a designer too?

Designing Surface Patterns from Scratch is hands down the best class I’ve ever taken on CreativeLive. (And that’s saying a lot, because I’m a class addict!) If you’d like to learn how to use Illustrator and how to create your own surface pattern designs, I highly recommend Bonnie’s class, which is available for purchase on CreativeLive.

And Bonnie is so generously offering a free month of membership to the Roost Tribe! The Roost tribe is a wonderful and supportive community of creatives, and the tribe has access to all sorts of exclusive content about design, blogging, marketing, and more! So come on over with me and try it out! You could find a wonderful home in this little nest of creatives. How Sweet!

Free Month Membership to Roost Tribe

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Fresh Paper is a hip, funky invitation boutique that caters to wickedly awesome couples who value great design. We specialize in clever, offbeat, and unique invitations for today's modern couple. We call Portland, Oregon home, and we're thrilled to work with couples around the globe. We also love babies, new houses, and new businesses! We're here to help you celebrate life's great adventures!