Pattern illustration is an art of creating a unique but attractive illustration that can be printed repeatedly on a surface. The illustration part of it is the most demanding in terms of skills and techniques. But, thanks to modern design software, artists can do their job with ease, saving both time and effort. Budding illustrations, however, need to stick to some fundamentals of the techniques and skills. Expert illustrator Tyler Pate shares his experience and how to proceed to create impressive artwork.
The art of illustration requires the artist to have not only some skill sets but also the ability to use modern design software. A combination of a desire to create an impressive illustration and its techniques is essential for success in this field. But, most of the budding illustrators struggle to have a clear direction.
To help solve their issues, Printshop by Designhill, the leading creative marketplace, conducted a workshop with Illustrator Tyler Pate. The workshop was part of the digital art conference WTF’20, organized from 30th March to 1st April.
Tyler Pate said while starting the workshop, ‘ I will dive into a few fun things that I love to do, which is the illustration. I am a graphic designer and illustrator, who can explore every little medium. If you are familiar with my Instagram or YouTube channel, I do a lot of illustrations, and some are pretty random. It is fun because I just come up with these ideas off the cuff. Many times I try to merge two mediums and create something new.’
Here Is the Video Of the Workshop With Tyler Pate
Like, how to draw a snake coming out of toilet paper roll?
Tyler: For instance, I thought that working on this toilet paper was fun. So, I will draw a snake on this toilet paper. Just sit back and laugh a little bit. Right now, I will use Adobe Illustrator because I can always scale this illustration. The final product is something that I could have as small as a thumbtack or as large as a billboard. Many times you are restricted to DPI or a resolution and vector in both Photoshop and other sorts of programs. But with Illustrator, you can scale as much as you want.
Starting with a Pencil Sketch
So, I started with this pencil sketch. Some people like to sketch in other programs and import it into Illustrator. But I simply use a pencil and paper to do the illustration. I take a picture of my cell phone and send it directly to the program. From there, I use this as the base layer. You will notice everything on the side over here in my layers. It is my reference in my sketches, and then I have my artwork above that.
First, I will illustrate this toilet paper roll. I will first draw the oval shapes with the help of the Ellipse tool and have my straight lines, roughly something like this. Now, I will turn my stroke off. I will now work with solid shapes. Here, note that due to your work layer above your reference or your sketches, you can isolate that layer by holding command and clicking the little eyeball icon there. This gives you outlines of everything in that layer. Now my work is more transparent, and so I can work on top of this drawing. And we are just going to build that toilet paper roll by just copying and pasting that same shape.
I will add the shape from the center, so it stays in the perfect center portion of this dimension. And I will just keep working through this.
Get Consistent Lines
I will duplicate the same shapes over and over, and you can get consistent lines that way. If you use some shortcut keys, I use Command a lot. And what that does is if you go up under view, that is adding my Smart Guides. So, for any of you who want to jump into Illustrator, sometimes having Smart Guides helps because it allows you to line up all of your stuff. And you see these little markers that appear when I start drawing little pink lines. That is kind of helping me what the Smart Guides do. This kind of help you move along the program and have everything either parallel or perpendicular to other shapes within the file.
You will notice I can connect the dots a lot quicker that way. I am just building out the shape, almost in a 3d manner. But what is cool about this is, I can do all this in Illustrator. I will have all of these shapes flattened, so it keeps my file size way down.
If you ever struggle with any technical problems with the computer, maybe it is the file size that I found out through messing with 3D effects in Illustrator. It will just drag your computer down. If you went here for a 3D effect, you could make this shape through here. But it is just too much on the computer most of the time. So, I choose to do it this way instead. Selecting this, I am doing Shift M., And I now merge shapes that way. And that is what I will do. I just noticed that this shape right here is not connected, zooming in, making sure that this line See, it was not connecting and touching this other shape. So it needs to touch there for this to work.
Both of those shapes are touching each other. And by having those shapes touch like that, we can merge them. Now we have the shape that we will use for that toilet paper roll. If we go to our Regular view, we can adjust the colors. I will modify these colors later, but just to show you some differences in each shape.
So let us go back to the drawing, I have this toilet tissue paper coming undone from the role. So I am going to use a pencil for this. I am just going to kind of take a coin off that circle that I can just kind of come off from. And again, holding down without releasing the cursor, I am able to get these little handles that help my curve tremendously. I am just trying to find a curve that comes off that oval right there. So then I can play with that shape. So, the toilet paper roll is going to be on its side. There is a kind of like a flap of paper coming up. But we need to think about how that would react in the real world.
Designhill: How did you come up with the idea of a toilet roll?
Tyler: It is relevant to the present crisis.
I think sometimes it is a little funny how crazy things can get. People are going crazy about toilet paper right now, which I think is something I thought could bring to a conclusion. I thought what an illustration, which could be relevant to the times but also be a little more lighthearted, is. So, I thought that everybody was treating toilet paper like such a scarcity. It has got this fear connotation around it, and I think the snake represents that fear. So I figured a snake would be cool to illustrate and something fun to depict in this style.
So, as you can see, I am starting to put this shape in there, roughly placing it, and I am duplicating it. I always like to duplicate my shapes and objects so that I could have a reference back to the original. I will modify this shape right here quite a bit. And sometimes you go too far along, and you realize that you might have messed up something and it’s good to have that reference back to the original. So just a key thing to always remember to duplicate and just make sure you have a safety net. I am going to go back into outlines. Let’s see what we can do here. We are going to stretch it a little bit.
So we have the snake coming out of the tube here, and it is wrapping around the piece. It should hide the bottom half of the toilet paper roll, and then we have the snake’s head. So I am going to start with the snake portion coming out of the tube here. I will sort of freehand this with the pen tool as I am an avid user of the pen tool. I use a Wacom Cintiq, so I am drawing all of this with a pen on the tablet too.
I am plotting all my points, as you will see with this pen, which makes it a lot quicker. If you are using the mouse, you could still do this. I used a mouse for probably four years before I finally upgraded to a Wacom. So it’s possible. It just takes a little more time, some from my opinion. And I am just kind of building this shape out from that oval in the center.
And I am roughly guesstimating a little bit of where my lines go. But you are able to see it pretty quickly when it’s working, which is a good sign.
Play With The Design
For instance, that shape is just not organic enough. So, I will play with the handles a bit, and try to get it nice and round. Again, we need fluid shapes. We are trying to mimic the thickness of this consistently. You could do this with a stroke, but I like to have a little more freedom to adjust my lines manually. Now you are starting to see this shape coming out. And you see it gets a bit weird right here, it’s a little too thick. I will bring it down. It is just adjustments, you get that basic shape, and then you are making a ton of adjustments and trying just to get everything to look consistent. See that I am doing that.
Here is another trick I could use to get this same oval shape on the bottom of the snake going in. I will expand this shape outward. So, this shape is completely overlapping. And if you select both of the shapes, I will use the Merge tool again, and merge that. Then, I will select and copy, but make sure it is copied in your clipboard and go backward. So command Z. Now back before I did that, I am going to delete this. And then you know my clipboard still has that object in there. So I will command and paste it right back into place. I did that because I have that shape of the snake, and I still have this original oval down below it. So I can keep everything intact. To keep my colors from being too distracting, I will change this to a different color. We will adjust these colors later.
So the drawing is starting to get something that looks a little more like the sketch, and then we have all of these other segments of the snake around the toilet paper. So what I will do is try to find that high point. I will trace that outline of the sketch as much as I can. And it looks like the snake goes back under itself right there. So this piece is not as essential to get right, it’s going to be hidden. Now, we will try to get the other half of the snake. This piece is going above objects.
Love To Work with Adobe Suite
Now I will use the top layer, which is my artwork, and then having my sketch and reference materials down below that layer. It allows me to turn this layer on and off to outline mode, and later still see my sketch below. You can see this is the outline of all my lines, all of the illustration components. And it helps me just reference back to my original sketching concept which, as you see that I’m basing this loosely off of a sketch I made of a toilet paper snake.
But what I am doing right now is to try to get this shape to rub up against a toilet paper here. So I adjusted the snake so that the lines are perfect beside parallel lines.
So you can now see everything taking shape, and I am doing it one segment at a time. I will treat each one of these segments slightly differently for once I get to like the scales and the shading, and I will adjust my lines. I want it to look more fluid. And, it helps to know a little bit about the anatomy of what you’re illustrating. I recently pulled some reference materials. I am going to use these later. I picked these images before the start of this talk, and they will help me get the head of the snake.
A Bit of Research Involved
I have some references here. Look at the pattern of the skills that is all going to come in handy. I have already looked and researched the different angles and motions of this snake. It should fluidly wrap itself around this object, how it would go in, and come back out. And that is going to allow me to build these things so that it looks a little more realistic.
Now, I will do this little tail, and this would be a little fun piece to do. You can see how it kind of loops underneath this bigger shape, comes around, and then goes right back over itself. Now, I will build that probably in two pieces. I will start with this piece and build it upward.
And now, if you hold the spacebar, you can freely move that point. That is another quick tip that really speeds up the process. This is Because sometimes, you can’t always place these points perfectly every time. So, see how I have to think through this piece. I know it has to be two pieces because it’s overlapping. But for the time being, I will just sit it like this.
Those are technically two shapes, one there, and then I just made this line here. And I am going to use the Clipping Mask tool to kind of chop all these up a little bit. But I want to get my curves right because it is going to help, and it seemed more fluid after I cut it.
Giving curve to the shape
Now, I am getting a gentle little curve and trying to place this almost in the center of what I think this shape would be. Whenever I look at shapes like this, I imagine this being a perfect circle. So, I will plot the center of the tail in the circle as a reference for this needs to go up when adjusting it as needed.
I think of it like finessing anything. I mean, it is sort of subjective. If you guys were to reference my sketch and illustrate this snake, it would be different every time. Even if I were to illustrate this snake again, it would be different, which is cool, because it shows you how you can make everything that you create your own. It makes every piece unique. And I think there is something fun about that. You don’t have to worry about too many people copying your work because there is only one that fits those exact lines.
Alright, so I think that’s getting close. So I will select this and that shape and will think through the shape. So first off, again, I am back to Shift M., And that is my merge tool, and now I will clip this piece out and select it.
Now, I will do command Z to go back, and then do Command F, which is going to paste that shape back in place. So, I always like to have that safety net because not only do I have this cutout, but I also have that original shape underneath. This is because you never know you might get through this and realize you need to adjust some lines. And if you don’t have that original shape, then you may be in difficulty. It helps to have that reference. Now I need to figure out this tail portion.
I will fake it a little bit. It’s going to look like it’s one piece, but really it won’t be. This is where color comes into play. So this should probably be Is that above what I’m doing right now is that I’m adjusting the arrangement of the shapes, I’m placing some above and some below each other.
Put a Shadow
Since this is going to need a shadow, I know that there’s going to be a shadow here because it’s going above itself and I know it needs to be curved. So I will let that be the separating point.
So what I have recently been doing is working on this till here, I figured making a little cutout in the towel would help me get the shape above it. So if I broke this apart, that is what I am dealing with. See, we got another shaper here. We’re going to use the Ellipse tool. That’s a solid piece. Take that all the way back.
Designhill: What are the pros and cons of Wacom versus using Procreate on an iPad?
Tyler: First, whether you use an iPad or Wacom, you will need a laptop. I would almost define those two things first because what you can’t have on the iPad is Creative Suite. Creative Suite is Adobe Creative Suite that is Adobe Illustrator Adobe Photoshop after effects all of those like beautiful products. There is no comparable program like that on the iPad.
Create while you are on the move
The Creative Suite has like alternative app versions that go on the iPad, but they are by no means as powerful as the ones for the computer. If you use a Creative Suite program and need a laptop, you will use a Wacom or any drawing tablet to connect to a computer. Procreate is on the iPad, so you are using Procreate. It is excellent if you have both of those platforms. I think you are in the best world because you could take that iPad and go on the plane and travel, draw in Procreate, send it to Illustrator, Photoshop, and then elaborate that illustration more in that program.
But if you are not planning to use Adobe Suite or Illustrator and instead use Adobe products, then I would advise you to get an iPad and Procreate because that will help you go everywhere. And I think the biggest thing that I learned from the whole Wacom, Procreate, and iPad debate is that you create no matter what and wherever you are. I found that I am constrained to my desk, and I can’t go very far from it and still have the same resources that I would typically have.
Designhill; How do you go about exploring a new illustration style?
Tyler: I generally have a running list of ideas or just notes that I am continually using on different design inspiration sites like Dribble, Behance, and Instagrams. I create little folders to save my ideas or styles that I find very interesting. And that running list allows me to whenever I am ready to sit down and work on something completely new. I’m just kind of looking through that list and whatever pops up first in my head.
That style would work correctly with this other idea that I’ve been thinking about. So I merged the two like that. The style is all about preference. I am typically drawn towards things that are almost iconic or something that has an isometric view or perspective to it. Or even like what we’re illustrating right now, It is also about merging a couple of different things. It’s got perspective, but it also has a lot of texture because the snake is going to have all the opportunities for texture. So I’m defining processes and styles based on what I can get out of it.
Designhill: How to draw by imagining a specific thing?
Tyler: Look for ideas in all directions.
I guess there are some different directions to think about that are if you are imagining or coming up with original ideas. Look at what I am drawing right now. I am drawing a tube of toilet paper with a snake running through it. I don’t know where from that idea came. You can see that there is a relevance to what we are all going through, which is the pandemic Coronavirus. It stemmed from this outlandish reaction to hoarding toilet paper. That is where that idea came to me.
Then, to make that idea something interesting, I incorporate something that can balance this composition by having this snake intertwined with it. But I am also able to achieve something cool. I know that this snake is going to have a lot of texture on it, the snakes have scales and all these little details that I want. It was a no brainer for me to go with the snake because it checked all the boxes I wanted. But there’s nothing wrong with going off of reference materials.
Again, I have this reference of two snakes. I will now work on these. I work on the head of these snakes from this angle, and there is a lot of nuances to this. This snake in the composition is counterproductive for me. I will draw it over and over until I get it correctly. I can use this reference material to get this head perfect and incorporate it with my sketch. So, I think there’s a balance to it.
Work more to create original artwork
You should imagine or visualize it. The biggest thing that helped me whenever I think of that breakthrough moment was when I tried to create original content, and not just rely solely on something I have seen. I created by just doing enough. I got familiar with the programs. I’ve been doing this for about eight years. And in five of those years, I was an art director at a design agency where I was producing a great amount of artwork.
So, I was able to go through a lot of styles and explored a lot of different variations. Thus, I get faster with the program and become comfortable with it. Once you start feeling that way, you start seeing things as a time limit, like how long will it take me to finish the work and how is it going to pay me. It is no longer the question of whether or not I can do it. Instead, the mindset is how long will I take it to complete.
I think everyone who knows me personally, could probably say that I am a little obsessed with illustrating, design, and processing. I spend a lot of time on it because I enjoy it. So, I just keep working on it. And I think you will surprise yourself when you finally hit that aha moment and you are making your own creative decisions.
Designhill: What illustration trends do you see in 2020?
Editorial Design Style
I think that this whole editorial design style is still an upward trend that you see on applications like Facebook or Instagram, LinkedIn, and Dropbox. All these platforms are using this is very editorial style. I think that it is a very cool trend. I like the style a lot. I have explored that trend, and you can see it on my Instagram recently. I did an illustration with the Wacom, and it has a girl poking out a shark, which is the editorial style work.
I think the pet trend is consistent lately, and many people want to see more of it. So I can see that becoming a known trend for 2020.
Designhill: How should illustration and designing newbies should go about and what mistakes to avoid?
Tyler: Create as much as you can.
The first thing I tell you is that you should create. You have to create as much as you can, and I still do that today. Consequently, you get your workload and output becomes this whole other beast. You can really explore things quicker. The faster you understand the program, the better everything with the process comes to you. This is because you understand what and how you can do it. You will understand how perspective works and how color plays a huge effect.
Right now, I am laying out rough colors. This is not going to be the color you see at the final product. I will define the shapes, that is part of understanding perspective and a lighting source, a shadow, and what needs to be cast to highlight.
So the best advice I can give you is to go on creating more. The more projects you have, the more understanding you are going to have about it. I would say if you are starting or are in school, you are in a more advantageous position than any other designer in the field. This is because you hopefully would have a little more time to explore these programs, to experiment, and not have as much criticism.
A big fear for artists is that they think that what they create is not good enough. As an artist, you have to deal with that fear. But the more you create, the better you get at it, and the more confidence you get with the result. Once you start seeing the results consistently, nothing can stop you. You will become a powerhouse for creating artworks.
Let’s say if someone says that I am bad at drawing, how can I begin with quick sketching for my designs? I honestly think I am bad at drawing. I use drawing and stuff sketching in my notebook as a form of ideas to remember. I do not necessarily use them in their original form. I use them as reference material, such as if that sketch is enough for you to remember and understand what the concept is, then that’s good enough.
If you want to get better at creating illustrations or anything, then do it over and over. Join some tutorials on illustration or anything that interests you, as you are watching me do this illustration job. Find such webinars or tutorials to get some useful fingertips.
But it is a trial and error process. The best result you can get out of it is that you continue to evolve. I will say that my process is not perfect, and I am trying to get better at all the time. It takes time to work within these programs and understanding it more. And, I use command Z a lot to go forward and backward until it feels right.
How to get that intuition of knowing if it feels right or not? I get that intuition by looking at other people’s artwork and seeing things that inspire me. So, there are people that I follow and that I really enjoy watching their process. And I try to be as good as them.
Designhill: Are there any tutorials you use to learn on any YouTube channels in particular?
Tyler: There is none in particular. Usually, whenever I look for help on how to do something, I do a broad search. I don’t think there is one channel that has answered all of my questions. When you search for something in perspective as yourself some queries, ask questions such as what type of perspective are you looking for? Are you looking for a vanishing point perspective? Are you looking for an isometric perspective? Once you understand those terms, you can use them to search. Those key search terms help you find the desired results.
Now I come back to the sketch I am creating right now. At first, I was repeating and guesstimating the lines of the toilet paper throughout this shape. Then, I redid that, and now I want to use a blend mode instead. So, what I did was use one shape here at the minimum and then the other shape at the maximum distance. And then I do option command B, which is to blend, and by doing that, you’re able to have the program precisely plot each of those lines and a blending mode. You can adjust that easily by double-clicking the blend option and specific distance. That is a huge time saver and allows you to have a little more precision in your work.
So, this is the process that Tyler Pate goes through, usually to create pattern illustrations. You should follow the procedure and the tips for creating unique illustrations.
While you are learning your art, you can create a portfolio with your artworks and sell them. All you need to do is to open your online store with PrintShop of Designhill. At PrintShop, you have plenty of opportunities for selling your illustration works and other artworks at your choice of prices and profit margins.
Pattern illustration is an art that requires you to have a certain set of skills as well as proficiency in handling the design software. Tyler Pate showed the right approach to create illustrations with the help of the design tools. He advised budding illustrations to go on creating illustration works and get inspiration from everywhere.