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Top 12 Tips To Follow When Creating Surface Patterns

by Alice Jackson Tweet - in Webinar

Pattern Design

Last updated on November 23rd, 2022

Today, you can observe the presence of surface patterns almost everywhere. Earlier, the patterns were seen mostly on clothing and wallpapers, etc. Now, even mobile phone covers come with unique surface pattern designs. A wide range of industries, including furniture and fashion, use surface patterns to stand out and attract customers. The importance of these patterns and their designers is now firmly established.

Surface design is an artwork that a designer makes to apply it to a surface. The aim behind sticking a pattern to a product is to enhance the visual appearance of its surface. For instance, a furniture designer helps to make functional furniture; while a surface pattern designer creates an attractive patterned fabric to cover furniture.

The Job Of A Surface Pattern Designer

A surface pattern designer creates patterns that can give surfaces energy, character, and movement to make them visually appealing. Therefore, the designer is essential to make your daily life a little more colorful and enjoyable. Without a pattern, any product will look dull and unattractive, and it is reduced to mare usefulness.

For example, a mobile phone is highly useful for chatting and connectivity. But a user may have the same expensive phone for many years, making it a somewhat monotonous and boring product to have. But by putting a pattern on its back and changing those patterns every month will make the handset a pleasing device to look at.

However, creating surface patterns is not easy. You need a professional approach to design surface patterns that are acceptable to businesses and industries. The patterns must stand out and comply with the new trends of colors, etc. You must have your own unique style to create distinctive patterns.

AMA On Surface Pattern Designs

To help the design community find out the right way to create surface patterns, Designhill — a leading creative marketplace, organized an AMA (Ask Me Anything) session on the topic on September 9, 2019, with Teresa Chan. She answered the designer’s queries and elaborated on many crucial aspects of surface patterns.

Teresa Chan is the founder of ‘Chan Graphics’ and a reputed surface pattern designer and illustrator. She has worked with many top brands from a wide range of industries including wallpaper, textiles, furniture, fashion, stationery, and home goods. She has collaborated with Bloomingdales, One Kingslane, TJ Maxx, Walmart, and StitchFix.
She also has an extensive licensing program with Mark & Graham, Casetify, Camelot Fabrics, and Paintbrush Studios.

Here Is The Video Of The AMA Session With Teresa Chan

Here Are The Key Points She Raised During The AMA When Advising On How To Create Surface Pattern Designs

01. Know Your Audience

Designing a pattern depends on who your target audience is. If you know your audience, then you can direct your style to create, specifically for those people. But if you are creating patterns for yourself to post them on Instagram, then do that regularly to find your style. That will help you shine through practice and showing up.

Know Your Audience

02. Get The Inspiration

There are quite a few different platforms that can tell you what is trending in the fall of 2020. The fashion trends are predicted in a year in advance. Amongst such platforms, I think Patternbank is one of them. But if you Google for the pattern trends, you get many of them. You need to subscribe to some of these platforms to access their patterns.

So far as I’m concerned, sometimes my daughter mentions that it is trending in her school. Or, I could find out something that resonates with me while shopping. Then, I will put my creative twist to it for making it look unique. I could also Google for the colors that are trending and upcoming next year and incorporate one or two of them in my base colors. But do not become a slave to the trends when creating surface pattern designs that stand out.

Get The Inspiration

Also, inspiration can come from anywhere. It should be from some authentic place, or it will not translate into something creative. So, you can get inspiration while shopping or observing nature. Besides, you can take pictures that inspire. Then, when you are not getting an idea and face a mental block, you can go back to those pictures for inspiration.

I spend only a couple of hours using computers to create patterns. That is my way to save myself from burnout due to sitting in front of a computer all day. Graphic designers also visit a collection of some legendary designers to get some graphic design ideas. That is true even for the pattern designers.

03. Be Passionate About The Job And Practice

I will say that, first of all, you should be passionate about what you do. If you are committed, and you love pattern design, you move forward every day. Initially, I used to look for ways to educate me on surface patterns. There are different ways to sell your art. I bought a book named ‘Art Money and Success’ which helped me in knowing about the business aspects such as licensing, sample contracts that you can modify.

Be Passionate About The Job And Practice

Keep yourself with daily practice is vital to be successful in this industry. There may be a time when you face creativity blocked. But once I sit down and commit a few minutes, I start doing my work. That is how your style evolves and works on things that you are excited about.

Another tip is to share your journey of creativity. I feel like sharing my journey through social media using Instagram. Sharing on my creativity on Instagram with the pattern design community and directors that are looking for talent was tremendous.

04. Pattern Design Selling Platforms

I sell my pattern works through Instagram and networking. You should start researching what companies are likely to buy your surface pattern designs. As a beginner, envisage in which companies your patterns can fit in.

Pattern Design Selling Platforms

Find out where you would like to see your patterns. For example, if you are a stationery pattern designer, know how to reach out to the stationery making companies. You can create a letter template for reaching out to those companies.

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05. Licensing

Once you have a portfolio together, you should then have marked an industry that can buy your surface pattern designs. There is a book called Graphic Design Guild that has a list of manufacturers. Then send emails to them to find out which of them are interested in buying your work.


In my case, my clients negotiate it with me on social media regarding the licensing. They will talk about what kind of percentage I would like to have. But you should ask a bunch of strategic questions if you are licensing your artwork. Make sure that there is a contract. Sometimes the process takes months as go back and forth in the licensing process.

06. Deciding A Price For Your Pattern Designs

Of course, you want to figure out what the industry prices for surface pattern designs are on the market. The prices are different all over the world. Your cost of living also should determine your price for selling your pattern design.

For example, I live in San Francisco, where the cost of living is very high. So, my rate of pattern designs that I created includes the cost of living, the software I use, my time, my creativity, how much the design means to me, etc.

Deciding A Price For Your Pattern Designs

There are different ways when it comes to pricing. Some of my pattern designs are for licensing. Such designs have my name attached to them. Some of my artwork people buy outright, meaning they give me money one way and I give them the digital files.

Such designs do not have my name attached to it. Sometimes, people buy the designs outright, and my name is attached to it.

07. How A Pattern Design Portfolio Look Like

A lot of portfolios have been digitally created now. There is a platform called Issuu that allows you to create your digital portfolio. You can put together a book and export it in PDF. You can share it privately with an art director.

The platform lets you know if the director has seen your portfolio or not. That is an excellent way of showing your work and putting together your portfolio. Portfolios are a great way to sell pattern design and graphic design services to clients.

How A Pattern Design Portfolio Look Like

People want to see variety in terms of collection. They want to see how you put together a hero print with the secondary print. This means that there should be the main print, which is the hero print and then three to four supporting prints. Also, they might want to see how you use different colors. Consider all such aspects when showing up your digital portfolio.

As far as the number of pieces in a portfolio is concerned, I would say that showing 8-10 strong pieces in a collection is all right. It also depends on the industry. For example, if you are creating the portfolio for textiles, 8 to 10 prints are enough. For stationery, it may be a different number.

08. Be Unique

It is crucial to find your voice and your artistic style in pattern designing. Your artistic style can be similar to others but different in terms of what you like to design such as abstracts or something concrete and very realistic. So, first, find out what interests you and then playing around that over and over again. That is the way to get your style.

Be Unique

09. Future Of Pattern Design

I think the scope is broad as anywhere you go, you find surface patterns. There is a lot of opportunities in this field. I have opportunities to have my surface pattern designs on clothing, furniture, fabrics, gifts, etc.

Future Of Pattern Design

10. Way To Know A Good Pattern Design

I put my designs on mockups. That is the way art directors find out how a design will look like on furniture, clothing-fabrics, etc. surfaces.

Way To Know A Good Pattern Design

11. Build Instagram Following

Creating patterns consistently is essential to building your Instagram following. You should post your creative patterns once or twice a day. Follow the artists whose style you like. Then, you should start liking their posts. This is the way to create a community of artists that you want.

Build Instagram Following

If you reply to the questions on Instagram, it triggers the algorithm in terms of engagement. It all creates a kind of synergy where more people see your posts.

12. Keep Art And Business Separate

Whether you are a professional graphic designer or a pattern designer, keep your artistic side separate from business. At the time of negotiating with clients over the pricing of your works, you should deal with them as a business person and not as an artist. If you know the right price to sell your work, do not compromise on it, and stick to your stand.

Keep Art And Business Separate

So, these were the significant points discussed in the AMA session with Teresa Chan. Pay heed to her advice and see where you are going wrong, and correct the mistakes.

Designhill is a place to learn not only about different aspects of designs, but the business owners and designers can rely on it to find out unique design solutions. Businesses can launch design contests or work on a one-to-one basis with their choice of designers using this platform to get design ideas.

Wrapping Up

Surface pattern designs are everywhere these days to enhance the visual appearance of a product and make it look appealing to customers and users. Teresa Chan advised the designers first to know more about the target audience, get inspiration for new design ideas, be passionate and practice a lot, use design platforms to sell your artwork, pay attention to licensing and pricing, and build an Instagram following.

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Alice Jackson is a business consultant, blogger, social media enthusiast, online market analyst, amateur designer and an avid author at Designhill. She has written on several topics including social media marketing, SEO, content marketing, startup strategies and e-commerce. When she’s not writing, she loves spending her time reading romantic novels, Connect with her on Twitter: @jackson_alice1



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