Hello, pattern lovers! Today, I would like to talk about the most common mistakes when designing a pattern. We all know what to do when we design (we learnt how to use the right motifs, the right colors, we use the right repetition methods, etc), but still we keep on seeing unpleasant, unexciting patterns here and there on the Internet and on products from real life. So why does this happen? As I said, we all learnt the how-to’s very well, -because they are funny and creative!- but we easily forget the boring what not to do’s. So In Pattern We Trust blog will share with you a little list of those frequent mistakes in pattern design and the reason why they occur.
a. The pattern for textiles looks like stationery.
There are many graphic designers and illustrators that began designing patterns in the last few years, because Pattern Design became more popular among them. Graphic designers were used to design following certain visual rules that previously looked great on a stationery set or a website background, but not on a skirt. Graphic designers, to say it briefly, rarely overlay motifs, because it’s much neater to show them separated: that gives a sense of visual cleanness that works perfectly for branding, to name an example. But, on that skirt, they’d seem like a big colorful weird polka dot! So, it’s important to notice, when you become a textile pattern designer, that you should change your visual composition rules that you’ve learnt before just to better fit in the textile language.
Suggestion: take a look at a lot of textile prints first. Pay attention at the graphic styles, the directionality of the motifs, at how much the elements overlap, etc. (Please note that there might be some textile designs that are supposed to emulate a stationery background on purpose, but those are exceptions in this point).
b. The pattern doesn’t repeat properly.
This is a serious mistake, that could lead to very serious problems with clients. So, you have to have the concept clear: a pattern is a pattern because it can be perfectly repeated, without noticing the edges. If you sell patterns, so send patterns to your clients! We usually skip the checking time because of the rush, and because as time goes by, we feel more confident on how we work, but… bad luck could get us all, anytime, even if you are the best with Photoshop or Illustrator.
Suggestion: Check your final files at least 3-5 times with different methods, if you can. You’ll maybe invest more time in this, but you’ll absolutely be investing in your health and professional reputation.
c. The pattern is supposed to be crowded, but instead, it looks messy and it bothers the eye.
You decided to make a complex pattern design, an excitingly intrincate one. You worked a lot on the motifs, drawing every little detail. You made your visual research and your are pouring all you have drawn into your design so far. You thought you were going to fill all the space and, by doing that, you were going to obtain an even and harmonic pattern. But the thing is that your design looks terribly messy. And why is that? Because your eye stops in certain zones it shouldn’t. You have created too many relevant spots in your composition and your pattern is supposed to be read evenly. Maybe you have placed too many objects too closely, or you chose to place the biggest elements too close from one another? Could it be that you decided to work with too many colors and the composition doesn’t need too many to be interesting?.
Suggestion: Check the general balance of your design. May it be a crowded or a simple design, balance is something that must be right in it so your eye doesn’t get bothered. Check the distribution of the objects (please check the left image of this post to see an unbalanced distribution of motifs). Then check the distribution of the colors. Then check the distribution of the textures. And finally, check the distribution of the directionality of the objects. When everything is balanced, your pattern will stop looking messy, and instead, it’ll start looking more sophisticated.
d. The pattern is not as beautiful as it should be.
You have designed your pattern. It’s finished. You’ve spent 3 hours to have it ready and you were happy because it was working out well. But now… you look at it and it’s not what you wanted. Something is missing… or something is too much…you could not exactly tell. You compare it to other patterns you like and you can’t easily find the difference. You even used that lovely color palette you saw on Pinterest. You don’t know what happened and that makes you feel frustrated.
Sometimes the most common mistake here is related to color (of course, there are other mistakes that make patterns ugly, but I think that color is the main and most popular problem). Color is like a superpower: of course you can use it, but you are responsible of how and where you use it! Today we have many ways of finding help on the usage of color: Pinterest, Adobe Color CC, Colourlovers.com, Colorpalettes.net… but not all the examples you see work well once you place them in your motifs and patterns. That is because the proportion of the colors you see vary from the examples to your pattern. You can be using the exact same colors, but color tend to behave completely different in another layout, in another type of motifs or graphic style. So, if you can’t handle color properly, it will make your pattern ugly. Period. (See the right image of this post: motifs may be original, but the visual chaos they create -and specially COLOR- are working against that pattern).
Suggestion: Practice, time, practice. Use the color palettes you see on the Internet or in your favorite design book, and then apply them in different designs and see what happens. In a previous post I shared my own method about how to pick the colors you love from Pinterest (or elsewhere) to your motifs, minimizing the differences between the original example and your design, here. Do this several times. You’ll discover how the different colors interact and the results you may get from those combinations. You will be getting used to those results after all, so you’ll be learning how to avoid unpleasant surprises. Just like if you were an X-men with the Power of Coloring! 🙂
Well, hope this post helped you. I will be discussing some more common mistakes when designing a pattern in my next post, so… stay close!
Have a lovely design day!