Creating Repeating Patterns Without Tearing Your Hair Out

Posted on Oct 6, 2015 in Art, How To
Creating Repeating Patterns Without Tearing Your Hair Out

I decided to open an Etsy shop. I’ll be selling hand printed greeting cards and notebooks. The past few months have been filled with planning and researching (How do I open an Etsy shop? What do I sell? TAXES?!?!). But now comes the fun creative part: making patterns and designs to go on my cards and notebooks. I created some patterns previously for my Society6 shop but I needed a bunch more. (More about making patterns in More Pattern Talk and Poppy Flower Pods)

Thumbnail sketches

The process starts with thumbnail sketches (I’ll get into inspiration and research later). I divided my sketchbook page and filled in each box. The objective was getting everything out of my head — a pattern brain dump basically. I continued this way for a few pages then picked out the best ones to explore further. Next I drew out individual pattern elements in Sharpie to refine the shapes. Once I had those, I photographed each element to edit in the computer.

Editing pattern elements in Photoshop

  • Remove color (Image > Mode > Grayscale)
  • Adjust Levels
  • Crop
  • Remove white background (select > color range)
  • Save
  • Waste 10 minutes trying to create a repeating pattern in Photoshop.
  • Remember it’s super easy to do in Illustrator.

Creating repeating patterns in Illustrator

  • Place image (Wait. Didn’t I delete the white background in Photoshop?)
  • Object > Image Trace > Make and Expand
  • Remove white background
  • Object > Pattern > Make
  • Tweak pattern.
  • Fill artboard with pattern (size of linoleum block).
  • Tweak position of pattern (Illustrator > Preferences > General > Transform Pattern Tiles).

Creating repeating patterns for linocut (Illustrator artboards)

Why did I do this? Why didn’t I just draw directly on the linoleum? Did I create unnecessary work for myself? … Don’t question the process. I like the process. My brain likes the process… But seriously, hand-drawing and hand-carving a pattern already invites a lot of variety. I’m not a robot. I wanted to have a more uniform foundation to work from. The Process is all about minimizing variables and last minute adjustments.

Next up, making xerox copies and transferring the patterns to the linoleum.