With Digital Design the Possibilities are Endless

newchristmaspatternfinalrepeatw
As I sat down at the computer to design a pattern around my elf sketches, I quickly realized the sketches were just the tip of the iceberg. What kind of background did I want? A snowy scene? Or maybe a plaid background? When working with pens, paper, watercolor – basically any tools not on the computer – we have choices and options but once we move forward with a decision, things can only be changed so much. On the computer anything can be undone, changed, resized, rotated, colors altered, layers overlayed, etc. It’s a bit overwhelming! And I work as a graphic designer for a living. It must be the blending of the two – the hand drawn and the computer – that has my head swimming!

I started with the elves from my sketchbook and added this snowy night background behind them. It was interesting, but the dark sky didn’t seem right for Christmas gift wrap. I tried the plaid background, but I didn’t like the computer drawn plaid behind the watercolor. But, I ordered a fabric swatch of the snowy night out of curiosity.
gingerbreadhousesrepeatw elvesplaidrepeatw

Another day I went back to the sketchbook and drew Christmas elements, and eventually added watercolor to them. I also painted stripes in red and green. Back at the computer (on another day), I scanned and played around with the different elements. I liked using the watercolor stripes much better than the computer plaid. Although it was a challenge to get the stripes to look right when I repeated the pattern. I’ve order a swatch of this pattern, so I’ll keep you posted!

Here’s the Christmas Watercolor Stripes design without the repeat:
newchristmaspattern2w

I’m interested in your thoughts! Out of the 3 designs, which do you like the best?

  1. Christmas Watercolor Stripes
  2. Snowy night at the North Pole
  3. Elves on plaid

Leave me a comment and let me know. Thanks!! 🙂

If you’d like to see my other gift wrap and fabric designs, please click here.

 

Overlay designs to create a new design and a pattern

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I recently came across a watercolor painting I did in pinks, blues and yellows. At the time I was trying to paint abstractly. The other day for my InkTober challenge I drew Montauk daisies, which are in bloom in the yard. I immediately thought of that watercolor and thought it would be cool to overlay the daisies over it.

inkdaisieswatercolorpost

I did something a little different with this pattern. I set up the watercolor painting so the edges don’t fall in the same place as the edges of the ink drawing. (They fall in the center.)

I’m happy to be designing patterns again and remembering how to have the background line up differently was a small victory for me! Last time I was working with a pattern I was struggling with having it be organic and actually lining up when it repeated.

If you’d like to learn more here is a post on how to create a pattern. Let me know if you’d like more info on the subject. 🙂

Here is the design on repeat:

montaukdaisypatternrepeatwm

A Crab Pattern

crabrepeat

crabset
Another pattern design for you. I forgot all about pattern design last month until the 29th. But, once I remembered, I went straight to my crab sketch. One of you commented that you knew I’d turn it into something. Well with your encouragement I have. 🙂
crabsketches

I painted the backgrounds separately in watercolor. And put everything together in Photoshop. With the spring weather here, summer can’t be far behind!

crabback-1 crabback sand

Learn more about how I create patterns here.

 

Try String Art! A heart shaped tutorial.

finalstringartheart
I’ve been wanting to try string art for months. When I saw my Valentine’s Day pattern printed – I knew it would make the perfect background. Have you been wanting to try string art? If so, gather these materials and read on.

  • 8″ x 10″ frame with the glass removed
  • 8″ x 10″ piece of cork board (or use an additional piece of corrugated cardboard)
  • 3 pieces of 8″ x 10″ corrugated cardboard
  • patterned paper cut to 8″ x 10″
  • red embossing thread
  • nails – I used wire nails (#18 x 3/4″), approx. 50 nails
  • hammer
  • scissors
  • spray mount or other adhesive
  1. Take the glass out of the frame and use the frame backing to cut the cork board, cardboard pieces, and patterned paper.
    cutpaper
  2. Apply adhesive to the patterned paper and secure to cork board
    spraysmooth
  3. Place paper and cork board (facedown) into the frame. Put one – three cardboard pieces behind it. If frame backing fits, use it. Otherwise use tape to secure cardboard to the back of the frame. Use enough cardboard for a tight fit. Flip frame over.
    cardboardtapepaper
  4. Cut out heart to use as template
    cuttemplate
  5. Place heart in the center of the frame and use a nail to poke holes (equally spaced) around the heart.
    poke
  6. Remove the heart and hammer nails into the holes.
    nail nails
  7. Knot one end of the embossing string to one nail. Trim loose string.
    tie
  8. Wrap string around a nail on the opposite side of the heart. I wrapped the string fully around the nail, before string the next nail.
    firstwrapstring1
  9. Continue stringing the heart by wrapping around nails on the opposite sides (randomly). String until the heart is filled in, and every nail is wrapped at least once.
    string2 string3
  10. Then, wrap around each nail in clockwise order, completing an outline of the heart.
    stringedge
  11. Display your beautiful creation!
    finalstringart

I want to see your creation! Post your work and tag me on Instagram @eileenmckenna. Use #mcrstringheart. See more of my pattern designs here.

Bananas for Monkeys

monkeypatternrepeat
When I was little I wanted a pet monkey so badly. I told my mom, “Don’t worry, I’ll keep it in the closet when we go out.” As if that was the least of her worries. I doubt monkeys were on the approved pet list in my NYC suburb.

The latest Spoonflower design challenge is “Year of the Monkey.” A couple of weeks back, I played around in my sketchbook, but nothing great emerged. But, I couldn’t get the contest out of my mind. So, with just a couple of days left until the deadline, I started sketching again. See my sketches here and what I’m learning about surface design.

It feels great to follow through and enter the contest. Before I started “My Creative Resolution” in 2014, I was notorious for having an idea and not following through, especially if my first draft wasn’t successful.

If you’d like to check out the other “Year of the Monkey” submissions, or vote for someone you know’s design (wink wink) click here. 🙂

Designing Patterns – important things to remember.

monkeysketch
If I knew what I was getting into, maybe I wouldn’t have been so enthusiastic about pursuing pattern design. Ha ha. I say this because I am realizing all the aspects that go into designing for fabric, gift wrap, and beyond. My head was spinning a bit this weekend, as all I took it all in.

Things I need to remember:

  1. Select colors from a color guide, don’t rely on the computer screen. As a graphic designer, I should know this, but I get caught up in the screen colors and forget. Then my swatch arrives and I’m surprised by the colors! And I have a fabric swatch of Spoonflower’s color guide! Now, I’m keeping it next to my computer.
  2. What is the repeat? I get caught up in the illustrations, and forget that the way they work together is almost more important than what they are. I’m reading an interesting book called Patternalia, An Unconventional History of Polka Dots, Stripes, Plaid, Camouflage, & Other Graphic Patterns. It’s a quirky book. I’ve already started to look at patterns differently. In the book, they mention pattern effects like “figure-ground reversal – This is where the figure and background are equally sized and therefore easily confused with each other.”
  3. Observe other patterns. I find observing helpful when I’m trying to learn something new. Looking through patterns, determining if I think they are “successful,” and why, is really helping me. Again, it is all about how the elements work together and repeat.
  4. Is simpler better? I definitely overcomplicate things. I need to remember that simple is often better. Some of the successful Spoonflower patterns I looked through, had the simplest elements.

I decided to give the latest Spoonflower contest a try: The Year of the Monkey. I started by doodling in my sketchbook. At first, my monkeys were downright scary – too realistic, too scary. After I simplified them, they got cuter. When I had a few I liked, I started to sketch out how they could work together. I was getting very detailed and complicated, with many elements. When I sat at the computer, and scanned in my favorite illustrations, I made the decision to simplify. The deadline is today after all! 😉

Planning the pattern:
monkeysketch2

Learning the keys to successful surface design

valentine2015repeatsm
At the end of last year, I had just started ordering my pattern designs in wrapping paper and fabric. It’s totally different, to not only see the pattern printed, but then work with the gift wrap and fabric. As I wrapped presents in my designs and other designs, I became aware of things that I never noticed before. Most importantly that a lot of the designs have some elements that are upside down and some right side up. This way, there is no correct side.

Over the summer, when I ordered fabric in my sandcastles design, I experimented with making it into a pillow. I realized how important the size of the repeat is. If it is too big, and you try to make a small pillow (or wrap a small present), then most of the design gets cut off.

These are things you don’t notice when you are creating on the computer. As I continue to pursue surface design this year, my goal is to not only design patterns, but have them printed as gift wrap or fabric, and (most importantly) create something with them – to be the end user. I think it’s the best way for me to learn how to make successful designs.

Earlier this week I tweaked last year’s Valentine’s Day design and ordered a swatch (see above). Specifically, I changed how the pattern repeated. I’m am excitedly waiting it’s arrival! I am also working on a second Valentine’s Day themed pattern, that has more of a watercolor feel.

Original Repeat:
valentine'sdaypattern

To see the 12 patterns I designed in 2016, click here.

My 12 Surface Designs – one a month this year!

I’m really proud, and happy, that I followed through on my goal to start creating surface designs. I designed the first one in January, and decided to commit to “1 Surface Design a Month.” That goal, and the end of the month deadline, really pushed me to put in the work.

12 Surface Designs
January – Art Supplies

artpatternrepeat

February – Valentine’s Day
valentine'sdaypattern
March – Gardening
gardeningrepeatfinal2
April – Dahlias
dahliapatternv2
May – Sandcastles
sandcastleEM
June – Echinacea
echinaceapattern

July – Shells
shellspattern

August – Ice Cream Cones
watercoloricecreamcones

September- Feathers
featherspattern1

October – Leaves
leavespatterncolor

November – Nutcrackers
nutcrackersrepeating
December – Toy Soldiers
toysoldiers2_5inchhigh

I’m always asking you, “What’s your favorite?” And I would love to hear, but I’ll also tell you my favorites.

I really liked when I started using the technique of creating the ink lines and watercolor backgrounds separately and then merging them in Photoshop. I started this with the shell pattern. I think the watercolor really adds a depth that you can’t get with Photoshop brushes. I started this technique with the shells, and continued it with the leaves – which is my favorite design in this style.

My other technique is drawing the elements in my sketchbook and adding color in Photoshop. My favorite design, using this technique, is the Toy Soldiers. They are just so cute!

Will I be continuing with surface design in 2016? Absolutely! As you know, I’ve made the Nutcracker and Toy Soldier patterns available on Spoonflower, where you can have them printed as fabric or gift wrap. It is really interesting to see the designs printed and to think about how it will be used. It makes you think about the design, and what works and doesn’t. It’s a different perspective than just seeing it flat on the computer screen.

In the new year, I’ll be adding a few of the other “12 designs” onto Spoonflower. And I plan to continue designing one new one a month!

Toy Soldier Pattern

toysoldiers2_5inchhighrepeat
When I was a kid I watched the March of the Wooden Soldiers every year. Maybe that’s what inspired the design of my second holiday pattern. (The first was nutcrackers.)

toysoldiers2_5inchhigh
I’ve ordered the Toy Soldier pattern as gift wrap from Spoonflower and I can’t wait for it to arrive! This year I want to be especially crafty and creative with my wrapping. And I plan on sharing my creations on Instagram – I hope you’ll follow along! 🙂