Getting your art ready to create patterns.

I wanted to begin our pattern-making journey together by first starting with the most important thing: creating your artwork! 

I think we can agree that this is probably the most enjoyable task of this entire process, and I wanted to celebrate you taking the time out of your busy day to create some fresh work!

Whether you create in acrylic, oil, watercolor, gouache, pencil, oil, chalk, collage, or digitally- taking time for yourself to practice your craft is such an important part of your journey as an artist. Whether you're a professional surface pattern designer, or just getting started on your creative journey, I find it absolutely crucial to have some time blocked out each day for you to create. Even if you are just doodling in a sketchbook on the train, or doing some quick art while the kids are napping, making time for your art is the first step!

Focus on subject matter and colors that bring you joy, and with continued practice, you will find that your own personal style of art will begin to emerge as your body of work grows. 

So sit down and get comfortable, put on your favorite music, grab your favorite medium(s) and lets start creating a few pages of art!

Step 1: Make some art!

I usually will work on several "elements", or pieces of art that make up my larger design, at one time.

Today I'm painting several colorful Christmas trees together in gouache and watercolor on hot press watercolor paper.

I like to have some variety in the colors, shapes, and sizes of my elements so I'll have some variation in my finished pattern. If you choose to paint all of your elements together on one page like this, just be sure to leave a bit of space between your different shapes. It's perfectly OK to have some pencil lines showing, or if you painted a bit outside of the lines, don't stress it!

The great thing about transforming your art from analog mediums like paper or canvas to digital is that many of those "imperfections" can be edited out later. 

You can also choose to paint/draw your elements individually on separate pieces of paper or canvas such as this:

Sometimes having just one thing per page makes it a bit easier to separate and clean up the images later on in Photoshop. If you're a beginner, I might suggest you make your elements on individual pages to start, however, feel free to go with whatever method makes you feel more comfortable!
(I'll explain how to clean up and save the files for both methods in a later post.)

Step 2: Digitize your Work

There are a few different ways to get your art from canvas or paper to Photoshop. I'll explain the three I use depending on the size and kind of artwork I need to capture.

Option 1 would be to use a scanner. While this may seem the most obvious choice- not all scanners are created equally! I've found my personal Canon MF244, which is a perfectly great printer/copier, does at best a mediocre job of capturing my art with its scanner. Its highest resolution is 300DPI, which should be fine, but there are certainly many models now that offer much higher quality resolution. While it does capture the lines and some details adequately, I still have a few issues with it. Mainly, I find that some of the finer details of my work tend to get washed out when I scan. 

My bigger issue with this method of digitizing my work is that the scanner does not always properly capture color. (Which for me, is SUPER important!) See below for an example:

My scanner fails to capture the brightest, most saturated colors- especially the neons that I love to use frequently! So, that was a big drawback for me. Sure, I can edit the finished scans in Photoshop to try to retrieve some of those "lost" colors, but doing so adds yet another step and extra time to my process. I could buy a new flatbed scanner with a larger scanning area and a better DPI, but that's a pretty large expense! Honesty, I haven't needed to go out and do that yet. I generally stick to using my scanner for ink drawings, and black and white images only. Depending on your scanner's age and quality, you may have much better luck using yours to scan than I do with mine!

A good second option would be to go to a place like Kinkos, Fed Ex Office, or The UPS Store and have them scan it in for you! This is a great option if you have large paintings or artwork that doesn't fit easily onto a smaller scanner. They'll scan the items for you, and put them onto a thumb drive or hard drive you provide. You'll be able to take your files home and import them straight onto your computer. Just be sure to check the color, file quality, and format before you leave! 

Option 3 - which is the method I use most frequently- is to use your phone! Yes, your smartphone will do just fine in most cases!

Most of the cameras on phones from the past 5 years (or so) are outstanding and can capture your art just fine! I used to photograph my artwork with our big DSLR camera, but I've found that camera was expensive and unnecessary. As long as your artwork is flat, and well lit (try to utilize indirect natural lighting!) you can get great quality photographs to pull your elements from. 

Extra Tip: If you have created your artwork with multiple elements on one page, you can try photographing each element separately. It may help to simplify and streamline the process of cleaning up your art later!

You'll import your files from your scanner, thumb drive, camera, or phone onto your computer, and ideally stick them into one folder in a place you can easily find.

Make sure that prior to the next steps you have downloaded the newest version of Photoshop ( as of this writing, I am using Adobe Photoshop 2023 v. 24.0.0). You can find a free trial HERE. Monthly and yearly subscriptions are available from:

For my tutorials, you will also need to download Aquario Design's Textile Design Plugin for Photoshop, which you can find HERE. They also have both yearly and monthly subscriptions available on their website:

Aquario Designs are kindly offering my social media followers a discount of 25% off their annual subscription! Use code: BLACKFRIDAY25OFF to get those exclusive savings!!!

Once you have your software installed and your art files ready on your computer, we're ready to go on to step 3, which is cleaning up those elements in photoshop and getting them ready to use in Textile Designer!

Check out next week's blog where I will explain my favorite methods of removing backgrounds and cleaning up your art files, as well as what formats to save them in.              

See you soon! 

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