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6 steps to design a spring-inspired mini-collection

Updated: Mar 21, 2022

What are the key steps to build your personal mini-collection to apply to your custom products and print?

When I started diving into the surface pattern design field a few years ago, I was always struck by the cohesive look of designers collection and how these collection did show a coherent palette, shapes and a strong story behind. Then I started to practice and explore how I could achieve such amazing result without getting distracted by the hundred colour choices available or changing direction and concept while already the design process was started. Based on my early findings I compiled a list of the key steps to go through to make great mini collection without getting overwhelmed by the decisions to be taken at every step of the path.

Here you can find a summary of my recommended steps to frame your process towards building a design collection without getting stressed out or confused along the way.

Step 1: Set up your Moodboard

First of all I would gather the inspiration on a blank board and paste all the reference images that represented quite well the core ideas of my collection. It also helps jotting down some key words for the design:

  • linework, joyful spring, butterfly storm, retro' patterns, organic, earthy colours, vintage, outdoor activities, layered design.

Here below you can find my pinterest moodboard with relevant images I have selected for this design, taking into account current trends and colours. Pinterest is perfect to collect inspiration with pins that you save and then you can print out on a A4 or A3. You can also make your moodboard more organized by creating a file in Illustrator and pasting there the pictures from Pinterest along with the key words and palette ideas.

Moodboard from pinterest pins
Moodboard from pinterest pins

Step 2: Sketch fun

This is personally the most fun and intriguing part of the process. Here is when I put the music on, find a comfortable spot in the house and start drawing and painting loose shapes with different media. I have the habit to keep the Moodboard by my side, printed, so that I can reference the research and keep a clear direction while drawing. However, I must say that more often than ever I do stir quite away from some initial references, as surprises do happen in this stage. Here below you can see some examples of my sketched motifs, which I traced with the Micron stilo black pens.

Sketches for concept collection
Sketches for concept collection

Step 3: Scan the drawings and polishing

It's time to bring these shapes to the laptop to edit the work digitally, which will lead to making some beautiful pattern with seamless repeats.

At this point I take out my portable scanner and scan the shapes at the highest resolution,

generally 600 dpi, higher than this value I do not find it necessary for the purpose and scale of my designs. You could also simply take some pictures of your drawings, nowadays there are apps that make great scans from the mobile phone.

Scans of drawings
Scans of butterfly drawings

Step 4: Start the pattern game

Now that you have your shapes scanned, I would import them either in Adobe Illustrator or in Photoshop for further editing. Usually painted motifs can be edited better in Phoshop, as the software works with raster images in a great way. There are amazing lessons on skillshare on how you can edit from beginner to professional levels, in case you need to sharpen your software skills. If you go with Adobe iIlustrator -which is my preferred way, I would typically retrace the motifs with the pen tool to make more graphic clean illustrations (I use a Wacom tablet to draw digitally). However, for this collection I wanted to retain the handmade wobbly lines, therefore I used the tracing tool of Adobe AI, which is the quicker and more effective way to achieve such look. This stage is where the magic happens and you can literally put together the pattern by composing the shapes according to your vision and your intuition.

Digital board work space
Digital board work space

Step 5: Choosing your palette

I tend to decide my palette after the composition is ready, as otherwise I get distracted by the colour choices too early. I leave this decision to the last stage, although I have already a bit of a feeling based on my moodbaord - stage 1- and the research on trends and colours. For this collection the colour choice was drawn by mustard yellow, caramel and cadmium red inspired by retro' wallpapers from the 50'. I have made a second colour version, since I felt that I wanted to try also a more modern edgy colour palette, and it's always good to have a second colourway, anyway!

Step 6: Put the collection together

Now it's time to show how the pattern tiles created work together. To do that I use a template sheet with a few placeholders on it, where I would display the patterns with small and large scale. Try to look for a good mix of elaborate pattern (the hero of the collection), secondary more simple tiles, and the blend-lines and polka dots which complement very well more intricate designs. See an example below from one of my final design sheet for this collection, where I display mock ups of potential products that work well with this design. Here I have used Society 6 mock up imagery along with a set of nice textile ones from creative market. On the right side of the worksheet I always add my logo and brand name as reference.

Mini collection Retro' butteflies storm
Mini collection Retro' butteflies storm

This is a summary of the main steps of my process to create a mini- collection inspired by natural motifs for home-ware and travel accessories. This is a basic structure you can use to frame and plan your actions from sketch to completion. It's not straightforward, so try to enjoy each step of it and learn from mistakes, it gets better and better with practice!

I hope you will find it useful and maybe you will feel inspired to make your own mini collection with your personal touch! Take your time, because this process can take days or weeks, depending on the level of detail and complexity you want to achieve.

So, have fun creating your own collection and I am curious to hear from your approach too!

Feel free to leave any comments below in case you have questions on the tools and methods listed here.


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