What is Surface Pattern Design?

Learn more about surface pattern design through these examples and discover the techniques used to create them

Maybe you’ve heard of this term or come across it while scrolling through one of the many creative accounts you follow on Instagram. However, you’re still not 100% sure what surface pattern design consists of. And while you constantly encounter countless examples, you’ve not clocked that an object in front of you has been created by a surface pattern designer.

What is Surface Pattern Design? 1
Catalina Estrada

What is surface pattern design?

Surface pattern design–or surface design–is any design, illustration, drawing, or motif that is destined to be printed or applied to a surface, no matter what type of surface that might be.
A classic example of surface pattern design would be the prints that a designer creates for a collection of clothes from illustrations. Surface design is, quite literally, everywhere. If you look around, you're sure to find countless examples: the prints on your clothes, the covers of the books on your shelf, the shapes on the cushions on your sofa, or the motif that decorates a birthday card you’ve received.

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What techniques can be used to create surface designs?

Surface design, especially with regard to patterns, tends to be applied to decorative objects, items of clothing, or stationery. In other words, it is applied to a diverse mix of objects and the dimensions of the object you choose will be the only limitations you’ll encounter when it comes to creating your surface design.

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Ana Victoria Calderón

Any and every technique is valid for creating a surface design, whether you choose one that’s analog, digital, embroidery, graphic design, watercolors, photography, lettering, dye… the list goes on, because there are no limits other than those imposed by the material you choose to transfer your work onto.

Licencing is a great example of surface pattern design. In this case, the designer creates a pattern that they independently sell and then the buyer chooses which products it will be applied to.

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La Casita de Wendy

If you’re interested in print design and want to learn to create your own patterns, you can sign up to the Domestika courses, Print Design with the Quincunx Technique, Design and Composition of Textile Patterns, Illustration for Patterns with Soul, or any one of our Pattern Design courses.

English version by @eloiseedgington.

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Catalina Estrada: How She Broke Into the Illustration World
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Textile Museum of Canada: Free and Unlimited Inspiration Online


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