Pattern and Design

learn to create Surface Pattern and Textile Designs


Get my step by step easy to follow Blueprint

5 Top Tips to Create Surface Pattern Designs That Sell

Nov 28, 2017Selling your designs6 comments

In order to make a career as a successful surface pattern designer, you need to be able to create designs that sell. Why do some designs sell and others not? What is it that makes a design successful? By having a look at 5 top tips to create surface pattern designs that sell, you’ll be able to start answering those questions.

5 Tops Tips To Create Surface Pattern Designs That Sell

1. Know Who You’re Designing For

There’s no point in creating beautiful designs that no one wants to buy (unless of course, you’re creating them for your own pleasure). So, it’s really important to have a detailed understanding of who your customer is.

If you’re designing for a client then you should start by researching who they are. This would involve looking at their website and doing some digging around so you have a good understanding of who they are and what sort of designs would fit their brand.

When creating a range of designs for your own brand it’s still really important to know who your target market is. Even though you get to make the decisions, you still need to take into consideration who your customer actually is.

Creating a customer profile will really help you stay on track when you’re designing.

2. Know What You’re Designing

Once you have a clear idea of who you’re designing for, you need to establish a firm understanding of what you’re designing. This is where you work out the nitty-gritty. 

Questions you should ask at this stage include:

What sector are you designing for e.g. homeware, childrenswear, womenswear etc?

Which part of that sector are you designing for e.g. girls aged 1-5 years etc?

Is there a specific colour palette you should use or are there a set number of colours?

What is the pattern repeat e.g. full drop, half drop, tossed etc?

For more information on creating successful design, sign up to My Free Blueprint

3. Know Your Competitors

Although you need to make sure that your designs are authentic and unique, you also need to be aware of what your competitors are creating. You need to figure out where you sit in the marketplace. How are your designs different/unique? What’s your unique selling point?

You can start by firstly researching who your main competitors are and then start looking at what designs are working well for them. What can you learn from them? What can you do better than them?

4. Research Trends

Before you start designing you should also research upcoming trends so that your designs are current and fit in with the marketplace. Important things to think about are motif and colour direction. 

It’s also important to remember that what is in a store right now will be an old trend by the time you create your design and it gets produced onto an item, so be wary of using current trends to design from.

Here are a few free resources for trend forecasting:

WGSN Blog:


Fashion Vignette:

Trend Bible:

5. Create interesting pattern repeats

One of the most important jobs of a surface pattern designer is to make beautiful repeating patterns. Make sure that you take your designs to next level by really refining your skills so that you create designs that work. Think about how your motifs work together and make sure you create depth, interest and seamless designs.

You can find out more about the different types of pattern repeats in my blog post here and more about seamless repeats here.

Some things to consider are:

  • Experiment with different types of repeats e.g. tossed, half drop etc.
  • Make sure the colours in your palette work together well
  • Create a repeat that is seamless so there are no unwanted gaps in the design
  • Think about adding textural elements or layering your design elements

Do you have any questions? Comments? Let’s chat below


  1. Michele Griffin

    Hi, Rachelle. This question is a little off the topic but can you explain “one-off” surface pattern designs? Can a designer design only these types of designs? Can that be a designer’s ” niche market” ? Another unrelated question, Can a designer put “one-off” designs in their portfolio? If so. How many should they display? Thanks. Sorry, I have no one to ask these questions. i love this site!!!

    • Pattern and Design

      Hi Michele,
      I’m so glad you love the site!
      One-off designs are those which aren’t generally part of a collection. I’ve had to create lots of one-off designs for clients over the years. It will depend on what your client requires. However, if you only created one-off designs and weren’t able to create design ranges then you would be cutting yourself off from lots of work. You can definitely put one-off designs in your portfolio. The way you display them will depend on who you are presenting them to and in what format. Most importantly your portfolio should look cohesive and show off you as a designer.
      Hope that helps.

  2. Kelcie

    Thanks for all of the useful information. I always work backwards when designing a pattern and think about who would be a good fit for after I have designed it. I also never look at the trends so those links are going to be really helpful.

    • Pattern and Design

      You’re welcome, Kelcie!

  3. Ruth Ogunro

    Hi Michele,

    Thanks so much for all your wonderful tips. I am in the process of starting my own textile business, so all of the information on your blog is so helpful.

    • Pattern and Design

      You’re welcome!


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

let's stay connected


let's stay connected


5 Top Tips to Create Surface Pattern Designs That Sell