Make a better Repeating Pattern

how to make a better repeating repeat pattern using photoshop

I think this can apply to many of you, however, I hope it doesn't and that you've already got this.  However, since we're all learning, here, I thought I'd bring up this topic:


You guys know how to make them using either the *shudder* Offset Method, or you're using the, what I call, Organic Method. Of course, you could just be skipping all that and letting illustrator do it for you (which you should really only do once you get how to do it on your own, if I do say so myself).

But did you know you could be making better repeats?

Let's go back to story-land:

When I used to be a photographer at Disneyland and California Adventure, I always told the newbies, "You're only as good as you know your camera."  (wait, did I just make that up?...but I did say something like that).  Once you understand how your camera works , it'll put you on your way to a better photo.

Notice I didn't say that it'll make you a great photographer/artist/designer.

Surface pattern design revolves around making theoretical or technical patterns using a tool. This tool being Adobe Photoshop or Illustrator.  Once you know how to make a pattern, yay, you're on to something!   BUT, and a BIG but, this isn't the end all of surface design.  It doesn't even make you good, necessarily. Sorry not sorry.

What I mean to say is:

I can see your repeat.

Yep. It's right there next to that motif you mirrored 3 times.  And you can see a diagonal "line" if you zoom out and make your pattern smaller.  And there's that icon AGAIN.

The best repeats are the ones you can't even tell repeat.

Of COURSE there are exceptions like damasks, or tiles, or stripes, but most patterns should be basically repeat-invisible...ESPECIALLY if it's a toss or directional design.

So I made a video with my fancy lapel mic (read: not fancy and $5) while I laughed at myself in the beginning.  This is one-woman show, ya'll. Take a listen because it's easier to explain by showing than by writing at you.

Click the video below to watch.

Recorded at 1080p, so take advantage of how long this thing took to upload.
And turn on closed captioning because that shiz is MAGIC (seriously, YouTube is a wizard).

Topics Covered (yes, I made an outline, you guys!):

1) Striping: Where your eye wants to move in a direction, usually diagonally along the pattern.  Make sure this doesn't happen.
2) Repeat size is too small: Not enough space to create a dynamic layout.
3) Not enough variation in icons/motifs: Paint more stuff to make it more interesting.
4) Check the scale of all your patterns in relation to one another: make sure your main pattern stands out as a "main pattern".  Make some patterns larger or smaller in a significant way.
5) Links mentioned: How to Make an Organic Repeat, Using Actions & Droplets.

To see more tutorials, click this giant button:


Using the Transform Each tool in Illustrator


You don't even know what life is before you know Transform Each.


transform each in adobe illustrator

This Adobe Illustrator tool is quite possibly the best thing I've used since I started using a garlic press. And I eat garlic A LOT.

Basically, Transform Each is an option to, get this, TRANSFORM EACH thing you have selected independently.  It enables you to increase or decrease the distance betwixt motifs without changing their size. WHAT?! Right? Mind blown.

Made a handy-dandy video so you can watch it in action.

Click the video below to watch.

Have a lovely, mind-blown day!



Using my Powers for Good (mini + full classes)

Find your Creativity + JUST START sketch Recently a client of mine said, "You know, you're a really great teacher. You don't just show me how, you let me discover on my own while coaching me."

After she said that, some pieces started coming together in my head. I enjoy helping people learn.

The things that I learned on my own aren't just for me; I have lots of little nuggets (and bigger ones too!) to share and I should be glad to share them.

Over the past few weeks, I've been debating what I should do with this information. At first, it was to get rid of my blog and post tutorials on a dedicated web page. ...But I do like sharing some tidbits that are too long for social media on the blog instead.

But then, there was this idea:

I want to revamp my current tutorials into videos with PDF worksheets + assignments and make them into mini-classes instead...AND I want to give these away for free only to subscribers of my design letters. They will only be available once, with a link within an email, so they won't be able to be accessed if you subscribe later. There will be quite valuable with a lot more information + content, so I will be offering them at a low price for non/late-subscribers as well.

I also want to develop full-sized classes for those who want to start from scratch and learn from a series of videos. These classes will use my own experience of surface design and illustration to coach you through creating designs that art directors go for. For these, there will be a discount exclusively for design letter subscribers, too.

My ideas will be fleshed out later, but I really want to encourage you to sign up because you'll be getting tons of free content besides the classes and they will aid you in your quest to become a better designer in the ways that count.

If anyone has any feedback, I'd love to hear in the comments below!

Any ideas for things you'd like to learn about the surface design world that you can't find and are curious about?

How to Create an Organic Repeat in Photoshop


So you're in Photoshop wanting to make a repeating pattern. You're staring at that Offset button...and it has that smug look on its stupid face again. "Yessss... you have to click me to make a repeat in Photoshop,"  it leers in that mathematical way it does. And THEN...from the View menu comes a unicorn!  What's on the unicorn, you ask?! GUIDES of Organic Fury!

Okay, okay, they're really just Photoshop guides. You got me.  Today you'll learn how to use guides to help you create your own repeats without using that Offset Method that most people learn by. 

Why should you trust me?

I was an in-house designer for 10 years (2006-2016) for two textile companies, including Robert Kaufman Fabrics.  We did repeats all the time and there's nothing faster than doing it organically.  I can't say every designer there did it this way, but many did. (Yes, even your favorite designers need their designs fixed by professional pattern technicians/stylists!)  If you really want to make your own repeats, use this method. 

However, I really only recommend putting your stuff into repeat for services that need it like Spoonflower, or if it's specifically requested.  Otherwise, don't waste your time.  It's actually way more annoying for in-house artists to fix your repeat and make it the correct scale/size/spread that works for their market.  Mock Repeats (or not technical repeats) are the way to go. But if you must...

Let's get down to the nitty gritty.

Tired of the Offset Method? Try this tutorial on creating repeats organically.

Tired of the Offset Method? Try this tutorial on creating repeats organically.

How to create an organic repeat in Photoshop. An organic repeat is just making a repeating pattern by hand and not using any of the razzle dazzle functions like Offset (UGH) within said program.

You can view it above , but I'd suggest clicking on that itty bitty HD button to view it on Vimeo so it's not blurry.


File Organization for Professional Creatives


"No, not that!  ANYTHING but that," you moan.

Yes, I'm afraid.  

THAT thing has come around that has to be spoken about.No more files on your desktop just wafting around until you can't fit anymore on.

file organization for artists, pattern designers, and creatives

We're going to talk about file organization for creatives.To preface this post, I won't say I have all the right answers or that this will work for everyone...but if you are an artist and/or have a small creative business AND use a computer for both personal and business files, these tips could work for you and point you in the right direction.

I'll also so assume that you know how to save, move, copy, create shortcuts, and rename files and folders.

Woohoo!  Let's get this partay* started and get down to the nitty gritty, as Nacho likes to say.

What types of files do you have on your computer?

This is step seems obvious but people, surprisingly, don't know what the heck is ON their computer.  Knowing the types of files you make/save will dictate the types/names of the MAIN folders on your computer. You probably have something like these types of files on your computer:

  • Music
  • Pictures
  • Videos
  • Tax stuff/personal records
  • Desktop pictures/icons
  • Website backups
  • Images for your site saved in low res
  • Personal portfolio
  • Client work portfolio

It might be daunting to try to organize it all, especially if you have most of it on you desktop (eesh). So I'm going to show you how I have my space setup.  You can set it up like me or modify it to your specific needs!

How I organize my files

This might be different for you, but I boot off of a SSD (solid-state drive) that is partitioned into a storage area (this is so if the installation of my OS crashes, my files won't be touched.  In doing so, the partitioned part of my drive is clear of the default folders that an operating system installs for you (i.e.: My Documents, My Pictures, etc.).

My drive is very clean, only containing the folders I wish to see. These four areas are the starting line for my organization:

  • Personal
  • Professional
  • Projects
  • Scans


As you can see in the illustration above, these are the "boxes" for my entire digital life.  Each has a purpose and it only serves that purpose if I keep it up.  Also save to folders that file belongs in and making sure I update my current work once it becomes past work. You can download this digital file hierarchy for creatives for your own reference when building your own system. I have more folders within folders there, too, that aren't listed.  For example under "Music", I have: audiobooks, TV shows, movies, music.  iTunes syncs with this folder, so I have everything there.

Specifics for Professional Creatives: Business and your creative files

You can see in the illustration that I have labeled four folders: A, B, C, and D. Let's talk about what goes in there=)

A: Business Name (labeled with my biz name)

I have different folders within here specific to my needs for my business (name has yet to be disclosed as I'm still working on my branding). There are nested folders within; see illustration below for my nesting method:

Here's all that broken down (hint: words in italics are the folder name):

  • Branding
    • Logos - this will go on everything you do, so makes sure it says "you". I have a large written out logo for websites and products that can fit a bigger logo...and a shortened icon for placement on smaller products.  NAMING: YourBizName_MainLogo.png and YourBizName_MiniLogo.png
      • Web - versions of this saved for the web (low res)
  • Licenses
    • Business License - copies of business license paperwork I sent to my city
    • Permits - permit copies for working out of my home
  • Invoices - invoice templates go here (invoices and addendums, etc.)
  • Clients
    • Client Name
      • Project Name
        • Invoice - place invoices you sent to client for THIS project in here.
        • Shortcut folder to Projects > Artwork > Type of Piece > Name of collection/illustration/creation -- shortcuts are important! You don't want a million duplicates everywhere on your computer.  Keep ALL your art in one place.  Don't have some art here and some art there.

For the Clients section, TheGraphicMac has a really great client file naming convention tutorial. This will help keep you organized and professional.

B: Website Name (labeled with my website name) - if you have multiple websites, make separate folders.

  • Backups
    • Month/Year - place all backups folders you label like "March 2015" Do it monthly.
      • If you use Wordpress, export entire website.  Also, backup all your plugins and settings
  • Host - place any relevant information you need about your web host here.  I use for my MySQL information and SSL things.
  • Images
    • Shop
      • Images for shop categories
    • Blog
      • Month/Year
        • Images I use specifically for my blog posts
    • Sidebars
      • Images for advertising or any other site you want to link to permanently on your sidebar.
    • Theme
      • Background - image(s) I use for site backgrounds
      • Header - images I use for parts of the header.  NOT my logo.  I get that from my branding section.  If you want, you can make a shortcut link to your branding header here.
      • Navigation - images I use for navigation links instead of text.  Not using this right now, but a good idea if you have images for "portfolio" and "about" instead of text links.

That's it for that!  You can see that it's fairly compact...only 3 or 4 main folders with a few subfolders in each. Now on to the next:

C: Artwork

This is the fun one!  We get to organize all that creativity you've made now!  This section will differ for everyone, but for me, an illustrator and surface pattern designer, this is what I've got.  I won't add all the types of folders I have, either because I have history with tons of genres, so I'll only list the ones I use regularly.

  • Artwork
    • _Setup
      • All my templates for collection pages and individual designs go here.
    • 2-Illustrations
      • 2000-Project Name - I start all my illustrations in the two thousands. Whenever I make a new illustration, I'll go up one number, i.e.: 2001, 2002, etc.
        • Coordinating Patterns - patterns that incorporate elements of illustration
        • Illustration - your initial illy goes here. NAMING: INITIALS_2001_NameOfIllustration.psd or .ai
        • Mockups - If I put my illustration on a book or t-shirt etc., put the high res here.
        • Submissions - If I submitted this to any online shops for sale - they often have specific file dimensions and sizes.
        • Vector Scans - all my scans that have been vectored for this illustration are in here.
        • Web - Low res images of collection pages (using the template file!) or illustration
    • 6-Surface Patterns
      • 6000-Collection Name - I start all my surface pattern collection in the six thousands. Whenever I make a new collection, I'll go up one number, i.e.: 6001, 6002, etc.
        • Collection Pages - high res AI or PS file on one document for display purposes.
        • Mockups - If I put patterns on bedspreads, walls, clothes, etc., put it here in high res.
        • Patterns - Individual patterns for the group. NAMING: INITIALS_6001_CollectionName_PatternName.psd or .ai
        • Submissions - see above info in illustration section
        • Vector Scans - see above info in illustration section
        • Web - low res saves for web of anything in this group.

D: Assets

This is where you'll store all your resources and stuff you use while you design. Some of this stuff is self-explanatory.  If you have a question about what could go in these sections, ask me in the comments!

  • Brushes
  • Color Inspiration
  • Extras - little swooshes or fun tidbits you can use.  DO NOT use these in your own artwork unless you made these yourself. You can only use ones other people made in your art if it's a teeny part of the design.
  • Fonts - purchased fonts that I want to keep track of
  • Mockups
    • Backgrounds - wooden floors mostly.
    • Fashion
    • Home - walls, furniture.
    • Kitchen - oven mitts, placemats, etc.
    • Stationery - all things paper and branding materials
  • User Interfaces - computer/phone screens
  • Textures - watercolor, grunge, scribbles

So that's it!  Let me know if you have any questions in the comments, but remember...this will be tailored to your own business, so I won't know specifics about YOU...I can just answer question about my set up if you're mimicking it.

YAY! Now that you're all organized you can take on any project your heart desires without worrying where you can find it after you close that file ;)