Learn The Essentials of Surface Textile Design

If you’ve always been curious about surface pattern design, and want to take the plunge, or maybe you’re an illustrator who has seen someone else flourish by using surface pattern design. No matter how you got here, if you want to learn more about surface pattern design, what it is and how it works, this is the place to be. 

Surface pattern design is a wide umbrella, so the focus here will be on textile and print design.

Here, you will learn all the information you need to get started building a career in textile design. Including definitions, tools to use, and even information on The Print School, Australia, the best place to learn. 

What is Surface Pattern Design?

Surface pattern design, also known as surface design and textile design, is any design such as an illustration, drawing or motif that can be printed onto textiles and made into various items. 

A classic example of surface pattern design would be the prints that a designer creates for a collection of clothes from one designed print. Surface design is everywhere, if you look around you can find countless examples: cushion covers, bedsheet covers, clothes, shoes, hairbands and more. 

Surface pattern design exists within many industries, but we will be focusing on its use cases within a textile design, with repeating fabric print. 

The Role of a Surface Pattern Designer

Basically, a surface pattern designer is someone who creates patterns that usually repeat in a perfect technical style. These repeating patterns can be applied to products or fabrics. 

The great thing about surface pattern design is that the patterns can be applied to any surface, so your role as a surface pattern designer can vary greatly. You can develop designs for everything from upholstery fabrics to car interiors to rolls of fabric you find at your local fabric store. Regardless of the product, the surface pattern designer’s role is to propose and develop designs that take into account the end product and the corresponding design. The process will be the same, but the specifications may vary depending on the end use. Each product, customer or manufacturer may have slightly different specifications that must be met, such as the number of colours available or the design’s specific scale.

If done right, you can position yourself as an industry leader and network with some of the biggest clothing, homewares and accessory companies to create and use your designs. 

Surface Design and Repeating Patterns

In summary, the biggest difference between a graphic designer and a surface model designer is that a surface model designer’s job is to create technically repeatable patterns. This means they need to make sure that when a design is created, it is seamlessly repeated. A good example of this is a roll shop at your local fabric store. If you open the roll, the pattern will be repeated continuously and you won’t be able to tell where the repetition starts or ends unless you have to study the design elements and find the pattern. 

 While creating seamless repeating patterns is an important role for patternmakers, designs do not always have to be created during engineering iteration. Customers will also sometimes request designs in the form of location prints. An example of this would be t-shirt printing where you could require each t-shirt to have the design printed in the same place on every item. These designs are therefore not created as seamless patterns. 

Other important skills of a surface pattern designer include the ability to sketch and develop design ideas, a good eye for colour and palate development, creating inspirational mood boards and developing cohesive design collections. When creating designs, they must be able to create designs that consider balance, harmony, texture and proportion as these are very important skills that will help in creating designs and sets. 

 If you are an artist or graphic designer, you can easily learn these skills to turn your art or turn your graphic design skills into creating repeating patterns. For artists, this can be a great way to use your art or art elements in new ways and give you another source of income for selling your work.

What Techniques Do Experts Use? 

Surface design, especially in regards to textiles and patterns is often applied to everything from scarves to dresses and accessories, meaning it has to be applied to a diverse mix of objects. This in turn means it has to work for items of different dimensions and remain undistorted and neat. 

Each technique you can think of is valid for creating a surface design, this includes analogue, digital, embroidery, graphic design, watercolours, dye or lettering. The list goes on, but the most important thing is that you can scan and send your pattern to be printed on textile, or facilitate the printing yourself. 

But by far the most popular tool in these modern days is Photoshop.  

Why Use Photoshop?

When it comes to textile design and patterning, nothing is more effective than Photoshop. It allows you to make repeating patterns easily, either by drawing directly onto the software or by scanning in your own paper drawings. Photoshop is additionally known to be the industry standard for most textile designers. 

But why use photoshop? There are many reasons the professionals turn to Photoshop, and this is why: 


Photoshop is a highly versatile software, allowing you to work with a wide range of design styles. 

In-Software Art

The program offers a wide range of pencils and brushes so you can make your artwork and once your artwork is complete, you can use the same software to turn it into a pattern from within the software itself.  

Scan Feature

If you like using traditional paint methods, you can still make art on paper and scan the images into Photoshop. The images scanned do not lose definition and you can then turn them into patterns. 

Tweak Art

Once you have scanned your artwork, you can then use photoshop to clean them up or change colours if you find you’re unhappy with how it looks. 

For many designers, Adobe Photoshop is what they look to for all their design, patterning and scanning needs. 

Consider a Course in Photoshop

If you’re struggling to break into the market, you’re not alone. Keeping your creativity on a high, while also managing the business side of things is a daily challenge, even for the veterans in the field. 

If you need further training in drawing, business management, and most importantly, photoshop, an online course can be the difference between you struggling in the field or making it through with confidence. 

The textile and printing industry is one where mistakes aren’t taken very well, and most work is done collaboratively. With this in mind, you can either spend years figuring things out on your own, waste money and may even lose clients. Or, you can learn foolproof methodology, network, gain experience and learn new things with an online course. 

You can skip the troubles and go straight to the life of a professional with the right education.

Out of all the things you can learn about the surface pattern world, the most technically difficult is the use of Photoshop.  

The better your photoshop skills are, the better your chance is of finding and keeping great clients. When you take a photoshop course, you should be looking for something that isn’t generic. You will want to learn from the experts and be able to implement all the things you learn as you go along, and aren’t hard to complete. 

Even after the most basic Photoshop training, many designers can start working and turning a profit. If this sounds like something that you need, The Print School is the best place to choose for your textile print-related online courses. 

Choose The Print School

High-Quality Adobe Photoshop training is non-negotiable for any creative looking to make a career out of their artwork. The Print Shop’s Photoshop courses give you exactly the right skills you need to master the craft of surface pattern design for a commercial world. How can you be sure? It’s what they do every day. Longina Phillips Designs, the company behind the Print Shop has made real word designs and have been commercially successful in the textile industry for years now.

Their courses cover everything from drawing as a beginner to gouache, paisleys, watercolour and floral courses. Then you can move on to learning how to use Adobe Photoshop with essential courses. All the way to courses on how to run a successful business.

If you choose The Print School, you will be getting courses available all year round that never expire. A certificate upon completion, and access to their wide social media network, where you can troubleshoot your questions and meet new people in real-time. If you come to The Print Shop, you don’t just finish a course, you learn new skills that will set you up for a lifetime of work in the textile industry. 

 See more about The Print School here. 

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