what is surface pattern design - blog cover - andreia melo illustration

What is surface pattern design?

Surface pattern design is a specialised field of art and design that involves creating repeating patterns that are used on various surfaces, such as fabrics, wallpaper, stationery, and even furniture. Unlike traditional illustrations, surface pattern designs are specifically designed to be tiled or repeated seamlessly, allowing them to cover large areas without any visible breaks or inconsistencies.

Surface pattern design examples and application on socks. Created by Andreia Melo, illustrator and surface designer

Example of pattern designs and use on kids socks.


The distinction between surface pattern design and regular illustration lies in the purpose of the artwork. While illustrations are often created as standalone pieces of art, surface pattern designs are intended to be used as a repeating pattern. These patterns can range from simple geometric shapes to intricate and detailed designs that incorporate imagery, textures, and colours. Surface pattern designs can be applied to a wide range of products and surfaces, including clothing, home decor, packaging, and even digital interfaces. They are particularly popular in the fashion and interior design industries, where they can add visual interest and personality to products.

How to create surface pattern designs

Creating surface pattern designs typically requires a combination of traditional and digital tools. Many designers start with sketching and painting by hand to create the initial design. Personally, I start sketching on paper too. These sketches are then scanned, or photographed if a scanner is not available, and brought into digital software such as Adobe Illustrator or Photoshop. In case you decide to photograph, be aware of lighting and angle to not skew the image or distort it. Using these tools, I refine and edit the design, adjusting the colours, scale, and layout to create a seamless repeating pattern. Here you can see a selection of some surface pattern designs I have been creating, enjoy it and if you want, give me your thoughts about it.

What tools can you use

Adobe Illustrator is particularly popular among surface pattern designers because of its vector-based design capabilities, which allow for easy scalability and manipulation of shapes and lines. Photoshop, on the other hand, is often used for creating more complex designs that incorporate photographic elements and textures. In conclusion, surface pattern design involves creating repeating patterns for use on a variety of surfaces of products so it has application on numerous industries. It's definitely one of my passions. If you want to give it a try or have some doubts, leave your question in the comments, I will answer it as soon as I can!


Andreia Melo


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