In Block Printing/Design/ Portfolio

Design Surface Patterns From Scratch Blog Hop

Back in August I stumbled upon a fantastic website called CreativeLive. If you haven’t heard of it, I highly recommend checking it out and taking a class. Long story short, I found a class called Design Surface Patterns From Scratch with Bonnie Christine. Some of you may recognize Bonnie’s name from her gorgeous fabrics designed for Art Gallery Fabrics. Taking her class was so incredibly inspiring and I can’t put into words how invaluable it was for me. After buying many books and other expensive online courses, Bonnie’s class is the one tool that truly started to answer my questions and point me on the right path to designing surface patterns.

I have the pleasure of participating in her official Design Surface Patterns From Scratch Blog Tour and it’s my turn today to share some things I’ve made since taking the class.


I had been reluctant (down right scared, actually) to learn Adobe Illustrator because I’ve had a working knowledge of Photoshop since the 8th grade. I know my way around Photoshop, I know how to find things and make things so why would I need to learn another program? Well let me tell you. My jaw dropped about every seven seconds as I saw Bonnie create patterns with Illustrator! It gives you so many tools that Photoshop just cant compete with and I’m in awe every day as I try to get a little better at using it.


The Pen Tool was a feature that reeeaaallllyyyy used to freak me out. I realize many of you are unfamiliar with Illustrator, but the pen tool allows you to create vector images (images that can be endlessly re-sized without getting blurry) by connecting anchor points and paths.

It took me several tries to get the hang of it, but before long I created this little stem and leaf pattern inspired by a hay field near my house. Through Bonnie’s class I also learned how to make a custom color palette and create seamless repeating patterns as well.

Here’s my full repeating motif made with the Pen Tool:

The next tool I really enjoyed learning (it’s one of Bonnie’s favorite tools too!) is the Blob Brush Tool. This tool is similar to the Pen Tool except it works only by free hand motion, a bit like using a real paintbrush. I used it to trace over the pattern found on top of a small wooden treasure box that belonged to my great grandmother. In the screen shot below you can see an image of the top of the box, my original tracing made with the Blob Brush tool (and a bit of the pen tool) and the final motif that I made into a repeating pattern.


I really love being able to change the colors of things and move elements around on a whim, unlike in Photoshop where you have to make changes and commit to them. You can only undo things by a certain amount of steps, but in Illustrator every part of your image stays “live” and editable. It’s fantastic! Here’s the final repeating pattern inspired by my great grandmother’s jewelry box, created with the Blob Brush and the Pen Tool.


This is only a small fraction of the things I’ve been working on and I’m eager to add these new prints to my Spoonflower shop soon!

If you have an interest in surface pattern design, I can’t recommend Bonnie’s class highly enough! She’s a fantastic teacher and shows you every step of her creative process, including her own fabric portfolio that landed her a job with Art Gallery Fabrics. It was so inspiring to see.

Make sure to check out the next stop on the blog tour tomorrow – JoDitt Danley Williams | (as well as yesterday’s stop – Amanda Creek | and check out ALL the amazing tour stops listed on Bonnie’s blog post, here!

Thanks for stopping by and taking a peek at what I’ve made 🙂


p.s. – Bonnie is offering a FREE MONTH membership to her awesome Roost Tribe! If you’re interested in everything from joining a creative community, getting tips for building your blog, recipes, tutorials, and free desktop backgrounds, definitely don’t pass this up. Click here for your free month!

  • Beautiful designs, Rochelle! I really jive with all your choices and instincts, but especially like the medallion-y, jewelry-box inspired one, no doubt because I’m always attracted to symmetry and all things kaleidoscopic, ie., radially symmetrical, or snow-flake-y, I guess—plus all things decoratively typographic, which your design also suggests to me.

    Which is why I’m posting what follows, to mention a few resources I’ve truly loved playing with in all those areas. Playing, btw, is all I’ve ever done with it, never yet got to the printing stage (TOO many options! Plus, it costs!), but I still find it incredibly enlivening to one’s visual chops to work out, refine, and run endless variations on patterns and colors using the amazing toolsets inside all our computers.

    Sooo…First, some plug-ins:

    All Illustrator users need to go to right now and check out their amazing add-ons, including at least one priceless free plug-in called SubScribe, which adds simple but otherwise not easy features I use all the time for both repeating-pattern design and for garment-pattern design/drafting. Most of their for-$$ tools are amazing as well, totally worth the money whenever you get serious about spending time with Illustrator. The most immediately pertinent one is called MirrorMe:

    If anyone’s still using a pre-CC version of Illustrator, by all means check out where you’ll find Steven Vincent’s totally amazing plugins for doing symmetrical and other repeating effects. Not having access to these in CC is a major downer, but a real advantage if you can’t upgrade! His mirroring function (inside Kimbo) is simpler but I think much easier to use than MirrorMe… VIncent’s most obviously pertinent tool is called Tessella:

    Back in the Glory Days of Photoshop Plug-Ins (anybody remember Kai’s Power Tools?!?!) there used to be a wonderful kaleidoscopic one called Terrazzo that let you apply all 17 possible symmetry types to any image, but that’s been defunct for a LONG time. I’d still be mourning it if not for the fantastic features now-a-days built right into the Mac OS (sorry, I don’t know of ANYthing like this for PCs, and I’ve looked pretty hard) via what they call Standard Core Image Filters, which pretty much put Kai’s Power Tools back at the System level, MUCH improved…including a totally superb tiling collection that makes playing with symmetry, reflection and tessellation on any sort of image completely accessible and wonderfully flexible. Seriously, I’ve been playing with this stuff for nearly 20 years, and IMO there’s never been a better digital kaleidoscope than any Mac made since they rolled out the Tiger OS. But hardly ANYONE knows about it!

    There are several free and inexpensive apps that open all this mostly hidden power up for ordinary folks to play with, including Core Image Fun House, included with the Mac OS, BeLight’s Image Tricks, LiveQuartz…and especially my favorite tool, iMaginator. I know this is getting pretty geeky, so I’ll leave it at that, but please, anybody who thinks any of this sounds interesting, feel free to contact me for more details and my experiences. I’m not selling anything, btw, not affiliated, etc; just enthusiastic:)

    Thanks again, Rochelle, for all the wonderful stuff you explore!

  • You did great job on that repeat. I haven’t made time to get that far in ‘repeats’ in the class. I did experiment a bit though. CL is great, love it too!

  • I totally fell in love with Bonnie Christine’s fabrics, so vibrant and fun. I got a climpse of the course, there was free live “show” going on when I checked out the site.
    I don’t use Photoshop or Illustrator even though I have taken classes for both. I use other programmes and YouTube is fantastic place to learn how to use any software.
    Am I totally wrong if I say that the new version (or update) of Photoshop has seamless pattern making “mode”?

  • Great designs, very usable, and they would translate to many color combos well 🙂

  • You definitely have a talent for print designing and an obvious eye for colour too. I’ve been getting more into Illustrator recently and find it an amazing tool – I’m used to using bespoke Textile Design software (that is my background and training) but find Illustrator does things my other software can’t. It’s good to combine different software for different tasks I find.

  • Your prints are beautiful! You’ve got a good eye for design!

  • Please please please PLEASE tell me you’ll be adding the golden wheat colourway to Spoonflower. As a farm gal turned city slicker I would love to make a nice button up blouse in this.

  • Wow! I love your designs. Photoshop and Illustrator both intimidate me, but I would love to learn them someday. Thanks for the info!

  • I used to be really good on Illustrator, but then I ended up using photoshop more. I’ve still got the whole package so I might give it another go! Love the wheat pattern by the way

  • Illustrator is so much fun to play with. I love the pen tool because I can trace over previously drawn lines to alter them slightly without redrawing the whole thing, but I rarely mess with the anchor points and paths. I’ve never taken an actual class, but now I’m thinking maybe I should.

  • Thank you – I’ve been trying to learn illustrator, and it is hard! Guidance will be fantastic!

  • Thank you for the great recommendation, I’ve been wanting to take that class!! Your prints are fantastic!