3 Tips for Creating Eye-Catching Tossed Layouts

tossed-surface-pattern-design-layoutYou toss a handful of autumn leaves up into the air, watching them fall to the ground. They land in a scattered pattern. Some facing up; some facing down. Some turned to the left; others to the right. This is a tossed surface pattern design layout.

A tossed is defined as: a layout in which the motifs are arranged in a scattered, but balanced way. This is one of the most popular layouts in our industry. And it’s the layout style that most designers create when they start designing patterns.

When you’re new to pattern design it’s best to keep your tossed layout simple. Sketch an interesting motif, bring it into Adobe Illustrator or Photoshop, and then copy and paste the motif repeatedly until you fill your art board with your newly created pattern. While doing this, remember to:

Flip and rotate your motifs so they are not all facing the same direction, as this will give the illusion of randomness, despite you being intentional. Avoid arranging your motifs into unintentional lines or stripes. Try to stagger the placement of your motifs. Keep the spacing between the motifs balanced and equidistant.

Repeating a solitary motif has its place in our industry and can be absolutely perfect in its simplistic loveliness, but after mastering this process, you’ll likely want to go beyond repeating a single motif and begin creating patterns that are a bit more eye-catching. It’s a great way to garner the attention of buyers.


When you feel ready to up your game, here are a few simple ways to a more creating eye-catching tossed layout:

1. Use more than one motif.

Try creating your tossed layout using two or three different motifs at different sizes. Not sure what additional motifs to use? Put yourself into the story of your design. What other objects might surround your motif in a natural setting? For example, let’s say you drew a flower. What other motifs might be found around your flower? Some ideas include leaves, animals, raindrops, petals, etc.

2. Try playing with color “pops” sprinkled throughout your layout.

A color pop is a quick way to jazz up a flat pattern. Just be sure to use your color pops in a balanced way. For example, you don’t want all your color pops to be clustered in the bottom right corner of your layout.

3. Try adding a background pattern.

I find that using a dramatically different sized pattern in the background adds interest to the design, without it becoming too busy or overwhelming. Try using a very small scale pattern or an oversized two-color shadow pattern in the background.

Looking for more ways to create eye-catching pattern layouts? Download our free Surface Pattern Design Layout Chart. The layout ideas and tips are sure to inspire your design process!











2016 Victories

We recently wrapped up our 2017 goals course in the Textile Design Lab. The first assignment in the course was for each designer to take a moment to celebrate a 2016 victory. Some members celebrated goals they have been working towards for years, such as signing with a print studio or launching a product line. Other members celebrated seemingly smaller goals, such as a much longed for return to design after starting a family or being engrossed in another career. Celebrating even the smallest of victories is so important for maintaining a positive outlook and momentum in our lives. It’s up to you to decide what is defined as a victory and to recognize the importance of small “wins” to accomplishing your larger goals. Here are a few accomplishments that we would like to share:


min-xzp-nwr-001_a_pzFirst Commission and Winning Contests – Leanne Friedberg

“I had my first commission for Decorative Window Film – the client came to me instead of the other way around! I also won a few Minted contests featuring patterns I developed in The Sellable Sketch :)”

Check out Leanne’s winning designs here and here. Congrats Leanne!





screen-shot-2016-12-30-at-2-53-23-amArtistic Growth – Esther Jongste

Esther is a long time TDL member and a very accomplished surface pattern designer and photographer. Throughout the year we have enjoyed following Esther’s artistic growth as she started painting and exploring what she can do with this new medium. It’s no surprise to us that she is also a talented painter.

“I discovered I can paint. I didn’t know that and I didn’t believe I could ever. :-)”

Way to go Esther! You can follow along with Esther’s progress from her painting class this year at https://flic.kr/s/aHskMMES5P.




screen-shot-2016-12-30-at-2-36-19-amReaching New Markets – Kevin Brackley

“I exhibited for the first time at Surtex with other members of the Four Corners Art Collective; I have art for sale with Americanflat on www.wayfair.com (seen here); I was selected to be included in the second edition of the UPPERCASE Surface Pattern Design Guide (so grateful!); some of my collections were shown at Quilt Market with a South Korean agent; other collections are being marketed by an agent in Japan, I learned how to create and refine mockups in Photoshop (and can’t stop creating them – I think it makes the patterns I design more relatable when they are mocked up on “real” objects), I have put together a lookbook aimed at swimwear and will be creating others for menswear and activewear, and I continue to hone my style but still keep experimenting!”

What an exciting year Kevin, congrats!






painting in the Lilly Store

Landing a Dream Job – Casey Saccomanno

“I grew my fashion design portfolio into a purely print design focused portfolio. With my new portfolio and skills I got multiple freelance jobs through Instagram/social media and landed a dream job in August 2016 where I get to hand paint prints everyday as a Lilly Pulitzer Print & Pattern Designer.” Well done Casey!!







rhiLicensing – Rhiannon Pettie

Rhiannon licensed her first pattern collections with Artscase, which can be seen at www.artscase.com/kimrhi-studios. We love the colorful, playful patterns–Congrats Rhiannon!






image-29-12-2016-at-10-51Building Skills and Growing Her Business – Elizabeth McGarrigle

“The past year has been a year of growth for me, I have consolidated my digital skills and have advanced to combining hand-rendered motifs with digital techniques. The Textile Design Lab community has really supported me, providing me with new ideas, techniques, and feedback. This support has enabled me to achieve above and beyond what I hoped to achieve at the start of the year.

My main achievements in 2016 have been selling designs to a number of small businesses one of which is launching her children’s clothing line next year, also signing with an agent and my designs are going to Surtex with her in 2017.

I found being accountable to Instagram has been really useful to spur me on and design every day, the evolution of my design ideas and personal growth can be clearly seen there: https://www.instagram.com/lizmacdesigns/.” Exciting stuff Elizabeth, congrats!!


What was your big victory in 2017? Share it below! Much love–Michelle and the Pattern Observer team






The Quest for the Perfect Pattern Layout

Some days it all comes together perfectly. Your pattern designs flow. You are able to sketch an interesting motif, bring it into Adobe Illustrator or Photoshop, and then copy and paste the motif repeatedly until it finally happens. Your pattern layout fills your art board. It’s an organic process, for certain, and the result is an eye-catching design that came together with ease. Original. Dynamic. Interesting. You feel like a rock star.

Then there are those “other times”…the ones when your art board looks too busy and the outcome states “the struggle is real”. Yet you don’t give up hope! You begin tweaking, moving your once beloved motif around and around the art board, hoping that the pattern layout will “click”. But it does not. Your pattern layout feels awkward and lacks flow. Frustration lingers and you dwell on all that wasted precious time.

floral-motif-pattern-observerNow what?

In my experience there are several reasons why some motifs never seem to find the perfect pattern layout. There is one that seems to be more prevalent than others, though, and that is that we are trying to force a motif into the wrong layout style.

You see, each pattern layout style has a slightly unique personality. Yes, these layouts can be dramatically affected by the artistic style of the motif, the color palette, and the trend. However, generally speaking, I find that there is a perfect layout style for each motif and sometimes it takes several attempts to find the perfect match.

Let’s look at this example. I developed this flower motif that’s symmetrical and mirrored, which gives it a more formal feel. I first tried this motif in a tossed layout. Even though the motifs are placed in an even manner, avoiding accidental lineups, it feels a bit awkward and clunky.

In this second example I used the motif in a symmetrical and mirrored layout, which is more aligned to the motif design. And what a difference this simplified layout makes! It allows the motif to shine.


How did I make it work? I took a different approach. By looking to the motif for layout inspiration I discovered the perfect layout. But, what was important to this discovery was that I knew my layout options. I knew there were more options than the popular tossed layout. Without this knowledge I could have wasted hours, even days, moving the motifs around the art board or changing my color palette repeatedly, hoping to stumble across the perfect layout.

Experimenting and investing time into our work is an essential part of the process. However, we still need to recognize the tipping point—the point when we go from producing to wasting time on an unsustainable process.

Are you ready to stop wasting time pushing motifs around the page? Are you ready to design in a more empowered, informed manner? Download our free Surface Pattern Design Layout Chart. This is how you can begin sparking new ideas when you feel stuck or frustrated.





Found Patterns: Glaciers


Images via: (clockwise from top)  “Mendenhall Glacier – Juneau, Alaska” by Robert Raines (cropped from original),  “Perito Moreno” by Rachel Hobday (cropped from original),  “Portage Glacier” by Antti T. Nissinen, screen-shot-2016-12-21-at-11-20-43-am “Hubbard Glacier Alaska” by Bernard Spragg. NZ (cropped from original),  “Glacier Cave, Fox Glacier” by karlnorling “IMGP1584” by gmg_zero3 (cropped from original),  “Aialik Glacier” by Kimberly Vardeman (cropped from original)

Featured Studio: KIND OF STYLE

Lonneke de Roos is a graphic designer and the owner of KIND OF STYLE, a creative studio based in the Netherlands. Her quirky, modern patterns feature pretty fruits and playful mark making in abundance, which can be seen on products like phone cases, fabrics and postcards.

Lonneke was born and raised in the Netherlands, currently living in Den Bosch, a city in the south of the Netherlands. “For me my apartment in the city centre is the best of both worlds; I love living in the heart of a beautiful city and when I want to I can easily go to the woods and enjoy nature. I studied at the Academy of Fine Arts in Maastricht, the very south of the Netherlands. In the last two years of my study I was specialised in designing prints for fashion and interior. Nowadays I’m working as a brand designer in a Dutch retail company.

I have always been obsessed with finding and creating pretty things, when I was little I used to make clothes with my grandma’s old Singer sewing machine and on other days I was redecorating my room with a pot of paint. I’m inspired by all the pretty things in life. Nature, colors, people, everything can be an inspiration to me. From the feeling I get when I look at a beautiful sky to the magnificent colors of exotic fruit. I’m always seeking for the beauty in the world, while travelling and in daily life.”

Read on to learn more about Lonneke’s latest creations…

Gold Confetti – Greetabl

“This month I started a new collaboration with Greetabl. They have chosen my Gold Confetti pattern to be printed on their gift boxes. The pattern, made of gold confetti dancing around, has proved to be one of the most popular designs of my collection. With this print their boxes are the perfect gift when you need to send a party to someone! Gold Confetti – Where there are sparkles, there’s a party!

Tutti Frutti – Fruit collection

“Cheerful fruit patterns make a great alternative to floral prints. This collection started with the inspiration I got from juicy exotic fruits. The colors of dragon fruit, papaya and pomegranate are amazing! The designs are made for different product types, from pillows to all over printed shirts, but the clear phone cases are my favorite! Sweet, tasty and colorful surface patterns!”

While designing for KIND OF STYLE Lonneke creates prints and patterns for her own pleasure, as they “spread happiness and cheer”. We were curious how KIND of STYLE came to be and Lonneke explained, “KIND OF STYLE started in 2011 as a diary about what inspired me everyday. When Pinterest was launched I started to use my pins more and more as my daily inspiration platform and I couldn’t stop the feeling to start turning all this inspiration into creating designs myself. So I grabbed my sketchbook and began to doodle. Soon I had my first collection of quotes and surface patterns, it felt so great to design artworks and spread them around. In 2013 KIND OF STYLE as a creative studio was born. Why do I design? I can’t help it. I just have to do it. It never gets boring, every time I start designing I love the feeling of creating something new. Usually I use multiple techniques in my artworks. I start an artwork with sketching or photographing and later I edit it digitally. For me the composition and color combinations are the most important things in my work. What I love about designing prints and patterns is to see them come to life in great collaborations. Over the years I started working with websites like Society6, Casetify and Spoonflower. Nowadays I see my artworks on a diverse range of products, from phone cases to wall paper.”

There is more to come for this talented designer! Lonneke writes, “I love to explore new tools and techniques, especially when it comes to things like design programs and web design. Making my own website was something I really liked doing. Yes, I’m quite a nerd :-) Up next is start learning how to make catchy videos for my website. What else I will explore in the future? I don’t know, there are so many things I want to learn, maybe starting my own webshop?” Until then, you can explore Lonneke’s work at kindofstyle.com, or on Society6Casetify and Spoonflower.

Have a wonderful weekend!

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At Pattern Observer we strive to help you grow your textile design business through our informative articles, interviews, tutorials, workshops and private design community, The Textile Design Lab.