Using Layers to Bring Your Patterns to Life

Buyers are looking for the unique, the special, the spectacular. They want depth, dimension, and details. As designers, when we close our eyes and imagine our piece-de-resistance, we too envision work that is smart, rich, and has depth and dimension.

But all too often, our final design falls short of our vision, which is an extremely frustrating experience for any designer. No matter what you do, the final product just never looks as good as what you imagined. Before long you start doubting your work, trying too hard to make something happen, and eventually you end up losing interest in the entire project or you just push it aside, hoping that you’ll get back to it in the future. It doesn’t have to be this way. With the right guidance you can learn how to bring your vision to life quickly and easily.

One of my favorite methods for adding dimension to my work is to layer various motifs and patterns within my design. By combining and layering patterns this way I increase the visual interest and can make the patterns more appealing to the eye.

By copying your existing motifs and layering them below or on top of your main motifs, you can begin creating more dynamic, appealing patterns with little additional effort. Simple techniques like this one will enable you to begin bringing your vision to life quickly and easily.

Now it’s your turn!

In our FREE 5-Day Design Shake Up I’m sharing the exercises and practices I use to stay creative. Even when life is hectic and busy with work, children, errands and all the rest, the creative habits and techniques I’m sharing keep me inspired and creative. I know they will do the same for you! Get started here.




The Adobe Capture Pattern Trap

A Textile Design Lab designer recently posted a series of beautiful patterns which all had a stained glass look and layout. You couldn’t help but take note of them and appreciate them. She asked, “Are these marketable? They just seemed too easy to create using the Adobe Capture CC pattern function.”

Too easy? That sounds nice, doesn’t it? I replied that they were gorgeous and totally marketable. I personally love the Adobe Capture CC shape function, so I was super excited to try this new addition to the app. After our weekly call I jumped on my iPhone and immediately started creating patterns out of various textures that I found around the house. You can see the results here:

Adobe Capture Pattern Trap

The entire undertaking was a blast. With the click of a button I could turn the filtered light under our deck into brilliant stained glass inspired patterns in a variety of layout styles. I showed them to my husband and we had a good laugh about the app running textile designers out of a job. I laughed—outwardly—but inside I wondered, could this actually be the case? Could and will software eventually replace designers? My euphoric blast was over, and now I was thinking about the entire thing a bit more deeply.

It was time to go into Adobe Photoshop, open up the files, and start working on them. As I got to the task at hand I still saw their beauty, but after zooming in and trying to work with the files some doubts crept in about this new tool. When enlarged, the images were blurry, low resolution, and lacked a sense of depth and detail. Those are three very important aspects of a pattern that most buyers will look at when considering a design. Eventually, it was time to move on and I shelved the project, putting on my “sometime in the future” to-do list.

Since that time I have taken notice of these beautiful stained glass layouts popping up all over social media. They are everywhere and I expect to see more and more of these patterns in social media and designer portfolios, as they are trending. I’m sure you’ve seen them, as well. But be warned—like all digital design tools, it’s important to not abuse the software. Buyers are looking for the unique, the special, the spectacular. A portfolio filled with stained glass patterns that can be created with the click of a button, regardless of their beauty, are not the foundation for a sustainable design business.

As more tools such as Adobe Capture CC emerge, I encourage you to use them and experiment with them, but do not rely on them too heavily. They are a tool—only a single tool in your toolbox to be used to bring your vision to life.

Just like recognizable Photoshop filters, think about ways that you can use this tool in combination with other techniques. Here are some patterns that I created combining this tool with some of my go-to design techniques:

Adobe Capture Patterns Improved

Other ideas include:

  1. Indexing the pattern into a two color texture
  2. Using your indexed texture as a background or foreground pattern to more recognizable motifs
  3. Printing out your Adobe Capture pattern and using them in a collage style pattern
  4. Using Photoshop’s “Paste Into” feature or a clipping mask to add your Adobe Capture pattern to geometric or nature inspired motifs
  5. Use your Adobe Capture pattern as motif and inspiration and create the finalized pattern using watercolors, acrylics or an artistic medium of your choice

The possibilities are endless if you know the right techniques.

Next week I’ll be sharing one of my favorite techniques to bring my vision to life. Want to receive the free training directly in your inbox? Sign up for our newsletter here.


5-Day Design Shake Up

Pattern-Observer-5-Day-Shake-UpLike many of you, I find that the business aspects of my work can take over my creative explorations if I am not careful with my time. I always manage to get my client work complete and turned in on time, but that is not the creative work that I am talking about. The creative work that seems to get pushed aside is the “me time.” The time that I spend exploring new techniques, trying new layout styles and just “playing.” But these creative explorations are so important, even essential to being a thriving artist because they allow us to bring our vision to life. You know when you wake up in the middle of the night with an awesome pattern idea, or when you see an interesting shadow or texture and are struck with an idea for your next collection. Yeah..those are visions that I am talking about.

Without the proper creative explorations those ideas and visions fall flat, which is an extremely frustrating experience for any designer. No matter what you do, the final product falls short of your vision. Before long you start doubting your work, trying to hard to make something happen, and lose interest in the entire project. It doesn’t have to be this way.

Pattern-Observer-Design-Shake-Up-In our FREE 5-Day Design Shake Up I’m sharing the exercises and practices I use to stay creative. Even when life is hectic and busy with work, children, errands and all the rest, the creative habits and techniques I’m sharing keep me inspired and creative. I know they will do the same for you!

Here’s how the 5-Day Design Shake Up works:

  • After registering here, you’ll get instant access to your free Pattern Observer Inspiration Guide. This guide is filled with over 50 design prompts and inspiration resources so you can break out of your design rut today!
  • The first design challenge will be sent out the following day and a new design challenge will be sent out everyday for the next four days.
  • Design Challenges are delivered via downloadable audio files with transcripts provided.
  • You are encouraged to share your work on Instagram using the hashtags #patternobserver and #patternobservershakeup

Ready to dive into this FREE 5-day shake up? Get started here.



Featured Designer: Katherine Cross

Katherine Cross Pattern ObserverThese stunning collages have come to us from designer Katherine Cross. Katherine Cross creates original collages which are then digitally scanned and printed on various materials and turned into fashion, gift wrap, murals, and other products.

“I am a collage artist and make designs that are inspired by line, color and texture. I cut out small pieces of “moments” in magazine images that catch my eye and then curate those to form new original artwork.”


“Repurposing, reusing, upcycling, and all the other words that describe using all the small pieces of scraps and left-overs that are a result of the creative process means everything. Besides using scraps and bits that aren’t normally used, incorporating vintage and antique embellishments into what I make is very important. It’s an honor to give beautiful things from the past a new life.”

You learn more about Katherine’s beautiful work here:







Build Your Portfolio with Our New Design Challenge “Bloom”

Bloom Design Challenge at the Textile Design Lab

This month’s design challenge “Bloom” takes its cues from the amazing floral patterns in the Spring ’19 season. Three inspiring textile design trends for florals are featured in Bloom—Chelsea’s Challenge in the Textile Design Lab for June. Full details on the trends are available to lab members.

When you participate in the design challenge you’ll receive personalized feedback as you work through the process of creating your pattern collection—plus you’ll find inspiration through our trend forecasts.

As always with Chelsea’s Challenge, you may choose to focus on just one of the trend boards, or to pull different elements from two or three of the boards to help form your pattern collection. Color palettes are provided for you as a jumping off point and it is not required that you use them, but if you wish to use the provided Pantones in your patterns they can be downloaded

Finished collections for the Bloom challenge are due on the Textile Design Lab forum by Monday July 3rd.

Your collection should consist of 3-5 prints (one “moneymaker” print and 2-4 coordinates.) Your moneymaker print is the main focus of your collection, your showstopper, the print that will draw in buyers to your website, your booth, your portfolio etc. Over in the Textile Design Lab we will help you understand the key elements that are absolutely essential to your moneymaker print.

Everyone who completes their collection by the deadline has the option to be included on our Chelsea’s Challenge Pinterest  board and will be considered for a feature highlighting student work on the Pattern Observer Blog. To be considered for these opportunities you need to create a collection board to present your finished patterns.

Feeling inspired? We have over 70 challenges now available in the Textile Design Lab, with a new one released each month. Hop on over to the Textile Design Lab and join us to participate and build your portfolio!





Follow Us

About Us

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.