The Repeat Downbeat: Embracing Florals

Florals are one of the most popular motifs in our industry, but when I mention florals to some designers, it is often followed by a frustrating sigh. Then perhaps a comment such as, “But I am so not a floral person.”

I get it. At one point in time, I also categorized myself as “anti-floral.”

Pattern design by Kevin Brackley
Pattern design by Kevin Brackley

Are you ready for a challenge?  I challenge all you “non-floral” designers to create a floral that is you. Not because you have to make florals to make it in this industry, but because your unique perspective and point of view is valuable. It will likely lead to unique, eye catching work. Florals don’t have to be overly sweet, classic, or vintage. They can be bold, emotive, layered, and 100% “you.”

Let’s look at some of the unique florals that I observed this week:

Expressive Line Weight

This beautifully delicate, yet bold floral from Textile Design Lab member Kevin Brackley quickly caught my eye. The expressive line weight variation and detailed background texture all work together to create a very bold, dynamic floral that I feel appeals to those who prefer a bolder take on the traditional floral.

Pattern design by Kathleen Ruhl
Pattern design by Kathleen Ruhl

Pattern Fills

Not everyone might read this stunning pattern from Textile Design Lab member Kathleen Ruhl as a floral, but the abstract stem and petal motifs are very floral-like—with an almost camouflage twist. I was really drawn to the pattern fills, bold colors, and various layers that Kathleen included in this pattern. It’s a wonderful example of making a floral pattern that doesn’t feel overly floral or delicate. Like the floral from Kevin Brackley, I think the layering of motifs brings so much depth and dimension to the piece.

Abstract Motifs

To continue to study the benefits of layering within your florals, this piece by Textile Design Lab member, Pamela Gatens is definitely an eye-catcher. The more abstract floral motifs are a wonderful variation on traditional floral motifs. Additionally, the layering of various leaves and stems in various colors keeps the eye searching and moving through the poetic pattern layout.

Floral pattern by Pamela Gatens
Floral pattern by Pamela Gatens

While we tend to have preconceived notions of floral motifs and patterns, the possibilities are endless. Run wild with the floral category and make it 100% you. Layer, get messy, or stay sweet, it’s all appreciated and accepted.

Florals are just one of the many popular motifs that we discuss in Surface Pattern Design Mastery. In this course you’ll discover:

  • The most common motifs used in surface pattern design
  • How to gather ideas and inspiration for motifs
  • A reliable system for turning your sketches, paintings, illustrations, and photographs into digital motifs in both Illustrator and Photoshop
  • Tips to working around some of the common issues that arise during this process, including how to reduce time spent on the technical process so there is more time available to work on creating motifs and designing your surface pattern layout

Join us here.



  1. Thank you for the email and link to this post. It came at such a timely moment when only yesterday I posted how I just didn’t get why everything in SPD seemed to revolve around florals! I am an ex engineer and newbie to SPD and have learned so much in Ai this year but I have found I love to create non-floral patterns much more because I was thinking that so many floral designs out there look the same to me. I also love a story behind the artwork and could not see how I could that with simplified floral motifs. Yet….I absolutely adore real flowers, especially the wild ones where we live here in Spain, of which I have thousands of photos. I also love macro and intricate detail and was thinking that SPD was not ideal for this but now I see in Kevin’s art that is how I also draw. I also bought The Complete Pattern Directory by Elizabeth Wilhide yesterday and could not believe the different options for florals within that from history to now. So with this email prompt today and the book, my photos are coming out and I will give florals another chance. I really want to join your SPDM course but I need to complete another monthly SPD course first in order to be able afford to join. However, it looks wonderful and I have bookmarked it and can’t wait to join.

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