Found Patterns: Stacked Objects


Images via: (clockwise from top left)  “Stacks” by studio tdes “Pebble Stack” by Ian Griffiths “Ceramic bowls” by ~My aim is true~ “coin stacks” by frankieleon “stacked” by Magnus Hagdorn “stacks” by Michael Cory “Wine Corks_2813” by Barta IV “tire stack”  by Markus Spiske (all images cropped from original sizes)

Upcoming Event: Home Decor Intensive

Designing Textiles for Home Decor

The home decor industry consists of companies that design products for the consumer’s home environment. These companies create products such as bedding, curtains, kitchen towels, shower curtains, rugs, etc. The list goes on and on. Does the thought of seeing your designs on these types of products appeal to you?

If this concept intrigues you, you are invited to the Textile Design Lab Home Decor Intensive from March 20-April 23, 2017. This is an online intensive event, which includes:

Our Sellable Sketch Home Group-Study, which starts on March 20, 2017.

In the Sellable Sketch Home Group-Study you’ll receive bonus content which is focused on the home decor industry, in addition to our famed Sellable Sketch course.

You’ll bring clarity and focus to your collection development process. We’ll help you remove the guesswork about what to design each season and help you tap into your own artistic style.

The biggest question about the home decor market for designers: what home decor do buyers want? We’ll share the latest information and help you discover how to tailor your work to best fit this market.

During the Sellable Sketch Home Group-Study you will:

  • Discover your own artistic style
  • Get tips and advice from industry insiders
  • Learn how to pick appropriate trends and inspiration sources for your target market
  • Create your irresistible surface pattern design collection
  • Receive free access to WGSN for the five week duration of the course
  • Have access to personalized feedback on your work through our private forum and live art critiques


A live training event with Laura Olivia.

We are excited to announce that our Textile Design Lab home decor expert, Laura Olivia, will be joining us for a live training event in April. Laura will be sharing her tips for developing collections for the home decor industry and will be available for questions immediately following the presentation.


Home Decor Tutorials.

This intensive also highlights home decor training from past Textile Design Lab guest experts including: Jackie Shapiro, founder of French Bull, Kat Karnaky of Williams Sonoma Home, and Caroline Cecil.


Grab Your Spot

The Home Decor Intensive is part of our popular membership community, The Textile Design Lab. To be a part of this amazing online experience, you’ll join our community inside The Lab. Not only will you get everything we’ve talked about already, you’ll also have access to the 10 courses and over 40 tutorials included in The Lab. There is no better way to commit to your success and improve your design skills so you can start marketing your business in a big way! You get it all this for just $42/month.

If you’re ready to spring into action this year, show it by joining us in the Textile Design Lab. The Home Decor Intensive starts March 20, 2017. Grab your spot by joining the Lab here.



Interview with Cheryl Phelps, Guest Expert for March in the Textile Design Lab

CherylPhelpsHeadshot1We are thrilled to introduce our next guest expert in the Textile Design Lab, the talented Cheryl Phelps! We can’t wait to share Cheryl’s guest expert training on designing for the stationery market later this month in the Lab (this training will be available exclusively to Textile Design Lab members–join here to gain access!) Today we invite you to learn more about this inspiring designer in the interview below. Enjoy!

Please tell us about your design background and career path. How did you become interested in the world of surface pattern design and art licensing?

I received a Double Major BFA in Surface Design and Painting at the Memphis College of Art and worked for Hallmark Cards as an Artist in Kansas City, designing cards, stationery, gift wrap, paper party decor and more. I’ve been a freelance illustrator, designer, and teacher since 1987. I do workshops, seminars and art licensing consulting and coaching. Surface pattern design has been a passion of mine throughout college and my art career. Over the years, I have sold tons of prints to the garment, paper, gift and home decor market and in 1997 added art licensing to the mix. I have exhibited my surface design prints, humor characters and illustrations in the two art licensing trade shows for 14 years total, 11 years at Surtex and 3 years at the License Expo. Art Licensing has been a way for me to take a single print and spread it across multiple product platforms and years of income, rather than just a one off flat fee sale of the print.


PhelpsAnimalTotemTell us a bit about your design process. What media/design tools do you like to use? What are your go-to sources for design inspiration? (Books, blogs, magazines, etc.)

Primarily I work in Gouache with brush, ink and some computer. I like to paint and then scan the image into Photoshop on the computer, for archival purposes and for adjustments, applying the painting to different product prototypes.

My “go-to sources for design inspiration”, is first, my own imagination. I tease people who ask me that, and usually say, I have so many ideas waiting to come out of my hand, it’s like the planes circling, waiting to land at LaGuardia! There just isn’t enough time to paint all the ideas I think of.

Of course I am addicted to Facebook and seeing my friends wonderful creations. Other artists following their passions in their work, inspires me. I enjoy checking in on, Print + Pattern, FoltBolt and Colossal on Facebook.


What role do trends play in your design process? What are your current favorite print & pattern trends for the stationery market?

Trends of color, subject matter and styles can be helpful for artists who might need a jumpstart to do a collection or address industry and market needs. The challenge is being on the forefront or midpoint of a trend and not the saturation or downside of it. For me personally, and what I tell my students and consulting clients is, Try being more of a Trendsetter, instead of always being a Trend Follower. The cosmos is always sending you ideas, whispering inklings of what to paint or create next and I try to listen, because the cosmos sends other artists ideas every day too. That’s how trends can start out of seemingly unrelated sources and artists. Color trends can be helpful, but colors can be changed, so I don’t let that dictate my color choices. As an example, “Greenery” may be Panatone’s color of the year for 2017, but more than that exact color, it’s telling that “Green”, is in and that can apply to a color or a mindset.

My favorite trend that is always a staple for me is, Nature. Florals and Botanicals are applicable for both Everyday and Seasonal occasions and can be applied across a broad range of products from stationery to home decor and more.


Could you talk a bit about the design cycle for stationery? How far ahead do you design stationery before it lands on the sales floor?

Different products have different lead times. Calendars, as an example are a year and a half to two years out, because calendars for the following year go on sale in the middle to end of the preceding year and there are so many illustrations, designs and photos needed to complete just one calendar. Cards and stationery fall into a 6 month to one year design process before they hit the retail shelves. Production times are getting faster from design to manufacturing to retail delivery. Holiday specific is one to one and a half years out, especially Christmas and Winter Holiday as it is ordered at trade shows in May and on the retail floor by September in time for sales through the end of the year. Everyday sending occasions like Birthday are a 6 month to one year cycle out. Consistently across the paper industry, one year from design to retail is pretty much the norm.



Could you tell us about your experience with stationery buyers and what they are looking for? What can designers do to stand out?

Stationery companies are always looking for Birthday, Christmas, Winter Holiday themes, Florals for Everyday and Seasonal, Print Patterns, Humor, Animals, Fun, Whimsical and Celebratory.

The most important thing a designer can do to stand out is; be unique and express your own creative voice through your work. This is where paying attention to your own artistic visions comes first. I walked Surtex last year and so much of what I saw was the same! Yes, there are some incredibly talented stand out artists and designers who exhibit solo or through their reps and agents at Surtex and the License Expo, but also many who seem to be doing the exact same look.

If you want to stand out, ask yourself; What is your brand? What unique design and artistic expression do you bring to the creative mix? Start with that and then create solid collections of groups of designs or illustrations that can be placed across a broad spectrum of products within the industry. Begin with a central figure or design motif theme and create coordinates that go with it. I call it creating the Prom Queen/King and their Court. Buyers love artists who can create in both collections, as well as individual one off prints. Thus the reason Surtex features both, art licensors specializing in licensing focused collections and
print houses that sell one off or groupings of prints.


What are some of the challenges of designing for stationery? What do you love about it the most?

I’ll start with what I love most. I absolutely love painting, playing with color combinations, working with line and composition and the dance of pattern on the paper. I think of music when I work and the idea that the design motif has a rhythm that resonates on the page, to create the flow and spacing in a pattern. I love the magic that can happen when your imagination manifests a piece that entertains you, as well as the buyer.

I love the idea phase, brainstorming designs and new product applications. I still get a thrill when I see my artwork on cards and other products in the retail stores. And, I love working with other artists and designers in the collaborative process of bringing a seed of an idea, from concept to finish, then to market and to the end consumer, to purchase for all kinds of celebrations, decorating and communicating, with my art as the visual vehicle for those interactions.

Challenges, yes, they are numerous, but for me they are not so much around the designing. The business side of my art biz presents the biggest challenges. Some budgets and fees in the Stationery and Gift markets have not reflected cost of living increases. Some contracts tend to favor companies, more than the artists and some companies have eliminated paying advances for art licensing, instead paying after first quarter of sales or trying to bargain for all flat fee, sales buyouts.

Many companies in the industry, now expect artists and designers to be three artists in one, from art/print/designer, to packaging design and catalog designer, all rolled into one, for one fee, for all those aspects! With most artists being computer savvy now, they are expected to do multiple jobs, for the same fee they used to get paid, to design the print or illustration for. I’m a fierce artist advocate and each of those services used to mean more individual jobs for creatives. Even with all the challenges, there are still many prosperous, mutually fair, artist and client partnerships, that make it all worthwhile. Artists and Designers
continually have to value our own worth in this industry and acknowledge the success we bring to the client’s products with our creative work.


Who are your design heroes (past or present)? What about them inspires you or influences your work?

At the very foundation, since my days in art school, has been a love for fine art, that also has a sense of design. I love Matisse for his color, Picasso’s flowing line, Miro and Calder for their painterly and sculptural whimsy. My contemporary art pals and fellow designers also inspire me, they are too numerous to mention, but I appreciate all of them, for their friendship and motivation

What would you consider to be your most proud achievement(s) or greatest success(es) so far in your design career? What are your goals for the future?

As a personal achievement, I’ve been in this biz a very long time. Art has been my job forever! It’s been fun to see my artwork on all kinds of products. As a veteran of the industry I’ve been happy to share by experience and knowledge with other creatives through my teaching, workshops, coaching and consulting. I’m very proud of being part of other artists paths to art licensing success as well as celebrating my own journey as an artist, designer, illustrator and teacher.


What advice have you received in your career that has stayed with you or influenced you? Do you have any words of wisdom for aspiring designers trying to build successful careers of their own? Any advice for designers hoping to break into the stationery market in particular?

Best advice I ever received: Breathe!

Words of wisdom for aspiring designers: Believe in yourself and your talent, the Universe doesn’t bring you this far to drop you.

Advice for designers hoping to break into the stationery market: Research Holiday and Everyday sending and buying occasions, it is the starting point to designing for the Stationery and Gift industry.


Interested in learning more about the stationery market? This training will be available exclusively to Textile Design Lab members–join here to gain access!














How Photoshop for Designers Will Help You Be a Better Designer

Photoshop For Designers WorkshopAdobe Photoshop can open up a world of opportunity for designers. It enables you to create artwork that is more authentic and representative of your true artistic style. With less inhibition from software or the digital world you naturally become a better designer as a result.

All of us at Pattern Observer really do admire the Adobe Photoshop program, which is why we created a Photoshop for Designers workshop. This is the only Photoshop workshop devoted to creating prints and patterns, helping you to up your game and be the best you can be in your design world.

What makes Photoshop for Designers help you? It allows you to:

  • Build confidence in your design skills
  • Benefit from personalized feedback and support from Sherry London
  • Enjoy the insights that come from 61 downloadable video tutorials
  • Learn from step-by-step instruction
  • Complete assignments that help you put your new Photoshop skills to use immediately—a wonderful way to learn and remember
  • Speed up your design process
  • Stay motivated through daily emails and lessons
  • Learn the tools that will do the best job of bringing your ideas to life, therefore helping you improve your design skills

It doesn’t matter how you feel about your skills and abilities with Adobe Photoshop when you enter into the workshop. What matters is how you’ll feel when you leave it! By the end of the course you’ll gain confidence and lessen frustration. You’ll be empowered with the knowledge and skills you’ve developed, making you a better designer because of how you apply what you’ve learned. Photoshop is a big program with a lot of tools—all that are ones you can master with relative ease. You just need a little help from your designer friends and go-to resource, Pattern Observer’s Photoshop for Designers workshop.

Are you ready for your career to take a step forward?

Sherry’s next Photoshop for Designers workshop begins on Monday, March 6th, and includes all the important aspects of working in Photoshop.

Why wait and remain intimidated by Photoshop? Today is your day to remove the fear and become a better designer.

Grab your spot for just $299. Register here.






5 Tips for Working with Your Sketches in Photoshop

Sketching For Photoshop TipsPhotoshop is wonderful resource that allows us to do many of our favorite parts of designing in it. We can:

  • Manipulate photos
  • Draw and design directly in Photoshop
  • Sketch artwork and then scan it into Photoshop
  • And my personal favorite—paint and then scan the painting into Photoshop

There’s no certain way that you have to use Photoshop. Every method listed above is fine—one is not better than the other. But when working with original scanned sketches in Photoshop, in specific, half the battle is making the sketch as easy to use as possible.

In Photoshop for Designers, Sherry London shares countless techniques to help you turn your paintings and sketches into digital artwork. We wanted to share our 5 favorite tips with you today. May they inspire you and help you to build your confidence in using Photoshop to help in your design process.

Tip #1: Sketching Paper

If you know that you generally like to scan your sketches, try to use a sketchbook or paper that is solid white and has no texture. Unless you have a specific need for a different style of paper, this will make scanning your sketches easier.

Sherry likes the Canson 1557 Drawing Paper. It comes in a 9×12 inch spiral pad and the edge along the spiral binding is perforated, making it very easy to tear away from the pad for scanning. Typing paper is also a great way to draw multiple versions of your image without wasting expensive sketchbook pages.

At Pattern Observer, we also like the Strathmore Visual Journals with Smooth Bristol paper. My personal preference is to use a textural paper when I paint because I also choose to leave the texture in my digital artwork. However, if you are sketching and creating a design with smooth lines you’ll want to use a paper with less to no texture.


Tip #2: Media

You might want to start your sketches lightly in pencil. This is a common practice for many designers. You’ll just want to make sure that once you ink the sketch you carefully erase the pencil lines. It’s important to keep your paper as clean as possible.

Pay attention to the pen you use, as well. You have an amazing number of choices of pens—from tiny to huge and fat, to brushes of various lengths.  Wide inks and brushes leave great texture but don’t always play well in the company of thin strokes in the same image.


Tip #3: Darkness, Weight, and Sketch Size

When you scan your image, two things matter:

  • The size of the lines on the scan.
  • The size of the scan itself.

When reducing the size of your scanned image, the pen size and image size become even more critical. Darker, thicker lines take reduction better and also remain darker though enlargement in Photoshop. Even when you draw a large light flower and a dark small one, when reduced to the same size the light one is very light and thin. If you put multiple weights in the same image, it is to find a setting that does justice to all of the lines.

Tip #4: Object Overlap

The final issue to consider as you create your sketch is to decide if any objects in the drawing need to overlap. Overlapping motifs makes it difficult to create a design, pattern, or concept layout.

Whenever possible, paint each motif full, separately, without overlapping motifs.

Afterwards, scan each motif in, cut them out (one of the techniques covered in the full workshop), and move them around as you wish to create your layout.


Tip #5: Scan Resolution

Scanners work by dividing your image into “samples”. Each sample becomes a pixel in the final scan. The more pixels you have in the final scan, the larger your image. You can calculate the size of the image based on either:

  • Your scanning resolution
  • The number of pixels in the image

Your scanner driver determines how it thinks about size. Some drivers give you a choice of “web” or “print” scans. A web scan is usually 72 PPI (pixels per inch) and the print scan is 300 PPI. If you can choose, always scan at print size.

But what happens if you have an original sketch that is about a inch square? You can make it larger in the scanning process, within reason. Increasing a sketch from a 1”x1” original to even 4”x4” is doable on most scanners. Still, the options they give you for this enlargement will differ. You have to learn what to look for!

Scanner software usually lets you set either the scanning resolution or the image enlargement, but not both. So, you could scan the 1”x1” image at 400% enlargement or you could ask to scan the image 1200 PPI (4 times your normal print resolution). Either option should give you an image that is 1200 pixels square rather than the original 300 pixels square.


Unsure about what to do with your sketch after the scanning process?  Consider connecting with Sherry and having her walk you through this process in our FREE course, Fall in Love with Photoshop. Grab your spot here.














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.