Mastering Colors in Pattern Design: Discover Your Color Style | Maja Faber | Skillshare

Playback Speed

  • 0.5x
  • 1x (Normal)
  • 1.25x
  • 1.5x
  • 2x

Mastering Colors in Pattern Design: Discover Your Color Style

teacher avatar Maja Faber, Surface Pattern Designer & Illustrator

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

8 Lessons (32m)
    • 1. Introduction

    • 2. Your Project

    • 3. Color Inspiration

    • 4. Discover Your Color Style

    • 5. Color Palettes

    • 6. CMYK, RGB & PANTONE

    • 7. Colorways

    • 8. Thank You

  • --
  • Beginner level
  • Intermediate level
  • Advanced level
  • All levels
  • Beg/Int level
  • Int/Adv level

Community Generated

The level is determined by a majority opinion of students who have reviewed this class. The teacher's recommendation is shown until at least 5 student responses are collected.





About This Class

Colors are so important for the overall look of your designs and a color palette can really make or brake a pattern. In this class I will teach you the way I work with colors. You will learn the techniques that I use to develop my own color style and how you can use the same techniques to develop yours. I will show you how I work with color palettes and different colorways of patterns and I will even take you through my process of making a second colorway of a whole collection. We will talk about how and where to gather color inspiration and how to work with different color modes, such as CMYK, RGB and PANTONE when designing patterns.

You can use the skills that you learn in this class to build a stronger signature style and brand and to expand your portfolio with more colorways of existing patterns. To take this class you need to have basic knowledge of pattern design and have at least one finished pattern that you can use in the class project. I use Adobe Illustrator and Adobe Draw in this class, so it’s good to have a basic understanding of at least Illustrator to be able to keep up.

If you’re interested in developing a colour style of your own or just in how to make your current style more cohesive and learn how to make palettes and colorways for your patterns - join me in this fun and inspiring class that is all about colors.

Be sure to share your project here in class and if you share your project on Instagram feel free to tag @maja_faber

Meet Your Teacher

Teacher Profile Image

Maja Faber

Surface Pattern Designer & Illustrator

Top Teacher

I’m Maja Faber (previously Maja Rönnbäck), a surface pattern designer & illustrator based in Stockholm, Sweden. I create artwork that I license to collaborators worldwide and I teach fellow creatives all I know about surface design and life as a creative entrepreneur. 

I share my full story of how and why I started my own business when you subscribe to my newsletter, so if you're curious - hit subscribe.

My creative journey started with me believing that I couldn’t draw and sitting at my job as a marketing manager, having this itchy feeling that I was meant to do something else with my life. 

In 2015 I found surface pattern design by a chance. I got instantly hooked and what started as a hobby soon became a dream to start my own busin... See full profile

Class Ratings

Expectations Met?
  • Exceeded!
  • Yes
  • Somewhat
  • Not really
Reviews Archive

In October 2018, we updated our review system to improve the way we collect feedback. Below are the reviews written before that update.

Why Join Skillshare?

Take award-winning Skillshare Original Classes

Each class has short lessons, hands-on projects

Your membership supports Skillshare teachers

Learn From Anywhere

Take classes on the go with the Skillshare app. Stream or download to watch on the plane, the subway, or wherever you learn best.


1. Introduction: For me colors are everything. It can really make or break a pattern. I love to work with colors and to try to find a perfect color combination which makes the pattern seeing and come alive. I'm Myadam Beck and am a certified designer based in Stockholm, Sweden. In this class, I will share the way I work with colors. This is not a class about color theory and it doesn't have any scientific approach at all. But rather, I will teach you the techniques that I use when I work with colors in pattern design and you will learn how you can use the same techniques to both discover your own color style and also to work with color palettes and color ways. You can use the skills that you learn in this class to build a stronger signature style and brand, and also to expand your portfolio by developing more color ways of already existing patterns. This class is for you who have basic knowledge of pattern design and have made at least one finished pattern that you can use in the class project. I use Adobe Illustrator and Adobe joined this class. I would say to be able to keep up, you should have at least a basic understanding of Adobe Illustrator. 2. Your Project: Your project in this class is to create a color palette and use it to recolor and create a second colorway of a pattern that you already made. If you want to recolor a whole collection that you made, you're of course welcomed to do so as well. Let's dive right in and start with color inspiration and where to find it. 3. Color Inspiration: In this lesson, I will share some tips of where and how to gather color inspiration. But I must say that my number 1 tip is to always keep your eyes open. Colors are everywhere, and sometimes you can find inspiration at the most unexpected places. I just have it as a habit to take a quick snapshot with my phone if I see something that inspires me. With that said, my favorite source of inspiration, whether it's inspiration for colors or for motifs, is to travel to new places and experience new things. I've been fortunate enough to be able to work and travel at the same time previously in my life. I've already visited about 50 countries so far. Through the years of traveling, I've gathered a little library of snapshots that I sometimes just dig into and look for inspiration. I also soak up new inspiration while traveling to new places nowadays, like for example, my recent trip to India, where I gathered inspiration that I used when I create new artwork back home. I love to travel internationally and experience different cultures. But to have new experiences and to see new places, you actually don't need to leave your home. You just have to make sure that you do new things and get new experiences where you are and in your surroundings. It will bring you new perspectives and new inspiration. As an example of how I gathered color inspiration from India, is when we traveled around in Kerala. Many of the houses there were painted in this bright, tropical but still kind of pastel color. It looked so beautiful. So I took a few snapshots at that, as well as the other amazing color palettes that I saw during our trip. This gave me the color inspiration for my new collection, Indian Adventures. Besides gathering color inspiration from the world around me, I also save and gather inspiration digitally. Pinterest is my number one source of digital color inspiration. Sometimes I can use it to put a whole palette together, and sometimes I just want to find this certain color that will match my current palette. I have a board called Color on Pinterest, where I save images that I like with both color combinations and also images where i just love a certain color in that image. Sometimes I go to my color board to get inspiration, and sometimes I just gather a few images spontaneously on Pinterest, save them to my iPad, and use them for inspiration to create a palette. I will show you this more of this later in class. There are also some great blogs and sites that you can use for color inspiration. My favorite one is Love Print Studios color crush posts. The color palettes are just stunning. I usually don't use a full palette that someone else has created. But rather, I take inspiration from the palettes and maybe use a color or two. Design Seats is another site that you can use for inspiration for palette. I see these sites and Pinterest as places to get inspiration of color palettes, rather than just use a full palette that someone else has created. With that said, these sites are great places to learn and research how different colors work together by studying the palettes that someone else has put together. As a last little tip, I want to mention this really good extension that you can use in Google Chrome and get the color code from a website. This is great if you see a certain color that you like anywhere on the web. For example, if you really like this color on the Design Seats website, you can just quickly grab the Eye Dropper extension, click on the color, and you get the color code so that you can use it in, for example, Illustrator. These were some of my top tips on how to gather color inspiration. Let's head on to the next lesson where we will talk more about how to discover, or as I like to call it, develop your own color style. 4. Discover Your Color Style: In pattern design, there's a lot of talk about that you should develop your own signature style. As part of developing your signature style, I think you should include to develop a color style. Colors are so important to the overall look of your design and they can really help to hold your brand and signature style together. If you do the work with research, analyze and practice to work with colors, you probably will see after a while that you tend to use the similar colors in your designs. This process can take some time and to get started, I will share a technique that I've used to develop my own color style. The first thing to do is to research colors in patterns. As I'm a self-taught pattern designer, I'm all for the technique to research how others do and gather a whole lot of information from that. So you can sort out and analyze what you like and don't like by looking at what others do. This is not at all copying other artists, you should definitely not do that of course. But to learn a new skill, you need to research the skills so use all sorts of different sources of inspiration, analog and digital and just spend some time researching. Take notes on what you like and what you don't like in different color combinations and notice what your eyes are drawn to. When you've done the research, gather images of colors or color palettes that you like and don't overthink this one. Just gather what catches your eyes. You can use images that you find online, that you take in yourself, or that you find in magazines. It can be images of objects such as a flower or home decor, or it can be a design from another artist. Just makes sure that you have different sources of inspiration and not just artwork from other artists. If you do, you might subconsciously copy their color choice without even thinking about it. So use your favorite source of inspiration and gather a bunch of images in a folder on your computer. For this example, I'm just using Pinterest together images. When you have a bunch of images, I would say at least 50, start to analyze them. Is there a certain color that you are drawn to? For example, I didn't realize before I started to make patterns that I'm drawn to this peachy apricot color that I tend to use all the time and I had no clue that I like all sorts of pink as much as I do. Is there a certain color combination that you can see in your chosen images that occur often? If you would describe the colors of your images, what would you say? Feminine, masculine, soft, bold, modern, vintage? Try to put words on the overall look of the images that you gathered. For example with these images, I would say that the colors are feminine, soft with a playful feeling. You don't need to think about if there is a correct way of naming your choices of colors here, not in this exercise. This is only for your eyes to see and you only put words on it because it will make it clearer for yourself what colors you like. When you made your analyze, the next step is one that I think you never should stop doing, and that is to practice. To develop your color style, you need to practice to use colors in your artwork. You need to try out different palettes and see which ones you like and you need to do it over and over and over again. I actually don't believe that you will ever be finished with this. Your color style will develop over time and will develop with trends as well as with your own development as an artist. It will probably even develop with your age. So step number 3 is to practice using colors and to not be afraid to experiment and try out new ideas. Which leads us to the next lesson where we will look closer on how to work with color palettes in pattern design. 5. Color Palettes: In this lesson, I will take you through my process of working with color palettes. You could do this in so many different ways and it all depends on how you like it to work. I would describe my techniques as dynamic, flexible, and spontaneous most of the time as I tend to let my artwork develop as I create, and that also goes for my color choices. Even if I let my color palettes to develop as I create, I always have some palette to start with. As I do almost all of my drawings digitally nowadays do work with my color palettes, usually start in my iPad, where I also draw the motifs to my patterns. If you want to have a better look on how I draw the motifs, you can check out my class from sketch to repeat pattern here on skill share. In this class, I will show you my process of choosing colors. Let's start with iPad, as that is usually how I start. But I will also show you later in this lesson how you do the same thing in Illustrator if you don't have an iPad. This is usually how I start. I already get inspiration that I gathered as we went through in the first lesson in this class, so I take my inspiration images and I place them on an art board in Adobe draw. Here I gather images from a trip to India and this is actually the start of the palette for my Indian adventures collection. What I do is that I fetch the colors from the images and I start to build up a palette around the images. Then I save all the colors as palettes in the new library in Creative Cloud, and after this, I start to draw the motifs for my patterns using this palette that I saved. During the process when I draw, I will figure out if this palette will work and which colors I need to change to make a good combination. Basically, I make a first palette that is not at all set to stone, but rather just a Compass for me to go in a certain direction. Sometimes I can even change the whole palette later on when I make the repeat to a completely different palette, if I feel that the pattern or the whole collection works better in a completely different palette. This is my step number one in how I create the color palette. As I almost exclusively work with collections when I create and hardly ever make single patterns anymore, I will have in mind that the color palette should work with different patterns and be able to create some nice color combinations in a full collection of patterns. During this step, I draw up the motifs on my iPad and the palette that I've started with can change during this process. If I, for example, feel like adding a different color when I draw something or change the hue of a certain color, I just do that. I also tend to start with a larger palette and then narrow it down as the process moves forward. Now we had a look at iPad and how I usually make my palettes. But if you don't have an iPad, I would take you through really quickly how you could do the same in Illustrator. Open a new art board and place the photos with your color inspiration in Illustrator. Then we just create some squares on the art board and use the eyedropper tool to fetch colors from the photo. Sometimes you might not want the exact colors that you fetched, you can look different in the photo and the one that you got in your square. In that case, just double-click the color and choose a nearby color that you like better and gives you the same feeling as the one you fetched in the photo. Continue to fetch colors and create the palettes. As I mentioned before, I would rather have more colors here, the less, as you always can narrow it down later on. When you made your palette, you can select all squares and click on "Color group" in the swatches panel. I usually delete all of the extra swatches that I don't use and then I save the color group so that I can reuse it over and over again. When I make palettes on the iPad, I open the library that I saved in Creative Cloud in Illustrator when I start to make the repeat patterns. For me in my process, I need to make the full repeats before I know if this palette is a keeper or if I will change some colors, or if I will change to a completely different palette. If you ask me how to know if you should change the color from, for example, canary yellow to golden yellow, I will say that it's totally up to you. If you ask me how I make these choices, I will say that it is completely based on experience, practicing, and just experimenting for quite some time to understand how I like to work with color combinations. The process of developing your color style and your expertise in colors and the way you make color palettes will and I think should take some time. It's not only that you need time to create and experiment, but you also need time for things to settle and develop. Don't feel that you need to rush it and try not to feel overwhelmed by it, just start working with colors and then keep on going and the process will by itself bring you more clarity with your color style. These are my tips on how to create color palettes and how I do it. I hope that you can take some tips and techniques from my way and try it out to see if you like to use these techniques as well. Let's head over to the next lesson where we will talk a little bit more about color modes and when to use different color modes. 6. CMYK, RGB & PANTONE: I will not dig very deep in the area of CMYK, RGB, and Pantone in this class, but I thought that I should mention it at least as you need to have some basic knowledge about these different ways of working with color, especially that it's important to have the right documents settings when it comes to color modes. When you work with digital artwork, you need to set an ICC profile to your document. The ICC profile basically decides the color space of your document and tells your software, how you will use your artwork, in which media. For example, print or digital. This then determine how the colors either will be viewed digitally on, for example, a website, or how they will be printed if you save the file and send it off to a printing house. The basics are that CMYK is for printing, RGB is for digital work, and Pantone is usually used for printing on certain materials such as fabric, for example. If you use Pantone, you can just set up your file with the CMYK ICC profile and specify which Pantone colors you used. Worth to mention is that nowadays some places, for example, print on demand sites, will ask you to give them files with a certain RGB profile instead of a CMYK profile. The important thing is to ask your printing house, print on demand shop, or whichever purpose you will use your artwork to, which ICC profile you should use for the document. If you don't have anyone to ask and are going to print your file, the standard in Europe is Coated FORGRA39. In most cases that one works fine for printing, at least in Europe. If you're going to use your work digitally, all you need to do is to set up your document to RGB profile. Usually I just use the standard RGB profile in the software that I use. Basically you need to make sure that your file and the place that is the purpose for your file, a printing house or the website that you're going to publish your file on, have the access to the same data, the same color space. Otherwise, the colors that you used might turn out completely different than the ones you had in mind. To cut out all of the tech terms with this and just get down to business, I will just let you know what you need to do to set up your ICC profile in your document. This is Adobe Illustrator, you can view the profile of your document by clicking on Edit and Color Settings. If you want to change the profile of your document, you should first make sure that you have the right color mode, CMYK or RGB. Go to File and Color Mode to check out which Color Mode you set your document to. Then you can change your profile by going to Edit and Assign Profile. When you change the color mode, you can have a look at the colors that you used in the swatches panel. Just make sure that they've changed the color mode as well. This is the really basics and simple settings about CMYK and RGB, so let's talk a little bit more about Pantone. If you work professionally with pattern design, it's a must to have some basic knowledge about Pantone, as I see it. If you want to sell or license your artwork to different markets, such as the textile market. If you for example, would make a fabric collection, you will need to specify the colors in Pantone numbers before you send it off to be printed. To do this, you need to have that specific Pantone deck as digital searches in your software, for me, that means in Adobe Illustrator. Some of the Pantone decks are included in the Creative Cloud, but some of them you need to get separately. Pantone has a software that you can buy, which will make it possible to use all of the swatches from the decks in your preferred software, it's called Pantone color manager. Let's open Pantone color manager, and I gave you a quick run-through of how it works. You can access all other decks by going to View and fan deck. Here I have the FHI Color Guide as this is the one that I used for my fabric collections, but there are plenty more to choose from in the software. To be able to use this guide in Illustrator, you need to export it. If you will use it for print, export it as lab, and for web export it as RGB. Then we'll head over to Illustrator to open the Pantone color guide. Go to the Swatches panel, Open Swatch Library, Color Books and FHI Pantone color guide. Now you have the full guide as swatches to use in your artwork. If you want to recolor your existing artwork to Pantone colors, you can go to Edit, Edit Colors, and Re-color Artwork. Then you can click on this little Swatch Library button, choose the Color Book and your Color Guide. Now these colors have changed to Pantone colors. Sometimes this works perfectly and gives you almost the exact same match as your CMYK colors, but if it didn't and you want to change a color, you can just click on that color, choose the Pantone library in the swatch panel, check the Pantone number, type it in, and then you will see the close by colors that you can choose from to change the colors to a hue that you're more satisfied with. A nice little feature in the Pantone color manager, is that you can make a new palette based on images, so to give you an example here, I'm just making one image of all of my inspiration images, saving it, and then I head over to the Pantone Color Manager again. This time let's click on "File" and New Palette From Image. Choose your image and you will get a Pantone palette based on the images. You can save the palette as ASE to be used as swatches in Illustrator, and as you can see in Illustrator, the palette didn't turn out as my original palette from these images. Sometimes this function works and sometimes you will get a completely wrong color, but it's a nice little feature that you can experiment with and have fun with. Another little trick is that you can export the palattes as a style guide and the column and share, which should bring you these little PDFs with the color specified, so if you have a purpose for that, you can do it like this. Now we talked a little bit about the basics of the color modes and when to use them, and how to set up your document. Let's head over to the next lesson where we will work with creating a second color way other of a pattern and collection. 7. Colorways: In this lesson, I will take you through my process of how I make a second colorway of a pattern and a whole collection. Re-coloring designs and adding a second colorway to patterns and collections is a huge part of working with pattern design. For me, color is everything. It can really make or break a pattern. Sometimes when I make a pattern collection, I make a second colorway instantly, and sometimes I just make one colorway. In some markets though, like the textile market, a second colorway is often asked for. If you haven't got one from the start, you might need to add one later on if a client asks for it. Let's head over to Illustrator and I will show you how I recolor and make a second colorway of a single pattern and a whole collection. I will show you my collection Garden Glory as an example, as it's just been released as a fabric collection, and I'll take you through my process of making the second colorway of the collection. This is the first colorway of this pattern, and how I make the second colorway then? Well, first of all, I don't follow any rules, but I tend to often let a few colors be the same in both colorways, which will make them match each other so that you can use patterns from both colorways in the same project. This is especially good if the collection will become fabric or any other product where you would like to mix and match the patterns. In this case, I have a blend to start with, where I saved some of the colors from the first colorway and added a few new ones like this red. What I do is that I make a copy of the pattern and I usually start out with using the Recolor Artwork tool to experiment with new colorways. I go to Edit, Edit Colors and Recolor Artwork. If you want to exclude a color and not change that one, you just click on the little arrow and that color will stay as it is. For example, here I click on the arrow by the light background color as I want the background to stay the same. I click on the color group of the new colorway, and then on the little button to randomly change color order. When I find interesting colorway I click "OK" to save that version. Then I just keep on going and makes several different versions to choose from. I think that this tool is such a great way of seeing how your color palette work, and if the combinations work well with each other. I experiment and make many different alternatives to finally narrow it down to one I like, and that I think compliment my first colorway. For me, colorways should be different enough, so you can see that it's clearly different pellets, but similar enough so they can work well together. Of course, this can be different depending on what products your patterns will go on. But if I, for example, would design a fabric collection, this is how I work with colorways. I can also drag out the pattern from the swatches panel and change just one color by selecting object and click on Select, Same, Fill color. Then I just change that color by clicking on the swatch and change to a different blue. Or I go to the Recolor Artwork tool and change the color there. To give you a quick look at how I go about when I make a second colorway of the whole collection, I'll speed up my workflow for you here. This is normally a process that takes much longer time than I show you here in class. I recolor the patterns one-by-one, mostly using the Recolor Artwork tool and then changing some colors manually by dragging out the pattern from swatch panel and recolored objects. When I have many different versions, I start to narrow it down. In this collection there's many versions with different colors of the same pattern, which looks really good now when it's been printed on fabric. You can mix and match the different fabrics and create lovely combinations to use on, for example, a quilt. In some collections I make only one version of each pattern. It all depends on the look of the whole collection. In this collection, Garden Glory, I actually just had one version of each colorway of each pattern at first, but when I got asked to make the collection suitable to become a fabric collection, I made more versions of each pattern as I thought that it will look so good on fabric with these different combinations. This is the final result of the garden glory collection in the two different colorways. That's it. I hope that you get some new tips and techniques that you can use when you make colorways of your patterns and collections. 8. Thank You: Thank you so much for joining me in this class. I hope that you had a good time watching and that you learned a few new tips and tricks that will help you move forward in working with colors and pattern design. For me, colors are so important to the overall look of my design, and they really help to hold my brand and my style together, make sure that you share your class project. I would love to see what you create. If you share your project on Instagram, please feel free to tag me with majaronnbackdesign. If you have any questions at all, please ask them on the Community page here in class and if you liked this class, you can hit the Follow button by my name here below to make sure that you don't miss out on my future classes and feel free to leave a review to let me know what you thought about this class.Thanks again for joining me and have fun creating.