Stronger Patterns Made Easy | Shannon McNab | Skillshare
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6 Lessons (30m)
    • 1. Class Introduction

    • 2. Replacing Overwhelming Motifs (Shannon)

    • 3. Small Details Can Make a Big Impact (Amber)

    • 4. Color Contrast & Making Small Adjustments (Kim)

    • 5. Color & Spacing: Your Two Best Friends (Norma)

    • 6. Final Thoughts + Your Assignment

23 students are watching this class

About This Class

Ever finish a pattern, only to feel like it still "needs something", yet you're not sure what??

I felt like this constantly when I first learned pattern design over a decade ago, but over the years I developed easy ways to fix my patterns and not only make them stronger, but more dynamic too. And I'm sharing a few of those tricks in this class!

Each video is a self-contained tutorial, so you can learn each technique in 3-9 minutes flat. They also feature four different artists work and three were generously submitted by my actual pattern students.

Every featured artist was compensated in exchange for permission for me to use their patterns in class. Let's get to know them all a little bit more:

Video 3: Amber Benton
Website | Instagram

Amber is an illustrator, freelance graphic designer and homeschool mom to six boys. Amber's works in both paint and pixels. Her style is strongly influenced by her childhood in rural Appalachia and the vitality, color and chaos that comes with large family living.

Video 4: Kim Bliss
Website | Instagram

Kim is an unemployed graphic designer who decided to take the reigns of her career and follow her dream. She applies her artistic and design skills in the styles she is interested in, which is quite eclectic, and includes retro, hand-drawn and whimsical. Florals, food and abstract patterns are her favorite.

VIdeo 5: Norma Jeane

A few decades ago, Norma Jeane got a degree in Theatrical Set Design. But a move to Los Angeles caused her to become a television writer instead. Retired after 30 years in TV, she is picking up her artwork again. As most days are spent caring for her two grandchildren, her personal style can best be described as “not enough time to finish this.” 


1. Class Introduction: Hi, I'm Shanna McNabb. I'm a surface designer and illustrator and have been creating patterns for the past 10 years. In that time, I've developed lots of little tricks to make my patterns stronger, and that's what I'm going to show you in this class. I'll be walking you through four different patterns by four different artists, including myself. And in just a few simple steps, we'll show you how I made the pattern stronger and more dynamic. All the designs I utilize for this class that don't feature my own artwork were submitted from fellow students from my previous skill share classes. All the designers have been compensated in exchange for letting me use their pattern. I shall see all four patterns have a very unique style to the artist. I tried as much as possible to keep their original style intact when making changes, and I hope you enjoy the results 2. Replacing Overwhelming Motifs (Shannon): we're gonna start this class with a pattern from my own portfolio. This is the original version of my funky floral design, and you can see here there's lots of different motifs. And so you may be wondering what's wrong with this? Like it looks like a pretty decent pattern, cause there's lots of movement, lots of different sizes and shapes. What is I put the repeat on, um, a rectangle right here. The thing that I noticed is this leaf right here shows up Preeti lately. And I did this in one color specifically so you could see that. And while this isn't a bad pattern, I felt like there was still more than I could do to make this a stronger design. And so I'm gonna show you a very simple way. Teoh combat this kind of thing where there's one motif that's very, very strong and how to change that. So here's my original sheet of sketches from for this pattern, and you can see I have lots of little doodles that I've included, along with the larger motifs, like the leaves and the florals. And if you've taken my co ordinates class, you know I'm a big proponent of including these little doodles for coordinate patterns. But there's actually another valuable reason to do that. And thats so that you, for objects that do appear to large on their own like this leave, you can simply remove them and then fill this in with new motifs. And a lot of times, especially with something like this, where everything is very tightly kept in a pattern. A lot of times I'll run out from my original sketches, and so I also always have have an AI file that includes all my extra little motifs that I've done in my sketchbook, so that I can mind this for little motifs that I want to add to a pattern and so you can see here if I switch on the updated version. The new design that I added and changed was in red vs the original, so there was the original of the repeat, and simply by removing this piece and adding in a bunch of new, smaller doodles, here is the updated version, and you can see the sizing of the smaller motifs is important because now everything seems much more balanced, then the original version. So if you find that you're looking at a design in repeat, and it's just not feeling quite right. There's something that stands out to you like this one very simple way to come back that just delete it or make it smaller and then fill in the additional space with lots of smaller doodles and you can see it becomes a much stronger repeat. 3. Small Details Can Make a Big Impact (Amber): The next pattern I would be working with is a submission from Amber Benton. What I love most about this pattern is the beautiful spring color way. It's a perfect representation of what probably most people think of when they think Easter spring and her biggest struggle with this pattern and a few other she sent me. She actually sent me an entire collection of her spring has from pieces was she felt that every pattern was a little too simple, and she didn't feel like any of them were a hero pattern, which I completely understand, because with the simple shapes you have, you do have variation with the color, but not much else. And so there are a few different ways we can add some small details that can have a huge impact. And take the piece from this to this, and you can see with all the extra little details added, This makes it look a lot more like a hero pattern. So here is Amber's original repeat size, and what I like about what she did was for the second row. She shifted everything over, and so all of the colors bounce around. But I think she could do even more of that. For those of you who have taken my pattern recipe class, you know, I'm a big fan of having colors bounce around a repeat because it makes the viewers I look around a lot more, and the the pattern ends up looking a lot more pleasing to the eye. So what I ended up doing was actually doubling the size in the vertical direction, which actually gave me two more rose toe work with and then shift over. So here you see that instead of blue being down here on this third row, I shifted everything over to, and now it's orange and the blue is over here. And so there's a little bit more variation in the location of each of the bunnies. And if I switch the swatches, you can see just how much more variation there is in the color. No beyond color. I felt the biggest impact I could make was to add small details, because right now the only detail she really has is this cute little flower tailed. It's such adorable addition to the pattern, and I really love that. But I thought I could do more and one of the things I thought would be fun is actually the have some of the bunnies facing forward and some of them staying backwards. So what I started with was I just took one of the bunny shaped she already had created. And then, with the blob brush, I quickly added to it, and I made legs for him. Then I made a little face. Then I added in the inside of the ears and then a little cute tummy. And then the important part is when you place him is I didn't want him always on the Blue Bunny because then it's It starts to look a little bit predictable, and I didn't want that. So you can see on every different line. The bunny is in a different color, and if I change this, you can see that if all of the blue bunnies were facing forward, it wouldn't feel as balanced as this does Now, however, with only one bunny facing forward and five facing backwards, I felt this was still too much, and I wanted to kind of make him even so since there were six colors chosen, I decided to dio three facing forward and three facing backward and basically have them go back and forth. Now I could use the same money back and forth, but I wanted to do just a little bit of experimentation and add a few extra details in. And so here the two other bunnies that I that I created and it's basically using the same form as the original and making just a few minor adjustments. So for the one on the left, I flapped his ear and then made him winking, and that's literally the only change I made. Then, for the one on the right, I actually flipped, this one said. The floppy ear was on the opposite side, made both of the eyes closed, so it kind of has a more soft doom, your presence. And then I also took her floral from the bunny tail, removed the center and placed it small on her head. So it adds a little bit of extra detail. And if I turn on multi bunny, you can see just how much of an impact this makes. It would still look great if they were all the the regular bunny facing forward, but by having a little bit of extra detail. There's a little bit more for the viewer toe. Look at just always a good thing. And if I zoom out and change it, you can see just how effective this pattern is when put into repeat Now. There's one other tip I wanted to share with you for patterns like this that they have a lot of white space. And even though we added a lot of detail, they're still a little bit more we could do. And it's a technique I love to use on these simpler patterns, and that's actually to create a small, simple coordinate pattern that you actually put behind. So when Amber sent in her submission like I mentioned, she actually sent in a couple different patterns, and one of them was this beautiful little dot pattern. This is a perfect coordinate as is. I wouldn't change a thing. I especially love how the dots are different sizes and the movement is really, really great on this pattern. And I thought this would be perfect as a background to bunnies. And so the most important thing when you're doing a background on a larger pattern is you want it to enhance but not overpower. And so scale is very, very important. And that's why I took her repeat and I sized it way, way down. This is actually only one inch by one inch. No one important thing I wanted to mention is this is a bit of an air immediate technique because there is a little bit of math involved. These any time I add a back pattern to a larger pattern. I personally like to make sure it repeats perfectly within the larger repeat size. So because her pattern is in full inches at 16 by 10 inches, it actually makes it very, very easy to put it in. Repeat as a one inch by one inch pattern. Now I did change it to yellow. I just wanted to have it in black so you can actually see it with at that size. And now, if I ad that's watch in and move it into the back and zoom in, you can see that if when it's stoop located, it will repeat perfectly. And that's exactly what you want. And I love this because it adds just a tiny little bit of expert dimension to the pattern. So That's one of the easiest ways you can add just a little bit of extra dimension to a large repeat. And if I place that behind the other large swatch, you can see just how effective it ISS. 4. Color Contrast & Making Small Adjustments (Kim): So the next pattern I'm gonna be working with was submitted by Kim Bliss. You can see it's a really fun and kind of funky geometric pattern. And her biggest concern with this is that she felt it was a little too tiled, which I completely agree with. Everything seems kind of very stuck in a brick like style. And so I'm gonna show you how I took this and changed it into that in just a few simple steps. So here is her original. Let me move that back. And the first thing I noticed was the kind of peachy pink sitting on the purple felt like it was kind of getting a lost. Luckily, there's a really easy trick to see if, if you need more contrast in a piece and all you have to do is click on your swatch and then copy it and then open up photo shop already have a document set up for this and then paste it in. And then the way you tell if you need more contrast is really, really simple. You just go to image mode and switch it to gray steel, and you can see here that like I expected the kind of peachy pink almost completely disappears from when you change it to gray scale. And that's a really, really easy way you can check to see if you need to bump up the contrast between the colors in your pattern. So moving back to this, the first thing I did was changed a few of the colors. So here is the updated version, and you can see the biggest noticeable change is changing these lines, from the peachy pink to the kind of work it color she had in her palette, which is a really, really pretty color against the purple. And then the other change that I made Waas. All of these dots are in the same exact color as these green lines. And so I wanted there to be a little bit more contrast between that, and so I changed all of those to a darker purple. In here. Almost all the colors are light sitting on the background where here you have both light and dark. And so if you see the updated version of that, you can now see a lot more of the detail that she put time in on all those little dots, you go back and forth. So the next trick to easily change a pattern that feels really tile is to actually use the pattern maker and see if you can put it into 1/2 drop. And if that helps them to turn off the original and I'm going Teoh collect everything and go toe object pattern make. And then the repeat size for her was five by five, and you can see this is how it's repeating right now. But if I go down to the drop down where it's his tile tight and switch it to brick by row, you can see it's automatically already better because you have it kind of bouncing around. So it's not all linear up and down left to right. You have a little bit that goes back and forth, and so we can use that and change our pattern to now reflect this type of design. So how do you go about making 1/2 drop without just putting it into the pattern maker and making it a swatch? So what I like to dio for those of you who have taken some of my other classes, you know, I love to use the move tool. It's one of the easiest ways to make sure your patterns are perfectly placed. Like I said, her original repeat was five by five. So I'm going to take all of the pieces in the original repeat. And since these air overlap pieces, I'm not gonna pick those up because otherwise it will duplicate. So I'm gonna move those. And like I said, it's a five by five. Repeat, and this was a brick by row. So we're gonna move it over five, and the vertical will be zero. And if I turn on the preview, you can see it's going to move perfectly five inches over. One thing I forgot to mention when you do the move tool is you have to press copy. Otherwise it will just move what you've selected. So this time I'm actually gonna remember and pick copy and see. Now you work. You see, it works perfectly. Move everything over so you can see it. And now, obviously, it's 1/2 drop, so we're not gonna move everything perfectly down five inches. We're gonna collect everything again, again, not doing the overhang. Although this time I actually I'm gonna use that one, but not these little purple dots, because thes air on the bottom. And here's the move tool again. And this time we're going to move it over half so 2.5 and move it down the full and then press copy, and then you'll want to do the same thing again. Except this time, you're gonna want to move it negative so that it moves back in place. Copy. And so now we have a new, larger repeat size that's gonna be the original was five by five. This new one is gonna be five by 10 because we have to accommodate for the five inch drop over to the right. So here's my updated repeat. I try and keep all my files really neat and tidy. And so any of the expert overhang I usually delete so my computer will run faster because obviously more images you have, the more points you have, the slower your computer will. Right? So now that we have this, the next thing I want to do is actually add some extra lines in here, and the reason I want to do that is because we want to actually increase the amount of randomness. And so what I usually dio is for a pattern like this is I'll take the existing pattern so that I don't have to go in, actually create new lines. Unwra bit cause she's head everything wonderfully grouped together. And then I'll just experiment with different lengths. So maybe, you know, this looks nice with just five. And to make sure it reads differently than this original, I'll probably rotate it 180. And so it doesn't look exactly like the original. So just experiment with different permutations of all the lines and dots. And so from that you can see first I did the purple, so the original let me zoom out so that you can see it in repeat. So this was again the original after changing color. That's after I made it 1/2 drop, and the first thing I did was add some extra purple lines in both the horizontal and vertical directions, also making sure that some of them were kind of overlapped in places so they didn't all look stacked together, and so you can see the difference here. Although I still feel like this is maybe a little too linear. And so that's why I went back like this. And so they felt a little bit more jumbled. Now, you know, you kind of mess with the placement so you can see in this other version. I felt like this was very lined up. And so with the updated version, you can see I actually added the second piece right here and offset them so it kind of bounces around a little more and then adding in and breaking up the large piece I go back one. You can see these air about the same thickness for the green lines. By breaking that up a little bit and then adding in a few extra lines, it actually gives it a little bit more movement. So it's an easy way to make your pattern stronger. And then the last thing that I did was enlarging the dots because the lions air very overpowering, and I loved a little detail that she had in her dots. And so I went in and increased them all by 110%. And you can see the difference if I go back and forth. So now you notice the dots a little bit more, and I just realized there's actually one other little tweak I made. Felt like these were too close and this was too far apart. So I moved it a little bit, so that now it feels like all the kind of spacing is even even though it's kind of a randomized pattern. So that's how we went from this all the ways that and it didn't take that much time or effort. 5. Color & Spacing: Your Two Best Friends (Norma): So this last pattern I'm gonna show you in this class is from Norma Jean. And what I love about this pattern was that she made all the motifs entirely with the blob brush, which I think is absolutely wonderful. If I zoom in, you can see all the little great details, especially on the flower center. I really love all those little details. Her biggest issue she felt, was that the more she worked with that, the more she felt that it was just dull that she wanted a bright, happy pattern. And so we're gonna do a few things that will actually change it from that to this, you can see this is a lot happier, brighter, fun, color way. Let's go back to the original. So the first thing that I noticed here is her original repeat is that when I looked at the flowers, there wasn't really much contrast between the flowers in the background and then, especially the flowers and this little green part in the center. And so, just like Kim's pattern in the last video, I tested this in photo shopping. So I went ahead and brought it in to illustrator see you can see how much the full flower actually blends into the background. And so the first thing I wanted to do was change the colors that there was a bit more contrast. The other thing I noticed was that the flower center details kind of fall away into the center itself, like the dark green on the dark brown. There's probably not enough contrast than the other aspect is. She wanted to warm things up. So color is one of the easiest ways you can obviously affect the mood of a pattern. And since she wanted bright, fun happy, I felt that the grey didn't really speak to that. And so I wanted to go back to her original color palette that she had selected, and I actually decided on this orange. So here is the updated color way. The first thing I did was changed the full big bloom to orange, and then I changed the middle, which was originally conceived over here green. I changed it to a darker brown so that there was a bit more contrast and you could see all that beautiful detail she did with the blood fresh. There's also this back piece which actually was the same exact color as the background on. I wanted to mix it up justice slightly so actually picked one of the brighter kind of celery yellowy green colors. And I thought that went really nicely with the oranges. And then lastly, I was fixing. The center's only did actually also forget to mention that I made the edges of the leads darker, as you can see here, there, there, orange. I went with the darker brown, but one of the fun things about the color tool and she actually set this file up beautifully. So originally they were set to this color and you can see over here and my swatches palette . You see this little notch of the corner. That means she's had all of these built as global colors, which is wonderful. Now, how do you actually go about making a global swatch? Say, I wanted a purple swatch, something like that press okay, and it's in my fill. I would go up to the lines of the swatches palette, click it and saying New Swatch, And the most important thing is this check box right here. Global is checked. If this wasn't checked when it. I create the swaps. You see, it doesn't have that little notch. But if I go back and add it with the global swatch now it has that cute little notch. Now, what makes the global swatch so great is it allows you to easily update any color. You just double click the swatch, and I'm gonna just check, preview and watch what happens when I move the sliders around. It actually changes. Not on Lee, the colors in the piece that I'm working on. It also changes any instance of it in any other swatch where it appears, which is great, cause that means you don't have to go back to multiple pieces and change it manually. So I just adjusted this to where I had a little bit of a brighter green and so you can see the result. This is what I ended up there is just a little bit brighter. I didn't want to go too crazy. And so you can see between the original and the updated version how big of an impact color has now? The next thing I noticed was the spacing felt a little off. I talk about this in my pattern recipes class. There's a thing called gutters where that's any spot in your pattern, usually a vertical or horizontal line that's created unnecessarily in your pattern. It's typically seen as a negative thing to have a gutter. Well, I see a giant gunner right here because there's a lot of empty space, and so an easy way to fix that is actually take the giant flowers, which are the biggest motifs, and arrange them in such a way that they have a little bit more movement. And if I go back and forth between those two, you can see I did just that. Here's the better, and now it's gone because we moved these and then I also didn't move some of the smaller flowers as well, to try and get all of the negative space about even through all the motifs. The other change, I thought, would help. This pattern is right now. Norma has two sizes, too. Her flowers. She has these really, really large blooms, and then these really, really tiny blows. I thought it be nice to have a little bit more very Asian, and it would add a little bit of expert pop to the pattern. So what I did is I actually took a few different motifs. So I took these two right here and enlarged them to, I think was about 160%. And then I took these two and I enlarged them to, I believe, 140%. And you could see the reason this works so well is I'm picking motifs that are in a diagonal. So when it's repeated out, it's gonna bounce up and down as its repeated on the pattern, and you can see just that happening with this, see how much better and we're balanced. This feels you don't have as much white space as we originally did. And because you have a few different sizes, the disparity between the giant blooms and the small blooms is less obvious. Now, the last thing I thought would be kind of a nice little touch. She again she thought this was a little dull, and I figured maybe we could add just a little extra IMF if we changed the color of the leaves. I actually kind of like that. They're brown because it's a little bit different than your normal green. However, I was like, let's test it and see if we add Green, which these air the beautiful greens that she picks in her palate. I actually think this works really, really nicely. Personally, I would honestly probably stick to this cause this pattern kind of has a little bit more vintage quality to it. But if she wanted a little bit more pop of color, she could easily use this screen so you can see how, just in a few steps, how much of a difference. Changing the color can affect the mood and the contrast in your pattern. And then the spacing between the motives and the sizing. The motifs condone drastically change how a pattern looks. 6. Final Thoughts + Your Assignment: I hope you enjoy the tips I showed you in the last four videos, and now it's time to utilize those tips in your own work. Simply find a pattern in your portfolio you felt needed a little bit of updating. And then, if I one or more of the techniques that I showed you in any of the videos and apply it to your pattern, then don't forget to come back to this group and post your beautiful work so we can see the foreign after. I really hope you enjoy this class. If you'd like to stay up to date for when I post new classes or have a new educational content, please follow me on my still share page or sign it for my newsletter. Thank you so much for joining me, and I look forward to seeing your patterns of class.