Designing Repeat Patterns: From Icons to Apparel and Beyond | Kimi Lewis | Skillshare

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Designing Repeat Patterns: From Icons to Apparel and Beyond

teacher avatar Kimi Lewis, Product Designer, Noun Project

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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

    • 1.



    • 2.

      Storytelling Through Icons


    • 3.

      Gathering Inspiration


    • 4.

      Artboard Setup, Icon Selection


    • 5.

      Crafting Your Pattern


    • 6.

      Refining Your Pattern Design


    • 7.

      Sending It to Print


    • 8.

      Final Thoughts


    • 9.

      Explore Design on Skillshare


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About This Class

It's all about idioms and icons in this 30-minute class on designing a repeat pattern using symbols and icons!

Kimi Lewis, artist and product designer at the Noun Project, will walk you through her process of creating a pattern in full repeat — one that you can apply to clothing, bags, accessories, wallpaper, or practically anywhere you’d like.

You’ll start with picking an idiom or cliché that you love, and turn it into an illustrated story using pictograms. Kimi draws inspiration from the vibrant colors and patterns of Mexico, merged with her passion for the Bauhaus movement — but your pattern can come from anywhere!

The class will guide you through simple steps in Adobe Illustrator to make your pattern repeat perfectly and translate to print. No prior knowledge is necessary — this class is perfect for beginners as well as experienced designers and illustrators.

Enjoy Kimi's class? Explore more classes with the Noun Project:

Meet Your Teacher

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Kimi Lewis

Product Designer, Noun Project


Kimi Lewis is an illustrator, graphic designer and art director from Los Angeles. She studied graphic design and illustration at Otis College of Art and Design and has worked as a freelancer in both fields since 2009. Kimi now spends half her time at Noun Project and the other half in her sunny studio creating patterns and illustrations. Her style is simplistic, story driven and eclectic.

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1. Introduction: Hi, my name is Kimi Lewis and this is Intro to Pattern-making with icons. We're here today in Los Angeles at the Noun Project Studio where I work as a product designer. I've just been obsessed with patterns my entire life. I've been surrounded by this type of creativity, and I think what I really love about pattern-making is that it allows me to be truly expressive. The canvas expands as I go, and I can take elements away or add pieces. I could shape the work with painting or doodles, sketches, photography, whatever I want, really. So today, we're going to make a pattern in full repeat in just 30 minutes. We are going to be using icons from the Noun Project and you're going to use idioms to help inspire the design. So, I don't think you need any prior knowledge to take this class, anyone can take it, but we will be covering the basics and fundamentals of pattern-making, and you'll only need Adobe Illustrator and the Noun Project Mac app or you could download icons from the website. Today, I'm hoping that you're going to walk away understanding the basics of pattern-making, how to set up the art board, how to make a seamless pattern in full repeat. And then also how to tell a story through your own work, and that's really going to help make your work distinct, feel more like you, and on-brand. The first part will be story, and that's going to help get your creative juices flowing, that will inspire a pattern. Then, we'll go into inspiration, and that's all about the look and feel, and we're going to be sourcing images, mood boarding, possibly even diving into color. Then, we'll go into the technical, which is all about setting up the artboard and then designing, which is my favorite part obviously. Then, we'll go into the application part, and that's all about applying your pattern to a product, and maybe that's a garment on print all over me, like a dress or pants, or we could print out our patterns and make wrapping paper or greeting cards. So, I'm really excited to be here today with you guys, and make some patterns. So, lets do this. 2. Storytelling Through Icons: So, one of the core principles of pattern-making is storytelling. I like to lead with story because it always helps inspire and inform my pattern. You're probably thinking, "Well, I don't have a story to tell today. " But I'm going to give you a few methods and techniques to help inspire your story, and that's going to really get the creative juices flowing, I think. So, one method I like to use is picking your favorite slogan or cliche, a saying or idiom like "kill two birds with one stone", "the ball's in your court", "method to my madness". There are so many great ones out there, and you can always check the internet for some. I listed a bunch of my favorites in the class notes. So, I like using idioms because I think that it forces us to choose unlikely icons, and it's going to help us create a story that's truly your own, it's going to make your work really unique or distinct. So, there's so many great idioms to choose but one of my favorites is "kill two birds with one stone". I heard it a bunch growing up and I have already so many ideas for it. So, now that I have my idiom picked, I'm going to dive into mood boarding and inspiration. This is going to really help set the look and feel for my pattern, and I can also start thinking about color. 3. Gathering Inspiration: So, before we start designing today, I think it's really important that we look for inspiration that will help and form the look and feel for our pattern. We can even start thinking about color now. So, some sites that I like to use to grab images are Pinterest, sometimes when I'm on Instagram and I find something inspiring, I'll take a screen capture. I go through old books, and I'll find images that I like, and I'll just take a photo and send them to my computer. But once I have this collection of images that are inspiring to me, I start building a mood board. You could build a mood board on Pinterest, or Dropmark is really great. I use Illustrator. What else is out there? Or maybe you want to look through old magazines and cut out images and make a physical board. Whatever you want to do, I think it's going to be great. But today, I made my mood board in Illustrator. So, my idiom is "kill two birds with one stone". So, immediately, what comes to mind are bold shapes, squiggly lines for the birds, maybe some hexagons for the stones. I don't think I want to do any traditional round shapes. I think it's all going to be very bold and inspired by Bauhaus. I love primary colors. I think that's where I'm going to be headed today, but we'll see. A few other notes to mention, I gathered most of these images on Pinterest. I also have this Bauhaus book that I gathered some images from, which is really great. But now that we have this mood board in place, I feel pretty confident that I can dive into the pattern-making now. 4. Artboard Setup, Icon Selection: So, in the last section, we gathered a bunch of inspiration for idiom and that really helped us set the look and feel for what we're about to design. So, now that I have this mint board all set up, I'm going to just dive into pattern-making. The first thing I do is set up my art board. I'm going to go into Illustrator, create a new document, and I always set my art board to a 1000 by 1000 pixels. I do that because it gives me enough space to work and I can always make the art board bigger or smaller. Okay. So now that's set, I'm going to pull icons from the Noun Project Mac app. So, some of you today might create your own icon, which is great, or if you don't want to do that, you can pull from Noun Projects platform. There are so many other great sites out there that you could use but for the purpose of today's class, I'm going to use the Noun Project Mac app because it's just easy and a great resource. All right. So, I'm going to start with looking for birds. I already know that I want these squiggly shapes and I'm just going to dive right into it. Alright. So, I'm just going to pull a bunch of icons. I can always take away what I don't want later on. Okay. So, I really like what I pulled so far. They all have that squiggly line that I was kind of imagining while I was mood boarding. So, now that I have a fair amount to choose from, I'm going to just dive into stones. I'm looking for that sort of icon. So, I'm keeping a mind more geometric shapes, I don't think I'm getting quite what I want with the word stone, I'm going to look up, I think, rock. Alright. So kind of like some of the geometric shapes in here and look for a hexagon. I do like these square shapes but I think what I really was imagining was something a little bit more like a hexagon and a lot of that is influenced by these Bauhaus shapes. So, if you're feeling stuck, refer to your mood board, I'm sure you could find some sort of other term or like word, that you could use, inspired by something that you pulled. Keep in mind the end product, if you're going to be making wrapping paper, wallpaper, or applying your pattern to a garment. Maybe choose icons that are a little bit more simple because I think that will really help with the end result and make your pattern overall, maybe a little bit more visually interesting and nicer. The next step, I'm going to just start reducing, I feel like what I have here is pretty good, I have a really good idea of what I'm going to work with and now I'm going to just eliminate what I don't want. So, these birds feel too perfect to me, I think I'm going to take that out. I know I want something that's like way more organic and has that squiggly shape. So, I'm taking those out. Those are not right. These feel too perfect to me. I love these two birds here. I think these rocks are nice but I'm really looking for something that has more of this hexagon shape. So, I'm going to take those out. So, I think these elements here are going to be the basic pieces for my design. So, the next thing I'm going to do, because I didn't design them, I want to make sure that all the vector points are right so I can see right here that they're not. So, I'm just going to go in and tidy it up, and it doesn't have to be perfect. I don't like when elements are perfect. Okay. So now, I'm ready to start designing. I think that what I'm going to do is probably multiply these birds to start creating a shape, which I can then replicate across the art board. Usually, I start in black and white, I think that, by doing, so you're not distracted so much by color. So, I move the elements around to kind of create this squiggle shape. I feel pretty comfortable that I can replicate this to create a more interesting repeat. I'm just going to start repeating these elements. So, what I've done is I've replicated the bird a few times and I've made some small tweaks to the hexagon to make each rock a little bit more distinct. I think what I'm going to do is I'm going to bring these birds a little bit closer, maybe up some. Okay. So now that I have this sort of basic shape down, I think I could start adding color. So, I know that I want just the primary red, yellow, and blue, so I'm just going to start injecting color right now into the rocks. So, I'm going to go into my colors palette and add some blue and yellow. That looks too bright. Here we go. Some red, and I'm looking at my mood board as I go, as I'm searching for color. Okay. I'm going to use the eye dropper, actually right there, red there. Alright. 5. Crafting Your Pattern: Okay. So, now that I have this shape that I'm pretty happy with, I'm going to start replicating it on the art board. I'm just going to fix this. Okay. So, I'm not going to, again, focus too much on color even though I did add some to some of the visual elements because I am probably going to change the color as I go on. But I'm just going to repeat these elements, like so. One thing to keep in mind, as you're making your pattern, whatever is on the left side has to be replicated on the right side. So, what I'm going to do is I'm going to copy this piece and paste it there, and then go into the x-coordinate and add a 1,000 because my art board is at a 1,000. This is now on this side, and I'm going to just disperse these elements out evenly. Now all the elements are dispersed evenly, this is on this side and this is on this side, now I'm just going to duplicate this. Now, dragging this directly below, I notice already that these birds are too close together, there's a lot of negative space here, and it just feels a little awkward. So, I'm going to take all of these, group it together, and shift it over to the left, like so, and I'm a little bit happier now with this shape. This is starting to look interesting, I'm pretty excited about what I have so far. But I think what I'm gonna do now is go in and start tweaking the hexagon shapes, and I'm going to do that because I'm already seeing so many of the same hexagon stone and I want to add a little bit more variety. So I'm going to go in and tweak each one, and just change the direction that it's facing. Because all my elements are grouped together, I'm using the Select tool to change the direction of each element. I'm not super thrilled with these colors; I feel like there's too much white in the background and I'm thinking that the birds are in the sky, so I'm going to make the background blue. So, I'm going to make a box that's 1,000 by 1,000 pixels and change the color to blue. So, now, all my stones that are blue I need to make white. So, I'm going to select the same fill and stroke color, excluding the background color, and make white, like so. I'm noticing my box isn't perfect, so I want to make sure it's aligned with my art board. There we go. Okay. I'm way happier with this color palette, it's way more interesting I think, and I don't know, I just wasn't happy with how much white was in the background. I think this is a lot more visually interesting. I'm pretty happy with this pattern so far and I want to make this a full repeat now. In order to do so, like I mentioned, everything on the left side has to be on the right side, everything on the bottom has to be on the top of the board, and right now, it's not working out that way. So, what I think I'm going to do is, I'm actually going to make my art board shorter because these elements are not being replicated up here in the way that this pattern is naturally shaping. So, I'm going to remove some elements because I could see that this is actually replicated right here. So that's actually where my pattern ends so I don't actually don't even need these up here, so I'm going to take that away. So, I'm going to make the art board shorter to about right here, and that's where I see it starting here, which will end right there. So, in order to make this a full repeat, again, in order to make this perfect-perfect, I'm going to take that away, and then replicate this up here, like so. Then, in order to get that perfect, I'm just going to go into the outline mode and then drag it so the lines are perfectly aligned. I'm just going to go in closer and fix that. All right. So, now, everything that's on the left is aligned on the right, everything that's on the bottom is now replicated on the top. So now, we have pretty much a pattern in full repeat. So to test this pattern, before I put it in my Swatches layer to make it a repeating pattern, I'm going to put a mask on top of this, like so. There we go. Now, I'm going to duplicate it, and I can actually see that my repeat is working. 6. Refining Your Pattern Design: Right now is a good time to look for any awkward areas, and when I mean awkward, maybe there are some spaces that you want to fill up. Usually, you do this now, at this phase, before you bring your pattern into the swatches. So, I could see that there is a little bit of space right here in my pattern that I want to fix, and I think what I could do is just bring these rocks over a hair. So, I'm going to remember that, take that away, release the clipping mask, and then select all these rocks with the select tool. Okay. So, I'm going to move that over just a hair, and I think that's going to be a lot better. Okay. So, I'm going to do the same thing to test the pattern, I'm going to duplicate the blue box and put it on top and make a clipping mask. So, I'm a lot happier now with this pattern. I don't mind this much space in here, I like where the rocks are positioned and I'm really happy with the way that the birds are flowing throughout the pattern. I think it's creating an interesting squiggle shape. So, now that I am happy with this pattern, I'm going to make it a full repeat. So, I'm going to release the clipping mask and one thing to note before you bring it into your swatches layer, you're going to want to outline all your visual elements. So, I'm going to go into the objects, path, and outline stroke. Luckily, my icons were already outlined but you might download a few that are still in their stroke form, so just make sure to outline everything that you've downloaded right before you put it into swatches. Another thing to mention, if you're going to be applying your patterns to wrapping paper or if you're going to submit your work to print all over me, make sure your work is CMYK, that's printable. Your work could be in RGB, and that's digital. So, go into your document color mode and just make sure everything's in CMYK. I noticed that mine was in RGB because I think that's the default for my illustrator. Okay. So now that everything's in CMYK, icons or outlines, I can make this a full repeat. So, what I'm going do is you're going to take your box and I just bring it to the top and then make sure that there's no fill and no outline, and then I send it to the back, and it has to be exactly where the original box was. So, now that the second box is behind the original box, you're going to put it in your swatches, like so. Now, you have the pattern that's in full repeat. Okay. So now that my pattern is set, I'm really happy with where it is, I like the color, the visual elements feel balanced in the repeat. So now, I'm going to consider where I'm going to place it. So, it could be a dress on print all over me or maybe I'm going to make some wrapping paper. One thing I like to do is I like to look at the pattern in different sizes. So, I think, today, I'm going to make a jumpsuit on print all over me. So, I'm going to select my pattern, go into object, transform, and look at the scale of it. I think, for dresses, I'm going to want to see my pattern much larger, the visual elements should be pretty large on the garment. Wrapping paper as well maybe, if you're making greeting cards the icons or the repeat is much smaller. So, I'm going to unselect transform objects, and preview, and then see this at a 150 percent larger. Alright. So, what I'm going to do before I submit this print all over me is I'm going to save as a jpeg. 7. Sending It to Print: Okay. So, now that we have our pattern in full repeat, it's time to think about how we're going to apply our pattern to a product. Maybe it's a shirt or a dress on Print All Over Me, or maybe today you want to make wrapping paper or greeting cards. Definitely keep in mind the size or scale of your pattern depending on your application. So, I know that I want to make a jumpsuit today. The requirement for submitting artwork or your pattern to Print All Over Me is around 55 by 55 inches. So, what I'm going to do is I'm going to change my documents size, my art board. I'm going to go into my ruler. Switch that to inches, and then do 55 by 55. Okay. Then let's go and delete that, and then make an entirely new box that's 55 by 55. Then I'm going to save this out as a jpeg. You could do a PNG as well, but I prefer jpeg. So, if you're making wrapping paper that's sort of a different story. I would say the standard size for wrapping paper is around 20 by 30 inches. So, you'll be saving your art board today at that size. Okay, great. So, now that I have my full repeat saved as jpeg, I'm going to go to Print All Over Me and upload my pattern to the site. So, I just submitted my pattern to Print All Over Me. There's so many other ways you can bring your pattern to life. You can make wrapping paper. You can make greeting cards. You can even submit your patterns to this great company called Spoon Flower, and they'll take your work and turn it into fabric, which they'll then send to you. You can make pillowcases, you can make bags at home. Whatever it is you want to do today I'm really excited to see how you bring your work to life. 8. Final Thoughts: So, we're done with the class and we covered a lot of ground. First, we went into story and how that helps get our creative juices flowing, and then we went into inspiration, which is all about mood boarding and the look and feel of your pattern. We then went to design or the technical part, where we talked about setting up your art board, and then actual design, then we went into application. So, today I made a jumpsuit with my Kill Two Birds with One Stone pattern. I also made some wrapping paper and some greeting cards. We have a hat here which is all about "biting off more than you can chew," and then we have shorts, which is all inspired by a "method to my madness," and then this bag, which is "the ball is in your court." So, I'm super excited to see what you guys come up with today. Go off and create a collection with one idiom, or maybe you want to create a few different pieces from different slogans or cliches. Whatever you do, I'm super excited to see. So, if I were to leave you with any last notes, I would say vision, story, and originality is way more important than skill level, and just remember, pattern should be fun and playful and represent you. 9. Explore Design on Skillshare: way.