Paint to Pattern | Mel Armstrong | Skillshare

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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.

      What you will need


    • 3.

      Inspiration Moodboard


    • 4.



    • 5.



    • 6.

      Clean & Isolate


    • 7.



    • 8.

      Final Thoughts


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About This Class

Even though most of my work is digital I still spend a lot of time painting with traditional media, in particular, gouache and watercolour.  There is a huge market for it, so it's always a good idea to build your skills in this area.  And it's so much fun!  

So in this class, we are going to paint some icons using a medium of your choice.  It might be Gouache, watercolour or whatever else you enjoy painting with. We will then scan those in and create a simple pattern in Photoshop.

What you'll learn:

I’ll take you step by step through the following:

  1. Finding inspiration
  2. Sketching icons
  3. Painting icons
  4. Transferring them to Photoshop
  5. Removing backgrounds and isolating each icon on a separate layer.
  6. Creating a repeating grid pattern in Photoshop

Who this class is for:

This class is for those who work in traditional media and want to learn about surface pattern design.  I will take you through most of the basic skills required in photoshop, but If you need a little extra help with Photoshop, I recommend first doing my class  “10 Photoshop Tips for Surface Designers”, where I teach you some of the basics of Photoshop, specific for illustrators and Surface Designers.


  • Basic knowledge of Photoshop

What you'll need:

  • Pencil & Eraser
  • Watercolour paper
  • Paints (e.g. Gouache, watercolour, etc)
  • Paper towels, water & palette
  • Scanner, camera or phone
  • Adobe Photoshop


The following classes may help with some of the technical aspects of the class that I don't cover.

So are you ready?  I’m super excited to see your art as patterns so let’s get started.

Meet Your Teacher

Teacher Profile Image

Mel Armstrong

Illustrator, Pattern Addict & Teacher

Top Teacher

Hello and greetings!

I'm a dedicated illustrator and surface pattern designer hailing from Wellington, New Zealand. My passion lies in crafting beauty, whether it's through illustration, patterns, sewing, or even assembling IKEA flat packs (yes, really).

Driven by an insatiable thirst for knowledge, I found my way to Skillshare. After discovering this treasure trove of learning, I not only delved into various classes but also found my... See full profile

Level: Beginner

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1. Introduction: Hello, my name is Mel Armstrong. I'm an illustrator and surface pattern designer from Wellington, New Zealand. Most of my work is digital but I also love traditional media, in particular, wash. In this class we're going to paint some icons using a medium of your choice. It might be wash, water color or whatever else you use and enjoy painting with. We will then scan them into Photoshop, clean them up, and create a simple pattern. Creating patterns is quite meditative for me. If you haven't discovered pattern design then you are in for a real treat, my only warning is that it's very addictive. In this class, I will take you through step-by-step, how to find inspiration, sketching icons, painting icons, scanning them into Photoshop, cleaning them up and preparing them for pattern design, and finally creating a simple great pattern. This class is for those who work in traditional media and want to learn about surface pattern design. I'm going to take you through most of the basic skills required in Photoshop but if you need a little extra help with Photoshop, I recommend doing my class, 10 Photoshop tips for surface designers where I teach you some of the basics of Photoshop specifically for illustrators and surface pattern designers. This class is ideal for traditional artists wanting to learn how to create patterns from their artwork but it's also for surface pattern designers who want to do a little bit of traditional painting. Are you ready? I am super excited to see your [inaudible] patterns. Let's get started. 2. What you will need: For this class, you will need some watercolor paper. I like using the strewthmore watercolor journal, it's a perfect size for carrying around in your bag and the paper is beautiful. You will also need a pencil. I use the Staedtler micro-pencil, micro-lead, it has a nice fine line and I find it works well underneath gosh paint. You will also need an eraser. You could just use a normal eraser like this one or I like to use these native old raisins. The fantastic, it looks a bit blue tech, but it actually works really well. It doesn't pull up the paper breakage and it's good for just niching out pencil work so you can paint over it. You will also need a pellet for your paints. I use this ceramic pellet, but you can use whatever you've got. We'll also need paper towel, water, and some paint brushes. I have a few here that are my favorites, they're all round sable brushes. This one's a Size 7 and it's probably one of my favorites. I also use a Size 0 and a Size 2 for fine detail work. You will also need some paint. I use this acrylic wash. You can use goulash watercolors, whatever the like, the equivalent brush reminds me of chalk paint. If you've ever used took paint to paint your furniture, it's a similar look and feel. That beautiful, that really nice. They are made in Japan. That's it. Let's get started. 3. Inspiration Moodboard: Hi everyone. In this class, I'm quickly going to show you how I create a mood board for my designs. Generally, something who inspire me and then I build on it. For this case, these birds here, the lilac-breasted roller. I found them on one of my favorite websites and just fell in love. That start me off and I went and gathered a few more things. Let me show you where I got the pictures of the lilac-breasted roller. To my favorite website, wildlife reference photos for artists. Basically, this website allows you to purchase at a very low cost images that you can use for your reference, for your artwork. You don't have to worry about any copyright infringement. You basically, you can use them as reference for creating traditional artwork, carving sculptures, hand paint, digital artwork, anything. You can sell that artwork, you can put that art work onto merchandise clothing, apparel and you can offer that for sale. Basically, you can do anything you like. The only thing you can't do with these pictures is re-sell them in digitally or electronically in any printable or any print form, and you can't share them with anyone else for download. But otherwise, you can use them for your reference, for your artwork, which is fantastic and the small price that you pay for them allows the photographer to be repaid for the photos. Another place, obviously that you can find stuff is Pinterest, we all love Pinterest. I have a slow inspiration board where I will post or pin things as I find them. Lots of gorgeous photos here of some pretty stunning flowers that often inspire my work. Obviously, another place you can get inspiration is outside with your camera and I have a massive database of photos of flowers, trees, animals, birds, anything. In fact, the flowers here that I have on my board or photos I've taken myself. This palm here is from Rarotonga. This thing here, I don't really know what it is, if anyone knows, please tell me. I'm obviously some sort of fruit or I don't know, but it was interesting, so I took a photo. These little beautiful flowers in a garden somewhere I was recently but I remember where. Yeah, but you can gather inspiration from everywhere, so basically, I started off with my bird and I give it a few things in my head, I have this idea, what I want to do. I've got some colors, these are colors from my gush set, and I'm going to use this when I start sketching my icons for my design. In the next lesson we will start sketching. See you then. 4. Sketch: Hi everyone. I'm sketching straight into my Strathmore watercolor journal and I'm using a Staedtler micro pencil, which creates lovely fine lines and not too heavy, and so I'm going to paint over it. You'll also need an eraser. I'm going to start sketching some ideas for my design. I'm going to keep it very simple. A little bit abstract. Just really shapes of the birds and shapes of the flowers and leaves. This will keep it very simple. First off, I'm going to sketch some shapes of the birds. I like the way that these birds are looking to the side. I'm going to use that in my sketches. I'm not going to draw tails. I'm just going to keep them simple and just have a basic shape of the shape of the bird. When you're sketching your icons that are going to end up into a pattern, it's really important that you sketch everything isolated to that. You can then easily cut them out in Photo shop and move them around as you need them. I'm going to sketch these elements all on their own. I'm not going to put anything behind them or front of them. This way it'll be easy for me later on to cut them out and create a pattern from them. I'm going to quickly sketch in the few leaves and maybe a couple of flowers as well. I'm happy with that for the moment. Let's move on to the next lesson and add some color. 5. Paint: Let's get started with some colors. I'm going to use my acrylic washed paints and I'm going to select this ash blue. Many are going to select about four or five. Keep it simple. This ash rose is really nice. Shell pink. My favorite minty green. I will use this ivory white for some detail work later on, non-linear. Leave that out for the moment. Let's just put that aside and get into it. I'm going to start out with my size for RAM sable brush just to draw the silhouettes of the birds. We'll just get that wet and add a bit of water to my paintings. We're going to start with my favorite color minty green. I'm just going to paint in the silhouette of this bird. What I normally do is I do everything in one color first and then move on to the next. I might do this bird and do a few leaves, and then move on to the next color. I'm now going to grab another zero brushing [inaudible] which are a bit finer. I need to find a brush. I'm just going to use my [inaudible] on the pencil. This will just make it a little bit lighter. You probably can't see it on the video, but it just means that it would show through the paint. We are going to move to another next color, ash rose and do my next [inaudible]. I'm also going to do this big leaf over here in the same color. We're going to turn the paper around just to make it a bit easier for me and show that I didn't put my hand into any of the wet paint as it's drying. I'm just going to continue on here and fill in all the silhouettes of my elements unless made it up here. I'm now going to add in a few details, I'm going to start with my ash blue and just fill in the centers of these flowers. Just make sure that the layout underneath is completely dry before doing this. I'm going to add some few marks that we fill in these spaces, I may not use this. If you see my patents, they often have little marks in between the main elements. Now we're going to add a few details to the birds such as eyes and wings. I'm now going to use my ivory white to fill in a few more details on the leaves, and on the birds. Sometimes instead the ivory white paint, I'll can use the white gel pen, you can also use a [inaudible] for this data, which gives me even find a lines. But for this one I'm just going to use my paint. There we have it. In the next lesson, I'm going to show you how to scan that into your computer clean it up. See you then. 6. Clean & Isolate: Deterrence through your painting to your computer. You can use a range of different methods. My favorite is just to take a photo with my smartphone and sync it with Google photos or you can scan it in. If you've got a good scanner, make sure you scan it in at a very high DPI. Or you can use a scanner app for your fine as well. Here's my painting, it's synced to Google Photos. I'm just going to download that and then I'm just going to open it up in Photoshop. The first thing I'm going to do is just rotate the painting so that the right way round and then going to save it as a PSD. Now, I'm going to take you through how I separate them and remove the background. The first thing I like to do is unlock that background layer and duplicate it. Will keep one as a backup. I'm going to change the title of that layer to backup and I'm going to look at and switch it off. I'm also going to create another layer that will be the background, and that's just a blank background. I'm also going to crop this so that I can cut out most of that table as possible and just have the paper. The next step is to remove the background. To do that, I first adjust the levels to try and make this background a more even color and more wide. To do that, I create an adjustment layer. If you go to Image, Adjustments, I like to use the curves. You can also use levels. Now, let's go into Curves. Couple of ways you can do this. You can just drag this around and you can see how it changes the color, brightness of your painting. You can also grab the eyedropper tool down here and grab the one that in sample in image to set white point. If you click that and then click on a white point, it then attempts to whiten the rest of it at the same time. A quote often use a combination of that and also dragging the level down because you want to retain the nice colors that you started with and not lose them. Another way is to use the level, so if I go into Image, Adjustments and Levels. You can adjust the white by dragging the right-hand side up and then drag left side down and just play around until you get it right. See how it brightens up the colors quite a bit. Makes whites whiter and the dark colors darker. You can see they're now a lot of it. The background is just a pure white. Just take a bit of fiddling and don't worry if it's not completely perfect because the next step will help you erase the bits that you don't want. I'm happy with that. Now we use the Magic Wand tool and select the white area and just have a quick look around and see if there's any spots that it hasn't really grabbed. There's a bit down in the bottom here. I'll just zoom in a bit. That was where I couldn't quite crop the bottom of the page. I'm not going to worry about that. But there are some bits over here. If I hold down the Shift key, we can see that my Magic Wand tool has a little plus, so basically that's allowed me to add a little more. Once I just click on that area, it's now included it. I also need to make sure I get the insides of anything. I'm going to click it like that. The next step is to go to select, Modify, Expand and I'm going to select Two pixels and that brings the selection in around the columns so you don't get a white border around them. Then use the feather tool. Go back up to Select, Modify, then Feather and what this does is soften the edges so that they are not so hard. I'm going to change that to one pixel and when you are happy with that, go up to Select Inverse, to select everything except your Oakland. Then come down to your Layers panel here and select, Add Layer Mask, and then your background will disappear. Now what I like to do is actually create a dark background layer so that I can check that I did remove everything that I made moved. If I want to do that again, go in to Layer, New fill layer, Solid color and we'll just make that dark. It looks like I've got most of it. Obviously the split down the bottoms. Using my mask, I'm going to select My razor and just bump that up in size a bit and make sure that your fill and foreground and fill and stroke, sorry, black and white. Then when we have the foreground as white, you can erase. If you switch that around, you can actually bring it back. I'm just going to tidy up some of the edges. This leaf down has a little bit of a white line on it that didn't get picked up. I'm just going to clean that up. I'm going to go round the whole painting and just clean up little pieces that are doing that smooth off any edginess that I don't like. Let's speed this up. I'm pretty happy with that. We're going to change the background back to white. The next step is to cut out each of the icons. Personally I'm just going to apply the layer mask. Then using my lesser tool on the keyboard, I'm going to cut out each of these icons. I'm going to use Command X and then Command Shift B to paste it back in place and then go back to my original layer and then remove the next one. As I go, I'd like to categorize them as well. So I cut out my three good, so I'm going to group them into it bit grape and then continue on, speed it up here. We have now separated on to different lanes and we are ready to now put them into a pattern. See you in the next lesson. 7. Pattern: Now we're up to my favorite part, creating a pattern from your beautiful paintings. In this class, I'm going to show you how to do a simple creative repeat. If you want to know how to do more complex repeats, I do have a class on half drop repeats in Photoshop. I also have a class on how to create repeats using Textile Designer, which is a new plugin from Adobe that allows you to create patterns without having to use calculations. I will put links to the other classes in the above section for you. In this class, I'm just going to show you how to do simple create repeat. The first thing I need to do is create a new document and pull these icons onto it. I'm going to go to "File" "New", and create a 10 by 10 inch, 300 ppi document, RGB. I'm going to select all my icons and just drag them over into my new document. I might resize them down. I'm using "Command" "T" to activate the transform tool, just re-size them down a little bit. The first thing I do is place icons at the top, and on the left. With a simple grid repeat, everything that is on the top needs to be on the bottom, and everything on the left has to be on the right. I'm just going to grab all my icons to begin with, and just place them in the top left-hand corner. Then I'm going to fill in the rest of this left-hand side here. I'm just going to grab icons and duplicate them by holding down the "Option" key. Let's grab that flower, and we flip it using the transform key, and just place it on the left-hand side there. I'm going to grab all those icons along the top. I'm using my move tool, which is "V" on the keyboard, and just selecting everything along the top. You can see in the "Layers" panel, I have multiple icon selected. I'm just going to click and drag that down to the "Duplicate" icon, to create copies. Then "Command" "T" to transform, and we need to move them to the bottom down here. To do that, I know that my canvas size is 10 by 10 inches, which is 3000 by 3000 pixels. Up here, we need to change the y-axis, which will move these icons down vertically. I'm going to add 3000 pixels to that. Just add the three on the beginning there. They have moved down to the correct place at the bottom of the canvas. Then I'm going to repeat that on the left, I'm going to grab all those icons. I'm going to duplicate them, transform them, and add 3000. Now I can complete my pattern by adding more icons to the gap here. If you move an icon that is up against the left-hand side or top, or any of the edges, you need to make sure that you move the other side. I want to move this bird over a tiny bit, so I'm going to click on it, hold down my "Shift" key and also click on the other bird. Then I can move them both together. I'm just going to move that over. Then I need to move the flower as well. If you do have to rotate one, just rotate it, and then delete the other side, and then resend it over, copy it, and transform it. I am reasonably happy with that. The next thing I'd like to do is to test out the pattern to ensure that it repeats nicely. I'm going to go to "Edit", "Define Pattern", and call this "bird-pattern". Then create a new document. I'll probably just stick to the 10 by 10 again. Then go to "Layer", "New Layer", "Pattern", and that will pick up that pattern. Then if I change the scale down to say 50, we can say that it repeats. Then if you want to go back and fix it, I can see there's a few things here, like these two are too close to each other. You can go back to your pattern and adjust as required. You can also add a background. If I go down to my background layer, and add a layer above it. Go to "Layer", "New Fill Layer", "Solid Color", and you can add a nice background color, maybe a dark one. Then you can go back and test it again. "Edit", "Define Pattern", "bird-pattern dark". Then just double-click on that "Pattern Fill", and select the new pattern. You can then save this repeating tile to use as you like. You may want to upload it to Spring Flower or some other print on demand website. Or you might want to apply it to some products that you've created. You can do whatever you like with it. Just save it as a JPEG file, "Save as", and then save as JPEG, and that's it. You have created a beautiful pattern from your painted icons. 8. Final Thoughts: Well, we did it. Congratulations, and awesome work. We have taken a piece of inspiration, turned it into a [inaudible] board, then created a bunch of sketches. We have painted the sketches, scan them into our computer and cleaned them up, and then created a beautiful pattern. Hopefully, you discovered some new skills and tried something new. Now, if there is anything in my videos that you didn't understand or you need me to explain further, please let me know. You can send me an email or create a post in the Community Center, and I'll be happy to answer your questions as soon as I can. Now, it's up to you to have a go. Please, I'd love for you to share your work on the project section. You can upload your pattern, and if you want to create a [inaudible] cup to show it off. If you're unsure how to create a [inaudible] cup, I do have a class specifically on creating [inaudible] cups that will help take you through the process. I have the link in the About section for you. If you're going to share on social media, be sure to tag me and include the #melarmstrongskillshare, as I really love seeing your work. So that's it. Great work. Happy pattern-making, and I'll see you later.