Over the last few weeks, I've put my head down and worked hard on adding some Christmas designs to my portfolio. I've intentionally steered clear of all art challenges on Instagram. Trust me, all of them were tempting, but I really didn't want to create something that I might itch to redo after some time.
I'm often asked by fellow designers what program I use to create my patterns, what my process is, whether I work completely digitally or I use a mix of analog and digital techniques. Even though I've shared a general overview of my process on social media, I thought I'd take you through one piece that I created recently, to show you exactly how I move from ideation to the finished design.
I've only recently purchased a drawing tablet, so the analog to digital process is what I've been following for the last six months or so, and unless I'm feeling extremely lazy, I continue to follow this method. There's nothing that quite beats the charm of a pencil and a sketchbook.
I always start with a mood board. No, I don't necessarily have a Pinterest board for every single design I create. But I do have a folder of images that I think suits the purpose of my design. My mood boards are mostly meant to help me create my color palette. I avoid taking too much inspiration from other artists, and I almost always use royalty-free images from Unsplash or photographs that I take myself.
This has got to be my most favorite part of the entire design process. I love how I can have endless possibilities for my motifs. Yes, I want them to adhere to the theme that I choose, but I also love the freedom sketching gives me to try out multiple versions of the same element. If you notice, I've drawn the poinsettia, the hellebore, the holly leaves, the winter berries, the mistletoe, and the eucalyptus leaves more than once. I've also drawn a few additional stylized leaves.
I normally use a simple HB mechanical pencil for my sketches. On occasions where I want to add a bit more texture, I use a 6B or 8B pencil for my sketches. I then add in shading wherever I want that texture and I do not follow it up with the next step. However, in this piece, I went ahead and inked these motifs.
Once I have my pencil sketches ready, I plan out how I want my motifs to be finished. Most of the time, my final motifs aren't outlined. This is why I take extra care to ink each part of the motif separately. In this case, I made sure that each berry was drawn at a distance from the branch, the centers of the flowers were not touching the petals, and the leaves were drawn separately as well.
There are times when I mess up, and this is when the tracing paper comes to my rescue. I redraw my motifs in ink on the tracing paper, again making sure I draw each part slightly away from the other.
I use a pen with black ink (my favorites are Uniball Fine Eye and Sakura Micron 0.5 mm) to redraw my motifs.
Once I'm happy with the final sketches, I erase all the pencil marks, so that they're ready for the scanner (or the smartphone).
The next thing I do is scan my sketches. I clean them up and adjust the brightness and contrast in Photoshop. In case I use my smartphone to quickly take a snap of my sketches (which is what I do most of the time), I use Google Snapseed for all the adjustments required to get my sketches ready for digitizing.
Once I've adjusted the brightness (which is all I have to do really), I'm all set to take these sketches into Adobe Illustrator. Illustrator is my go-to pattern-making software. I like how intuitive the program is for making repeat patterns, even when you're not using the inbuilt pattern-making option. I also love the ease of drawing directly onto the computer, and I quite like the clean, vector look that can be achieved.
To see exactly how I use Snapseed to edit my photos, you can check out this quick guide.
Once I've opened up my sketches in Illustrator, I use the Image Trace function to vectorize them.
I've tried both the Black and White Logo, and the Sketched Art settings, but I prefer the latter even though the difference is quite subtle. I play around with the threshold values until I get just the right thickness of lines. I then expand the image and ungroup the vectorized motifs.
These are how my motifs looked after being vectorized.
Coloring & Adding Details
Next, I try out a variety of color combinations for my motifs, keeping in mind the color palette I'd zeroed in on, in the mood board stage. This is where I also add additional details inside the flowers and the leaves. I use the drawing tablet for adding these details. Once all the details and colors have been finalized, I regroup the elements as they make up each motif.
The Final Arrangement
Once I'm satisfied with how my motifs look, it's time to arrange, rearrange, rotate, and reflect my motifs to create an arrangement that feels just right. This stage usually takes me quite some time. I'm never completely happy with the result, but I'm training myself to make peace with the 80% that I'm happy with.
And, voila! That is my Holiday Bouquet for you.