Tools for Sketching Inspiration


Design Surface Patterns From Scratch


Lesson Info

Tools for Sketching Inspiration

This segment I am really excited to talk about. Inspiration and sketching, techniques and tools for that, and how to really drive the motivation behind your pattern collection. Because it's one thing to have the skills in Illustrator, to make something, but it's a whole another ballpark to have inspiration in order to want to illustrate something in the first place. So I'm gonna share with you how I nourish my creativity, how I really wrap my brain around themes and collections, and talk about sketching. So the first thing I want to talk about is some of my favorite tools. And so I brought a couple of them to show you today. The first thing is a Wacom tablet, and this is what mine looks like. Can you see that? This is the Intuos4. Wacom makes several different sizes and models for you to choose from, but this one I believe is the large model. There might be one that's a step up as far as size goes. But with the Wacom tablet, comes with a special pen. And I will be using this tomorrow, ...

but you don't have to have this to follow along tomorrow or to design. You can use your mouse. All this does, think of this as like a large credit card signature box. So all it does is turn your pencil strokes into vectors directly in Illustrator. So you can do the same thing with your mouse. This just gives you a little bit more of a hand drawn, smooth feel. So don't feel overwhelmed if you don't have this, but I'll be using it tomorrow and yeah, this makes it great for tracing over your sketches or photographs, and things like that. You can also use it as a mouse. The next thing is the pen and paper that I use to sketch with. Depends on your application, it's not incredibly important for what I do. Like I'm not a watercolor artist. But it is important to use a white paper, so this is an example of one of my sketchbooks. And the paper's just white and smooth inside. And I-- A lot of people work directly with pen, and I feel like working with pen stifles my creative juices for some reason. It's like too permanent or something. So what I tend to do is work in pencil, and then I'll use a light box to go back over my pencil sketches with a pen if I'm gonna be scanning them in and using them that way. Sometimes pencil sketches will work, and we will break down on all of that tomorrow when-- and I'll show you a little bit in just a second too, on which application is best for which. But as far as pen strokes go, I have a couple of favorite pens and my favorite pen is called the Uni pen, and these are available on Amazon or wherever you might check online, but they are U-N-I pens. And a package comes with, I believe, six? Five or six. And they're all different widths. So really thick to really thin, and they give you a really great smooth, dark, black line. So if I'm just gonna draw something really quick, like a little banner, you can just see that it's smooth and dark line. This translates really well in Illustrator. It's easy to use live trace feature on, it's easy to trace over yourself using the Wacom tablet, and it's easy to see. So if I don't start with a Uni pen or a thick black pen, then I always-- Well, I don't always, but sometimes I use a light box to go back over with a dark pen. I'll tell you why I do other things here shortly. And just to show you quickly, these are some flowers I drew that we'll be getting into tomorrow but it was-- Actually you would be proud I did it directly with a pen. I didn't do pencil first. (students laugh) So I do both ways a little bit. But you know, you should also know that I'm not just a brilliant artist but I doodle, and go from there, okay? You can use any pen that you like. Another pen that I really like is-- This is called the Tombow ABT. It's a paint pen. So if you just look for a black, kind of, paint pen, this has two sizes on it. Small. But I like the large size because it's almost like a paint brush, and if you just-- usually use this for typography if I just kind of write something. You can maybe not really see it, but it gives brush strokes. And this is a new one so it's really inky, but the less ink it has on it, the more brush strokes it'll give you. And it just gives kind of a new look to your work. Just something to play with. You should play with all kinds of different tools and techniques. The other thing I use is a scanner. I don't remember what scanner I use but I want to tell you that if you RSVP-ed for this course, I have shared with you my industry resources packet for you, and that is where I'm spilling the beans on all the tools that I use. I call it my secret list of industry resources. But it's so secret anymore, cause I'm telling you everything that I use from paper and art supplies, to my printer, my scanner, my camera, my favorite iPhone apps, the host I use for my blog, my favorite WordPress plugins, it is chock-full of my favorite books, and all kinds of just everything that I use for my creative life is in this document. It's free if you RSVP. Yeah. And so It's a great document. I actually had it right here, and the scanner that you mentioned is actually the Canon CanoScan. Thank you. So yes. Canon CanoScan. It's really great. It's just a simple scanner, it's affordable, and it does exactly what I need it to do so, we're gonna be scanning tomorrow, and your scanner at home should work just fine, but we'll go over scanning, you know, how to set up your scanner to do it correctly. The other thing I use is a camera. So I use my iPhone probably 75% of the time, 25% of the time, I have a Canon Rebel T3i that I use. And it just depends on the application. If I need to edit the photo in Photoshop, with I don't do a ton of, but if I do, I'll use the Canon. But for most of my day to day work, even my blogging work, a lot of times, I just use my iPhone and a couple of iPhone apps to brighten the picture and adjust it. So that is it for my favorite tools, but I would love to kind of open it up and see if any of you guys have favorite tools do sketching or working for illustrating or anything like that that you'd like to share. I love a pencil with an eraser that twists. (laughs) Mechanical pencils cause I always erase. And I don't ever, ever want to run out of eraser. Yes, that's great and so what brand is that? It is, it's an old one, it's a Stanford Free. (laughs) Yeah that's great. But they have newer ones out. This is probably 10 years old. (laughs) Yeah, right. But the twisty eraser it's just-- Yeah. It's great for erasing and stuff like that. That's great. An eraser that works. Mm-hmm. There's some erasers that don't really work. So yeah, an eraser that works. Okay, let's talk a little bit about best practices. Kind of touched in this all already, but if you're sketching you want really a bright paper, something that has lines on it, or grid work, it will work but it won't scan as nicely, so always use bright white, just clear paper. Not clear but, free of lines. And the other thing is when, after I do my pencil sketches and I go over them on the scanner, I try to make a nice dark, smooth line to work with my pen. And finally, I draw-- You saw, kind of this is the size, you know, there's my hand so, that's about that size. I like to draw-- Fill up this page with an illustration. I don't draw huge but if you draw super tiny, it's gonna be hard for the scanner to really pick up every little detail that you needed to do, so kind of draw at a nice scale that will scan easily. Which for me is around five to eight inches up an down. Yes? There was a pen that quite often used in art school. It's the Sharpie Oil Marker, because it gives the blackest black ink there is. Okay that's great to know. So I have those in all sizes. That is really great to know. Yeah, black black. And even if it's not super black, I'm gonna show you how to, when you scan in, increase the contrast, and so you can get a really good black line. So I'm just gonna run through some of my sketches, and then the finished piece of art, I'm just doing this to give you kind of an insight into what it looks like. What I do, what it looks like, and sometimes how my sketches are stark black and white, and sometimes they're really light sketches, and sometimes they're not even that good. So let's get started. (laughs) Okay so, this is a new pattern that I just did, and the lines on the black-- Sorry the lines on the right, I had done in pencil, and I went back over them with a light box, and made a really smooth, black, dark line, and scanned them in. And on the right is the finished piece of pattern. This is an example of working from a photograph. I do this all the time. And so I was sitting at my house and I heard all these birds outside, so I grabbed my camera and I ran outside, and I just started shooting pictures up in the sky. And so every-- This is your fabric too. Have a fabric piece that's this pattern. And so every bird in this line is a real bird. Was a real bird. (laughs) And so working off photographs is a great way to kind of source your own inspiration. Next is a little teepee, little arrow, couple prints, very simple. Yeah just super simple, super clean, black white lines. This is what I was talking about a little earlier, is these butterflies that I only drew half of, because I just went in and illustrated half of them, and then used the reflect tool to duplicate my sides. So this print is on fabric. It's available as wallpaper too. And it just started-- I think you can see this is just a pencil sketch, because I actually didn't even scan this. I took a picture of it and traced over it in Illustrator so, I'll be teaching you how to do that tomorrow as well. So don't fret if you don't have a scanner. You can take pictures of your work too, and end up the same result. This is another one. You can see the flowers on the bottom are what ended up in the pattern. The ones on the top haven't ended up in anything yet. And that is true. I would say, you know, 50% of my sketches never end up anywhere. But I never throw anything away. And you should do the same thing. Even if you think it's terrible, don't throw it away because I have gone through sketchbooks years old and found something that's exactly what I needed for today or whatever and even though it's lopsided or whatever, it's just happens to be what I needed so, don't toss your ideas away. Keep them forever and ever. This one is really light. So you might have to squint to see it. But I was just rough sketching with a pencil, coming up with a children's fabric line called Hello, Bear this fall. And this is the bear that's included in the line, and so I was just trying to get an idea of a face structure for him. And so I did a couple of three ideas on the left and got them into illustrator and really perfected them after I had jotted down my idea. So this is nothing brilliant on paper. Just some ideas. And then things like the eyes can be replicated, you know, reflected across the top and things like that. This is a fox in the same line. So, I mean, the one of the left is terrible. My sketch. The little sketch on the left is so bad. (laughs) You know, you just jot down the ideas, and then we'll get them perfected as we go. The other way that I love to work is from photographs. I've been touching on this all throughout. These two on the left are photographs I took that I traced over using the Wacom tablet. On the right, is a flower that I've used the live trace tool on. So we're gonna learn how to do that tomorrow. I'm gonna be taking live pictures of flowers and using the trace tool and really manipulating them in Illustrator to get a final finished look. Are there any questions about that? Yeah? It's more of a (inaudible) how you did that. Cause it was-- That rose on the lower right is exactly what I was thinking about. I thought all the other stuff was sort of two dimensional, flat, color, shapes. Uh-huh. What happens when, like here, you have a petal that is comprised of four or five different shapes and cells of color, Colors. how do you get that from-- you don't draw that into your line drawing, so what happens? Correct. So you'll learn that tomorrow, and that's session two, segment two. We'll be using live trace for flowers. And so this flower really did a great job because it's not just one color. It's got, you know, a definite three color tone, and it's really deep in the middle. Mm-hmm. So when you look for flowers, you wanna look for kind of that dimension inside of it. Mm-hmm. And so it traced really well, and by that, you might not know what I mean by that. I don't mean pen going over it. I mean using the live trace tool in Illustrator. Mm-hmm. So I'm taking a photograph and turning it into vectors by the click of a button. So there's a whole panel of options that are available to us. You can choose how many colors you want it to turn into. Six, six hundred, so this I think is probably six. Mm-hmm. And as you play with that, you can change where the dimension lies by where you change your color palette. So I guess would you ever hand color when you're line drawing, still going back to the bear that you had, Mm-hmm. so that when you scanned it in, instead of having one color unit for-- It wasn't the look you were going for, but say Yes. where his body is all one color, it's one flat shape, Yeah. would you ever hand color it, scan it in, so that I would break that shape into maybe two or three colors. Yes and I would do that once I have it in Illustrator. Okay. Though, some people can add shading via pencil or pen, and also great for typography if you add your shadowing or your shading while you sketch. Mm-hmm. Great time to do it is while you're sketching. But we're gonna learn how to add texture using brushes and vector textures tomorrow as well to give these a little bit less of a two dimensional look. Mm-hmm. How to add drop shadows and also how to add borders behind them that give them some more depth. Okay. Because sometimes you do want that very flat dimensional look. Mm-hmm. Sometimes you don't. You really wanna bring the depth into it. So yeah. So on either of these over here, I could've gone in and really played with how I colored individual petals on the inside, and tried to mimic the look. That is exactly what I was trying to do and I was trying to do it from a line drawing. It was black and white, and hand cutting it up and it was just-- Yeah, yeah. Drives you crazy. Yeah, I know. But it's so fun. So here's a better way. Yeah, so here a better way and we're gonna learn how to do that. Thank you. So everybody has a different workflow. A design cycle, if you will. And this is just how I work, and I actually don't know how many other people work-- I may be the only person who does it this way. I'm not sure. You can tell me how you do it, but I'm just sharing with you what I do, and so I work in a cycle. I basically spend months on a sketch. Not on a sketch, but I spend months sketching. I will develop a idea for a line, and sketch, sketch, sketch, sketch. And then I turn-- I'll batch scan in all of my sketches. Then I work on illustrating them. So I will end up-- This is how we're gonna do it in this course too, it's why I'm going over it. Because we're gonna do, take lots of sketches, we're gonna illustrate them tomorrow, and then we're gonna make a pattern from them. So first I conceptualize, I create inspiration boards, and I sketch. The second is that I illustrate them in Illustrator and then I add color. Even though I know at this point that these colors may not stick around, but at least I get them pleasing to the eye, at least something because color is everything. You can have beautiful design and if it's colored, and you're not really feeling the color palette, then, you know, it kind of kills the momentum of that piece. So I get it to where it's something I like, and then I work in repeating patterns. Yay. (laughs) So, tomorrow-- So when I design, I'll end up with a book of sketches, and then I'll end up with this giant folder of scanned in images. Then I'll end up with a couple of documents of just illustrated motifs, and then I'll grab those motifs and start building repeating patterns from them. And always, magic happens. Always, I will have an idea of what my collection to be, say it's ten prints, I will write down what the ten prints are gonna be, okay. So I just did Winged, which is a fabric collection on butterflies and birds, and I had a list I taped up by my desk. I was doing a bird, two bird prints, I was doing a butterfly print, I was doing a couple of floral prints, blah blah blah. I had it all outlined, and even know I don't know exactly what it's gonna look like I always know that some of my ideas are gonna flop, and something new is gonna be born that I don't even know about. And I try not to stress out about that too much because it's just gonna happen. So in this butterfly line, which you're gonna see a little later, I was determined to make these butterflies and then take the butterfly wings, overlap them like this, and create a pattern. And I did it and it was so terrible. (students laugh) It didn't look good, it didn't flow well, it was awful. But then I was working with the butterfly, and I had it zoomed in way big, and I saw all the little bits and pieces like I had been doing earlier that were on the butterfly wings. Ended up taking the butterfly away, taking all the little bits and pieces and making a pattern of just the little bits of pieces that were on-- that made the wings. And I called it Mimicry because that was like what made the butterfly mimic another. One of my favorite prints. Never thought it would come about, didn't intend for it to. So anyways, you need to always build that into what you're doing. Know that some ideas are not gonna work out, and if you love an idea and it's not working, just don't be married to it. Just let it go and know that something else is gonna come. So let's talk about inspiration for a little bit. I always like to start with an idea. It's important to not just begin and illustrating and not knowing where you're going. So you kind of want to have-- You won't know exactly how it's gonna look like, but you want to have an idea of what you're gonna be illustrating. I like to think in terms of stories and themes. So I will usually name a collection before I even begin it. And sometimes I'll even write a paragraph of the feeling that I want it to evoke for people. I'm gonna share a bunch of these with you during the third session. My name's in the theme behind it, so not everybody does this, but I think the reason that people connect-- Or one reason that helps people connect with your patterns is when they tell a story. So make them cohesive, and really put a lot of thought into what you're wanting to say with your pattern collection. So there are two ways to go about creating inspiration. I come up with a theme and then I start gathering inspiration. You can make a digital inspiration board, or you can make a physical inspiration board. So digital inspiration board-- We may play around with making one in session three, and that will just be pulling in your images, some color palette ideas, and making a document of it just to refer to for inspiration. Physical inspiration board will be a literal-- You've probably seen a lot of people have like cork boards or like line covered boards with ribbon them behind their workspace, and they'll just tack up little things. Feathers and found objects, and paint chips and whatever. And this board if you have an inspiration, physical inspiration board like this, it should be like ever evolving with whatever you're inspired by at the time, just pin it up, and if something is not speaking to you, take it down, and just evolve as you work. So this is really important to maintain a clear vision about what it is that you're doing. You're on a mission, you are designing this collection, and this is what it's gonna be, and this is the inspiration behind it. So this is just a little inspiration, digital inspiration board behind one of my collections, Sweet as Honey. So it's flowers, it's gardening, it's honey, birds in the sky type of thing, and the color palette, so it's just a quick digital example of an inspiration board. And then I had to go to A Creative Mint. You can find Leslie Shewring, who writes A Creative Mint online at She is famous for her beautiful physical inspiration boards. And so her blog is really primarily inspiration boards categorized by color. So this is just three examples of her gorgeous work and you can see the one on the left is like this p-- This purple-pink color, and these are all photographs that she's taken herself. Middle one is blue, and you can see she has tape and magazine clippings, and some watercolor art, and some paint sticks she's put on there. Then the one on the right is of course clipped up with little clothes pins and it just tells a story. She has a 3D like actual bouquet of flowers, and then pictures of bouquets of flowers. Snippets of ribbons, snippets of fabric, little thing of buttons. So whatever it is that's speaking to you for the collection that you're working on, keep it close to you to where you can refer to it. And make it beautiful. Because when you look at beautiful things, beautiful things tend to come to mind. We've touched on this a little bit today already with one of the questions we had earlier today but one of the big issues in surface pattern design is maybe copyrights, where did you get your inspiration from, have you gotten maybe a little too inspired by somebody and it shows through in your work. Which I don't believe anybody really intends to do, but sometimes it kind of happens by accident. So I want to-- This is just something I learned along the way and it's what I want to encourage everyone to do, is source our own inspiration. So when you want to illustrate a horse, the easiest thing to do is Google. As just Google horse, horse patterns, horse inspiration, pictures of horses. What I want to encourage you to do is turn off the computer and go visit a farm, and take pictures. Take pictures of the horse, go riding with the horse, pet the horse, have a name for the horse, create this whole story and come home with all your own inspiration pieces. So then you have your own photographs and you can trace them all day long, and you will never have this feeling in your gut like (wheeze) is that okay? And that's not a good feeling to have with any of your work. You want to be so authentic that nobody can ever say that you weren't. If you are a lover of vintage typography, go to an antique store. I don't think that it's any secret that I'm obsessed with flowers. So if you love flowers, I just planted my first flower garden this year. And the only reason I'm doing this, is so that I can refer directly to the flowers in my front yard for inspiration for my work. This is also just kind of a built-in way to get you up and moving because like I said earlier, when you work from home, or if you're not necessarily working from home, but a lot of us are, and it can be hard to just get up and kind of go do something. So if you're determined to create your own inspiration, this will take you on nature walks, it will get you in the sunshine, it will take you to botanical gardens, it will take you to butterfly museums, or butterfly, what do they call, they have butterfly houses that you can go (mumbles) It'll take you to art museums, to historic museums, it'll get you traveling, and then just make sure that you have your camera with you, document everything along the way, and then you have all the stuff to refer back to. And if you keep it, you'll always be able to tell people that this is where you got your inspiration from. So these are just some photos I've taken. They're all taken with my iPhone and I have illustrated from all of them. Either tracing or looking at-- Referring to them as I sketch. Probably the way I work most is to take a bunch of pictures and have them up or printed so that I can just refer to them as I sketch. So the second picture of the wood grain, I did a wood grain print. One of you have it I think. I did a wood grain print and this is where I really got like the rings on the inside of it. Just by referring to this. It's super simple. But I took this picture of a stump in my yard rather than sitting behind the computer and looking for it. This moth landed on my door. It's the most beautiful thing I've ever seen, so I grabbed a color palette from it. It's a luna moth. I did a lemon print once, and I sketched off of those lemons. Antlers, grabbed off this guy who was in Cades Cove, which is where I live. Near where I live. And of course the flowers I use all the time and I think I grabbed a color palette off the bottom right hand corner of the picture so--

Class Description

Did you know that you can turn your sketches, drawings and doodles into patterns? Join Bonnie Christine for an introduction to creating patterns to use in your very own fabric prints, stationery designs, website backgrounds, cell phone covers, and much, much more.

This course will take you through the process of working with Adobe Illustrator to create digital versions of your artwork. You’ll learn tips and tricks for working in Illustrator and how you can use the software to create repeating patterns of your very own drawings. Bonnie will guide you step-by-step through the process of transforming sketches and tracings into vector art which can be used for an endless array of printable and online projects from customized stationery to computer wallpaper. You’ll also learn how to assemble your collection of designs into a portfolio you can use to impress potential collectors and buyers.

This course will lay a solid foundation for those new to Illustrator and open up exciting new possibilities for people already familiar with the program. If you are ready to bring your drawings to life in new ways this class is for you.