DIY: Digital Patterns from Hand-Painted Shapes

Hey there everyone!  Lately we've been loving the pattern designs created by artists such as Leah Goren, Ashley Goldberg, and Julia Rothman.  Though the final products are digital images, the organic quality of their lines and shapes suggest they started as hand-painted/drawn illustrations and give the patterns a casual, playful feel.  So ever wonder how surface designers transform their hand-drawn illustrations into seamless digital patterns?  We've broken the basics down step by step so you can create your own!

Materials and programs needed:
- White watercolor paper
- A cup of water
- Black paint (we are using gouache)
- Small paint brush(es)
-Adobe Photoshop
-Adobe Illustrator
 

Step 1: Paint various elements of your pattern onto a white sheet of paper with black paint.  For our pattern, we explored many types of geometric shapes and lines to give us an array of pieces to choose from. 

Step 2: Once you are done painting, photograph or scan your image.

Step 3:  Open your image in Adobe Photoshop.  Play around with adjusting the image's Levels so that the white of the paper is pure white and the painted elements are pure black.  Now, your image should look something like the picture below.  Save the image as a JPEG or PNG file.

Step 4:  See how the edges of each painted shape are somewhat rough?  We're going to fix that now.  Open up your image in Adobe Illustrator.  Click the image and click Live Trace > Expand.  Now, the shapes have been turned into vectors with smooth edges and blue lines surrounding them, allowing you to pick up each individual element and arrange them as you please.

Here is a detailed view of the image after using the Live Trace tool.  See the difference between the first version and the second?

Here is a detailed view of the image after using the Live Trace tool.  See the difference between the first version and the second?

Step 5:  Here comes the fun part!  Now that each shape has been turned into a vector, feel free to play around with adjusting their size, color, and orientation.  If you are unfamiliar with Illustrator's pattern tool, their website provides a simple tutorial on how make your shapes into a seamless pattern. 

Here is where you can let your creativity shine and see what types of pattern combinations your can create.  Below are a couple of examples of patterns we were able to make using a few of the shapes we painted:

Easy, right?  Now it's your turn - paint some images of your own and see what types of patterns you can make!