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Surface Pattern Designer

I am a Scandinavian Surface Pattern Designer and Illustrator. In this post I will show you a selection of my surface pattern work and share you the process of how I turn my designs into magical, nature-inspired patterns.

Published on:

April 4, 2022

Surface Pattern Designer

Introducing my Surface Pattern Design style

My surface pattern designs are colourful landscapes of my mind, which come alive on fabric, stationery, and home decor! I have a portfolio brimming with lots of beautiful pattern designs, ready for various licensing uses. I am available for freelance pattern designer projects for a wide range of industries.

The first image is 'Berry Birds', a surface repeat pattern I made to one of Spoonflower’s folk pattern challenges. Being a Scandi designer, I feel like majority of my patterns have folk art feel to them. My Berry Birds pattern combines forest mythology and Nordic folklore, with a sprinkling of William Morris inspiration.

Request access to my design portfolio here.

Because I usually work in collections, I created two complementary pattern designs for the Berry Birds (see below). Both patterns have elements from folk art style, but they have contrasting placements, one being simple directional pattern and the other one a half drop pattern. They both have lots of floral details and a continuous flow, but are somewhat simpler in colour and arrangement than the very detailed Berry Birds hero pattern.

Birds in Bushes
Flower Trail

The Enchanted Forest collection

This work in progress pattern collection is inspired by all things forest and magic. Since I was little, forest was my playing ground and it has affected my creative work in abundance. I love imagining new worlds and hidden places full of charm and magic, and making them into designs. Through my work, I want to not only make a beautiful design, but also to tell a story. Story-telling and reading books about folk tales is one of my loves. I like how mythology and history intertwine in these writings. My new pattern collection, Enchanted Forest, is tapping into this ancient pool of inspiration.

I am planning to use a restricted colour palette for this collection, because I want the mood to be dreamy and for the motifs themselves to stand out in the patterns. Below you can see two of the patterns in this collection, which are filled with Dream Birds (birds that give you dreams), butterflies, flowing botanical motifs and beautiful foliage. I am hoping for some of the patterns to have that William Morris inspired feel to them, which originate as hand drawn motifs and have a beautiful, pleasant flow to them.

Dream Forest pattern from my Enchanted Forest collection
Dream Flowers complementary pattern

This collection will have between 3-6 patterns, and the blue colour palette of the collection symbolises the dreamy quality of the designs. I am building the patterns up so that there will be lots to see and discover. I personally like getting drawn into somewhat weird and wonderful landscapes, whether they appear somewhere in the real world, or just in my lucid dreams. I want each of my patterns to convey a feeling, and my collection to tell a story. That is why working in collections is such a good way of adding additional meaning patterns; you can say so much more about a theme by creating complementary designs for the main pattern.

Surface patterns inspired by nature and heritage

The majority of my surface pattern designs are inspired by the magic and beauty of the natural environment around me. I am very fortunate to live in a beautiful part of the world, surrounded by rivers, moors and forests, which all colour and influence my work. I also love travelling, and making sketches whilst doing so. There is nothing as inspiring to me as the colours and shapes of nature and natural objects. But of course every design is also influenced by my imagination and apart from realistic representations of reality, I also like to stylise designs, and draw inspiration from my cultural heritage and Nordic roots. Nature and Folk art are very close to my heart as inspirational concepts.

Forever and Ever - surface repeat pattern

My surface pattern designs on products

My repeating patterns work beautifully printed on various materials and mediums, including fabric, textiles, stationery and home decor. Within these categories, I am often able to alter the repeat and its colour ways according to its intended use. I love seeing my designs become real things in the world, and the thought of my customers jotting down their creative ideas in my notebooks and wrapping their presents with my gift wrap, fills me with childlike wonderment and joy.

You can purchase a selection of my surface pattern designs on various products, including fabric, stationery and home decor via these links:

Heidi Vilkman on Spoonflower

Heidi Vilkman on Society6

Some of my recent patterns and how they work on various textiles.

What is surface pattern design?

Surface pattern design means a design with a pattern applied to a surface, whether this is paper, textile, ceramic, plastic or other material. Most of the products you see around you every day, including product packaging, gift wrap and soft furnishing, have some form of surface design applied to them. In effect surface design is one of the most widely used types of designs in the world, and it encompasses nearly unlimited styles and creative techniques.

Inspiration for my surface pattern designs: Scandinavia and beyond!

Having lived most of my life close to nature, I draw inspiration from organic, natural forms for my patterns. Growing up as a child in a Scandinavian forest, the folktales and mythology connected to nature is often present in my pattern work.

Here’s a little more about my approach to surface pattern design.

I love illustrating seasonal scenes; using beautiful hand-drawn imagery to convey a story. Floral patterns, particularly flowers and small botanical details in natural landscapes, speak to my soul. A forager by heart, I love exploring the countryside, with its forests and meadows, for beguiling subject matters. Often during my wild forays, I pick a few flowers and draw them at home with my daughter; nature is a timeless inspiration for us both.

Land of Ligularia pattern design from my Secret Garden Collection

The pattern above titled ‘Land of Ligularia’, was inspired by visiting my mother’s beautiful garden in my hometown in Finland. My mother loves butterflies and is always planting insect-friendly flowers to attract beautiful pollinators. Every late summer, her garden is visited by various butterfly species; one particular year there was an abundance of Fritillary butterflies, that absolutely loved the bright orange Ligularia flowers.

On the other hand, I also like a very simplistic, clean style, where flowers become more like symbolic shapes, rather than literal representations of the actual plant. One example of this is my Floral Retro Geometrics pattern collection, with its bold colours and geometric shapes. This kind of style is playful and fun, but also very timeless.

Retro Geometrics pattern collection

My design process:

Words can only tell you so much about the way I create my work, so in order to get a better idea, you can have a peek at my surface pattern-making process via my Youtube channel. Don’t forget to check the other making-of artwork videos whilst there.

My illustrative design style

Even in the age of digital illustration, I start my surface pattern design using traditional tools. Every design is initially created as a pencil sketch, whether it is for a simple flat style or a more illustrative motif. For several years now, I have used a special Graphgear pencil, which travels to most places with me. There is something wonderfully sensual about holding a pencil to a sheet of paper, and feeling the texture under the pencil tip. Call me old-fashioned, but I never fully get that wonderful feeling from drawing digitally on an iPad or a tablet.

Work in progress pomegranates surface design

After finishing my pencil sketch, I go over the lines with ink markers of varying thicknesses. Sometimes I use only simple single lines, at other times, a much more detailed drawing style, like seen in these examples. Once completed, the pencil lines are removed by rubber, and the designs are scanned into my computer. In either Illustrator or Photoshop, the drawings are digitized and further cleaned up, and assembled into a repeat pattern.

My design process starts in the analog world and ends up as a digital pattern on my computer. That for me is a good compromise between originality and productivity.

Kingfishers sketch and pattern completed in Illustrator

I use Adobe Illustrator when working in a simple, vector style. With more intricate repeat patterns, I assemble the designs in Photoshop. Like with any creative art form, the tools one uses should be the ones most suitable for the job. Furthering from my Scandinavian pattern ideas, my style, like any artistic process, is an ever-evolving thing; as long as one doesn’t stop learning, the design style also never stops refining and reinventing itself.

My Fox Forest and Bunny Hop designs on tableware

Please contact me at to see my Surface Pattern portfolio and commission me for your own special project.

I look forward to hearing from you about your Surface Pattern Design project!

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Surface Pattern Designer
I am a Scandinavian Surface Pattern Designer. View my colourful pattern designs which come alive printed on fabric, stationery and much more.

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