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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

I am an illustrator and surface designer of Nordic origin. My surface pattern designs are colourful, mythical 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 uses. I am available for freelance pattern designer projects for a wide range of industries and have worked with clients for bespoke projects in clothing, fabric and paper goods.

Over the three years that I have been making surface repeat patterns, my style has changed, due to the use of different techniques as well as personal preferences in terms of subject matter and colour palette. Working for clients, doing trend research, completing training courses and building up a cohesive portfolio has been my priority over the last year, during which I have also started working with pattern design in different ways. When I first started designing for patterns in 2020, I was solely focusing on vector art and learning Adobe Illustrator inside out.

Wildflower Meadow surface repeat pattern

Since the beginning of this year, however, I have created the majority of my pattern work in Adobe Photoshop, with my original paintings and drawings; some brand new, some made several years ago. A few of my newest pattern designs, Kingfisher Wood (in the main image) and Wildflower Meadow, are a combination of various motifs I have been painting with watercolour (and ink).

The elements in the Kingfisher Wood's intricate, colourful pattern, originate from different painting sessions, spanning at least three years. The overall style of the motifs is the same, however, and the resulting flowing pattern is a semi realistic natural scene, with a surreal twist. The elements in the Wildflower Meadow are my own illustrated cut out paper elements.

Another very recent pattern, illustrated by hand and assembled in Photoshop, is my Gatekeeper surface repeat pattern (below). This intricate design has elements of mythology and natural world intertwined together, to form a visually striking combination. I love illustrating the natural world, in a way which mixes real and surreal. In my personal approach, I want the pattern to tell a story as well as encourage discovery. I dedicate a lot of time making detailed illustrations, but also simplifying forms and shapes. A good designer can change their approach when needed and how suited to the project and client on hand.

Gatekeeper surface repeat pattern

In terms of simpler shapes, I have recently been embracing watercolour painting as the basis for some of my newest patterns. My floral pattern, Ditsy Blue, is an example of my current experimentation with traditionally hand painted, simpler line drawn motifs. Working in all these different ways have shown me the pros and cons of each technique, as well as guided my style and preferred visual language. As a designer, my job is to embrace change, play and think out of the box.

I want to push my own ways of thinking and creating work and in turn produce the best, heart-felt work possible for me.

Ditsy Blue watercolour pattern

To see my full portfolio, please click here.

An example of my vector pattern design image is 'Berry Birds', a surface repeat pattern I made to one of Spoonflower’s folk pattern challenges in 2022. Being a Scandi designer, I feel drawn to the folk art heritage in pattern designs. My Berry Birds pattern combines forest mythology and Nordic folklore, with a sprinkling of William Morris inspiration. The importance of movement and colour in my patterns is fundamental in bringing stories to life on various mediums it may be used on.

Berry Birds folk art pattern

Because I usually work in collections, I created two complementary pattern designs for the Berry Birds. 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. Below you can see one of them, called Birds in Bushes:

Birds in Bushes complementary pattern

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

My surface pattern designs on products

My repeating patterns work beautifully printed on various materials and mediums, including fabric, textiles, stationery and home decor. I love seeing my designs become real things in the world, and the thought of my customers making quilting projects with my fabric, jotting down their creative ideas in my notebooks and wearing clothes designed by me, fills me with childlike wonderment and joy. Over the past year I have been making bespoke patterns for clients for use on clothing and soft furnishings and my first quilting fabric collection, Zodiac Dreams, came out by QT Fabrics in June 2023.

Some patterns from my Zodiac Dreams quilting collection

You can also 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

Here is a preview of my patterns in ocean theme, a popular subject for many pattern designers. Earlier this year I made these two mini pattern collections with three prints in each, suitable for children's apparel and living space. This was also the first time I worked the motifs in Procreate in my iPad and then worked them into a pattern in Photoshop. The possibility of working 'on-the-go' was very appealing to me, and I will definitely be using this tool in my workflow in future.

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. 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. .

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

Fungi Foray surface repeat pattern

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 plants and draw them at home with my daughter; nature is a timeless inspiration for us both.

The pattern above titled ‘Fungi Foray’, was inspired by my fungi forays in the woods as a child and an adult. Drawn in pencil and ink, I assembled this pattern in Photoshop to retain all the beautiful textures and details of my original drawings. The result is a half drop pattern which is a feast to the eyes and which has a lot of details to discover.

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. Although drawing by hand remains my first choice, I have also started embracing the digital stylus and iPad as a very practical medium to create my patterns with.

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.

Like with any creative art form, the tools one uses should be the ones most suitable for the job. My pattern making 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. Designing is my passion and I am glad to be on this journey!

If you are a company looking for a designer, or interested in licensing my designs, I would love to hear from you and see what we can create together!

Please contact me for collaboration

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!

You can hire me to make your next pattern design

Contact me

More blog posts:

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