How to Develop Elements for Surface Designs

This 2-minute video was first posted in August 2020. In it you’ll learn how to quickly develop secondary images and designs to complement the subjects of your work, both now and to draw upon in the future.

Here is a rough transcript:

How to Develop Elements for Surface Designs

While we at Sketch-Views and Littleviews specialize in pet portraits, we also create repeatable surface designs on products such as coffee mugs, fabric, and scarves.

Unlike the art of producing a single composition (such as a portrait), surface designs refer to  repeatable patterns that, when connected, can cover large areas, like cloth or wallpaper.

Surface designing often combines main subjects with multiple secondary or subordinate subjects. The secondary subjects are used to fill in spaces not covered by the main design.

Karen’s inspiration for Sketch-Views’ fall 2020 scarf collection were butterflies and flowers where butterflies are found.

As seen in neighboring gardens, butterflies, bees, and other flying insects gathered around groups of small, white flowers, which she drew, then arranged in secondary groups.

It takes time to develop secondary objects! To stretch your imagination, use your computer to distort your initial vision, no matter how beautiful that vision might be. The effect is like squinting at an image, which causes main objects to drop away and new patterns seem to emerge.

Sketch while squinting to develop a library of secondary elements. These can be used in traditional compositions, such as in pencil sketches or watercolor paintings, as well as in computer graphics.

After time, your library of images will become a great resource for adding elements to current and future work.



  • This video tutorial was written and produced by Karen Little and was published in August, 2020.
  • The video, hosted on YouTube, is free for inclusion on non-commercial websites (or other media) with permission and attributes to
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