Right now, it seems like the world is FULL of funky, cool, quirky downloadable patterns. Anything your heart desires has been turned from a painting or linoprint into a pattern; woodland creatures, polka dots of every type and size, floral designs of every possible garden variety... digital art patterns are ubiquitous. Part of the reason must be that they are just so fun to make. After I created a few of my own and listed them in my Etsy shop, it occurred to me... what all do people do with these things?
A few of the uses are obvious, such as putting them on fabric and them sewing with them. After a little research I found there are so many other possibilities, I thought I'd share it with you, too. Surely there is a quirky owl pattern you've been eyeing and have just been waiting for the perfect opportunity?
(FYI, this is not a sponsored post - just my own ideas and links to artists & services I admire!)
12 Ways to Use Digital Art Patterns
1. Fabric. Yep, just like I noted above. With so many designs on the market from so many amazing artists, there's no need to limit yourself to whatever designs your local fabric shop has in stock. You can design a seamless pattern out of your own artwork or purchase a digital one from an online seller and have your own fabric whipped up! The most popular service for this is Spoonflower. While the fabric will likely end up costing more than what you'd pay for something off-the-rack at your local craft store, the design options are just so much better.
2. Home decor. What do you do with all that fabric? Cover your home (and the homes of your loved ones) in it, of course. You can make pillows, tea towels, wallpaper, curtains, dust ruffles for under your bed... you get the idea! Below are two examples of artists who used their painted designs to create a pattern they then applied to home goods. Yao Cheng (one of my favorite artists and sources of inspiration, ever) sells throw pillows and tea towels on Etsy and her own website. Kelly Ventura has worked with Chasing Paper to share her designs on wallpaper.
3. Invitations & events. Whether you go DIY or work with a designer, there are lots of opportunities to use patterns to add color and interest. Check out the wedding suite below from Freshmint Paperie on Etsy, that uses a pastel floral pattern. You could DIY something similar with a pattern of your own, and for a cohesive look coordinate similar patterns and colors into decorations, favors, or even fabrics at the event.
4. Website design. As someone who loves to paint AND blog, this is my favorite way to use a digital pattern, hands-down. You could use one as a background pattern on the site as a whole, but whenever I see someone add it to smaller design elements, I can't help but notice. On Rebecca Atwood's site, pictured below, doesn't the pattern behind the "Join Our Newsletter" just make it stand out? Paper & Oats uses a pattern in some of her blog post images; it's a great idea when you write a blog post but you don't have a photo available that makes sense to share with it. (Side note: Paper & Oats is a great website to check out if you are running your own creative business, she shares so many useful ideas and guides!)
5. Personalizing electronics. I just recently took 10 minutes to update by iPhone, iPad, and Mac backgrounds and feel a little ridiculous for not doing it before. My favorite source for ready-made iPhone & laptop wallpaper is Design Love Fest's Dress Your Tech series. Below is a great example of using a pattern to make these, so don't be afraid to make your own as well! You can use Canva's templates and not even have to worry about the dimensions.
6. Presentations. Whether it's for your own small business, a presentation for a corporation, or a slide show at your kid's graduation there are so many opportunities to improve your PowerPoint slides! Canva offers presentation templates that incorporate free patterns they provide, but you could swap them for a pattern of your own, or just insert a pattern into any PowerPoint or other presentation software you use! My favorite is that watermelon print. I can't imagine a scenario where I sit through a presentation on eating watermelon, but still. It's cute.
7. Scrapbooking. Whether you print out the papers for a traditional physical scrapbook or add it to a digital one, patterned paper is a scrapbooking staple. Craft stores may offer a plethora of different papers, but finding ones online open up a lot of more options. You can get as specific as you want; I designed patterns of watercolor cabbage and lettuce, so if you're a... cabbage farmer?... there is a paper just for you! (You might want to google "digital scrapbooking" because there are some pretty cool things out there I had no idea about.)
8. Party decorations. Hop on Pinterest for a ton of inspiration in DIY party banners, cupcake toppers, table centerpieces, and more. You could use your own custom-made patterns or one you've purchased to design and print all sorts of things - I think this can be especially handy for a very specific party theme. If your kid is really into the dentist or moths for instance, why limit their party theme to Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles? (Those may have been weird examples.)
9. Art prints. One of my favorite pieces of art hanging in our house is a print-out of sample African patterns I ordered on Etsy years ago. I don't think it was designed with the intention of being framed, but there is something eclectic and different about it that I enjoy. A pattern can work especially well as wall art, because it gives the sense of continuity and fills out the frame in a way most images don't.
10. Photography backdrops. Whatever you're photographing, an interesting backdrop can make the difference between ending up with a professional, unique image and something amateur. Below you can see examples of using a patterned fabric or paper as a photography backdrop for product images and flat-lays, but a quick search can turn up adorable newborn photos and other subjects using the same techniques. Besides, doesn't that same white background on every single Instagram photo start to look boring?
11. Personalized gifts. Finding the right gift is always tricky, but personalized ones always feel extra thoughtful. Notebooks and planners make great gifts for just about anyone, but especially someone starting a new job or school where it's likely to be extra-useful. Sonia Cavallini creates and sells various stationary (see below) using her whimsical patterns and sells them on Etsy. If you're looking to make your own, services like Vistaprint can create custom notebooks and make it easy and affordable.
12. Packaging design. If you're someone to makes & shares things (whether as a hobby or a business) it can be extra fun to offer personalized and creative packaging. Whatever you make (knitted items, candles, homemade spice mixes...) you could incorporate a pattern or design into gift tags, wrapping paper, cards, etc. I've even made holiday gifts for friends and family in bulk, and then added little extra packaging to make it feel special. The tea company Saudade kicks their packaging up about a 1000% with their colorful, bold patterns.
If you're looking for a good tutorial on how to make your own digital patterns and textures, I highly recommend you check out Teela's tutorials on her blog Every Tuesday, particularly How to Create Hand Drawn Seamless Patterns in Illustrator and Create Seamless Watercolor Patterns in Photoshop.
You can check out some of the digital patterns I've designed myself on my Etsy shop.
Are you a digital pattern designer, or just love to collect them? What all do you use them for?