SpoonChallenge: Designing Coordinates for a Pattern Collection

JUL 20, 2015


Once you've created your focal print, it's time to get started on filling out your collection with coordinates. Bonnie Christine walks you through the process with today's SpoonChallenge post. 

Designing coordinates for a pattern collection

Though designing single prints is a fun way to express solo ideas, designing entire collections will round out your pattern skills and bring cohesion to your work. It's also a really fun way to bring your ideas to life and see them come together in a full expression of prints. Generally, a well rounded pattern collection will include 8-12 prints. In addition to designing a focal print, you'll also want to include several coordinate prints.

Coordinate prints serve several purposes. They support the focal print, bring balance to the collection and help reference the overall theme.

Ideally, you'll have a nice balance between focal prints, medium prints and small coordinates (maybe 3-4 of each). Below are a few of my own prints that I consider to be coordinate prints.

Designin coordinates for a pattern collection

Here are a few things to keep in mind as you begin to designing your coordinates.

Scale. The supporting coordinates in a collection should range in scale from medium to small. This will give the overall collection an appealing look to the eye and draw the viewer in to study the prints in detail. If your collection will be printed on fabric, these small to medium scaled prints will also give the sewer several options to choose from for the details of their project. Think quilt bindings, the lining of a bag, a collar to a dress and more!

Complexity. These prints should also vary in complexity. Having too many complex designs will make the entire collection feel hectic and busy. Including a few simpler coordinates will give the eye a place to rest and the end user more options for using the collection as a whole.

Contrast. Coordinate prints will also present various contrast values. As you design a collection, it's a great idea to include an equal amount of dark, medium and light patterns in hue. Using color to add contrast to a collection will help the final designs feel balanced and detailed.

Motif Theme. Finally, you'll want to make sure that the prints support your overall theme and story, but aren't too repetitive. For example, if you have several floral patterns, adding a few geometric or abstract prints will break them up and add value to the collection as a whole.

Creating a well balanced collection in scale, complexity and contrast will give the end user several options when it comes to using your collection. For instance, a quilter will use focal prints and medium scaled prints for the bulk of the quilting pieces and backing, and the smaller coordinates for the binding. Sewers will also enjoy using these smaller coordinates for things like piping, linings of a bag, collars and more. Of course, other industries will find them useful as well for things like stationery collections, wallpaper coordinates and more!

Illustrator Keyboard Shortcuts

One of the best ways to work in Adobe Illustrator is to take full advantage of all the keyboard shortcuts. It will make your workflow run smoothly and your designs come to life even quicker. To help you learn the most essential keyboard shortcuts for surface pattern design, I've created an 8×10 printable for you. You can grab the download from my blog, Going Home to Roost!

What comes more natural for you to design – focal prints or smaller coordinate prints? Let's chat in the comments section and by using hashtag #spoonchallenge on your favorite social media platform!

There's still time to get caught up if you're just now joining our SpoonChallege! Find posts we've already shared here and sign up here to receive future posts to your inbox!

About Our Guest Blogger


Bonnie Christine is a fabric designer for Art Gallery Fabrics, teacher and creator of Going Home to Roost. In addition to teaching Adobe Illustrator and sharing all that she knows with the Roost Tribe, you can find her working in the garden and spending time with her husband and children. Join her in living an extraordinarily creative life on her blog, Going Home to Roost

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  • hey lana! it all depends on the end result, but i generally stick with between 8 & 18. traditional fabric printing requires you to use less (under 20 is safe), but if you’re printing on paper or spoonflower fabric, you can use as many as you like! i just like to include enough to give the collection depth and contrast. have fun!

  • It is always wonderful to hear from someone else what inspires them and how they create. One of the questions I always have about creating a design and a collection is how many colors should a person use? I think I sometimes get carried away and try and use too much color. Thanks again for these inspiring articles.

  • Pinky Wittingslow

    I love this article! Thank you! I’ve never been to design school for surface design, I have an education in graphic design and multimedia. So having some general rules is super helpful! I do get caught up on the focal print, struggle with the right scale and my illustrated motifs get repetative. I’m work on a new collection right now for the National Parks comp this week so I am going to try and stick to your guide lines 🙂 thanks again so much! – Pinky Wittingslow