Working with Mock-ups

Mock ups are a great way to showcase our work as as surface pattern designers and it’s never been easier to do so.  My best Instagram post to date features a mock up and that made me take notice.

You can work with flat drawings (aka CAD drawings) generated in something like Adobe Illustrator or use an existing photograph (copyright free or your own) which can be manipulated in Photoshop for example to feature your design.  

If you want to skip having to do much manual work, head over to Creative Market and for a few dollars you can buy and download mock ups of your choice (flats or photo based).  The file will be set up in such a way that all you should need to do is basically place your artwork file onto the layer/smart object and voila!

To refine the look of the image and make it appear more realistic using Photoshop, I suggest using the Burn tool to trace around the outline of where the print touches the rest of the object or figure over which the artwork is being placed and then going over it again with the Blur tool so that the edges are more 3D like and smoother.

Here are some examples of my mock-ups for fashion/stationery and home decor.


Once you get the hang of manipulating your print just so it looks more realistic, mock ups are super easy and fast.   The best thing about spending time with this step is that your audience/target market will be much more inclined to buy your designs as they can clearly visualise them on a product.

If you want to make it even easier for yourself, you can upload your files onto any POD (Print on Demand) websites such as PAOM, Society6, Redbubble or Zazzle and in no time you’ll see your print onto a product for sale.  This is a great way to get started although on some sites you are advised to download specific product templates which also require some minimal skill in Photoshop. So what you waiting for? :)

Being a self-taught designer...

I have always believed in education thanks to parenting no doubt and being fortunate enough to always have the opportunity to take on a course of my choosing.  Though I didn’t start off quite on the “right path” to where I’m at today, I’ve always stirred towards a creative course of some sort and after many years of trial and error, it’s been good to narrow down the area of specialization I want to work in.

So how does someone become self-taught? For me it’s been a consequence of prohibiting course fees and lack of time to devote to studying at an institution as an adult coming back to study to retrain.  Thanks to the internet however, these days there are very few routes where studying online isn’t a viable option. Furthermore, online courses don’t discriminate against anyone because of their race/age/location/religion etc. It’s never made more sense than now to be a self-taught-anything!

Looking back, leaving my fashion & textile full time course because I couldn't afford paying thousands of pounds in tuition fees to continue was the best thing that could have happened to me.  I already had an arts bachelor degree under my belt and would recommend to anyone having some University education where possible.

So with no longer a fixed schedule, I was able to start taking independent short courses and pick exactly what areas of textiles/design I wanted to study.  Soon enough, I realised that there was a world out there of online courses you can take that can really help you become a designer of your choice. From experience, finding the right online course can be time consuming so I’m going to briefly offer an overview of my experience from the beginning to now and hopefully this will help out a few aspiring self-taught designers out there starting out

1. The first online course I took was from a e-learning platform I can’t even remember the name of where you could only access the classes online and I was learning the basics of Illustrator with not much prior experience in the program.   It was a generic course geared towards someone mostly interested in graphic design so I found myself wondering how I could be using any of the hundred features I was being shown for surface pattern design (except the obvious ones). For that reason, this course was not so memorable and I soon realised that I didn’t have to learn a program inside out to get started in surface pattern design.  Furthermore, I couldn’t download any videos so could only learn when I had a good internet connection and the interface itself left a lot to be desired. 4/10

2) Next came Creative Live and Bonnie Christine and for the first time I was able to feel like I was clearly going in the right direction.  All the classes offered on this platform are filmed from a classroom set where students can ask questions and everything is demonstrated live.  I was able to download all the videos. I also took a marketing/self-promotion course from Creative Live which I intend to revisit in the near future.  Overall, I’d score this experience 7/10

3)  MIID - Make it in Design is run by UK team of surface pattern designers who want to learn both the creative and business skills needed to become successful in this field.  I started off with The Ultimate Portfolio Gude but I’d recommend anyone relatively new to this field to start from Module One and work your way to Module 3 before taking this course.  There is a lot I can say about this experience but I’ll summarise is as follows: if you’re an illustrator aspiring to produce artwork for the quilting, stationery, homeware departments this is probably the best specialist course in the online market for you.  If you’re more of a fashion/apparel designer, read on. Overall experience for me 7.5/10 due to last factor outlined and the fact that the courses are not cheap though the quality is good.

4)  Textile Design Lab offered by Pattern Observer.  My current favourite with a 9.5/10 score. I could write a ton of posts just on all the courses I’ve taken at the Lab which have all been very insightful.  The forum is an excellent platform to ask questions, learn from others and have an ongoing dialogue with everyone at the Lab which isn’t possible with any other course outlined above.  I find the weekly Art Critique webinars great for getting live feedback on any artwork I’m developing or burning questions I’d like answered in this way. With some courses you also have the opportunity to have WGSN access and there is always a monthly design challenge which is another way for getting more feedback on your work.

Other online resources I plan to investigate in the future include:




Lastly, I’d like to add Future Learn which is a fantastic platform for free high quality courses covering every kind of subject and designed by renowned universities around the world.  Alternatives to this include: Coursera and Moocs.

Good luck in your life-long learning!

Finding Your Calling

Today I was reflecting about how finding your calling is like finding your soulmate.  When you face each other you just can’t imagine how your life was before you met cheesy as that may sound.   Anyway, I think you get the analogy… for me, this path of working in pattern design has seriously seduced me and all I want to do is devote the rest of my life to it...I think that’s officially a “calling” or vocation?!  I know I’m still in the honeymoon period (it’s less than 2 years into the relationship and it wasn’t exactly love at first sight either).

Anyway, my point is that this type of work ticks so many boxes for me in respect to working creatively and I feel so lucky for it! Ok there’s I’m sure an element of naivety in all this on my part as I’m not yet a true “professional” but who ever advocated starting a new relationship with skepticism or cynicism?  I’m sure reality will strike at some point but the point is that the love of your profession should sustain you through hardships and sacrifices. Plus, I’m definitely not doing it for the love of money or fame...ermmm, it’s a drop of ten grand in salary last time I checked!

Staying with the topic of vocation, I recently finished reading “The War of Art” by Steven Pressfield and I can’t remember the last time I read a book and wanted to start reading it again the moment I got to the last page!  It is a real account of deeply felt personal conflicts that the author encountered on his journey to becoming a writer over the course of many years. One part that really fascinated me was the idea of the “Muse”. This otherworldly entity that overlooks and directs any creative endeavour. In other words, the force or inspiration driving the artist to manifest this abstract, untouchable creation that comes into being in our 3d world.  OK, sometimes it did feel a little too far fetched when he talked about invoking the Muse or praying to it though it’s not an uncommon concept found through civilizations, right?

The other fascinating lesson I took from this book is that “Resistance” is the antithesis to the  Muse. The author goes into great depth to reveal how resistance manifests itself and how to beat it.  I seriously can’t recommend this book enough. It’s my first read of 2017 (11 more titles to go!!) and what an impact it’s already having.  If anything, it has reaffirmed my calling for this precious art form and that I’m in it for the long haul for better or worse, for richer or poorer, I do!

I picked these images I took in the last couple of days around Valencia because I think they are evocative of my life long creative path search.  The first on the left is a hanging cage which to me symbolizes the stale state of mind we find ourselves in before we find our true vocation.

The middle picture, represents the climbing up to unknown or uncharted takes courage!

The last photo symbolizes for me those moments of joy when you stumble upon something beautiful unexpectedly...the creative process or the Muse does reward us sometimes! :)

If you like this post or have any comments, do leave them right below!

First Competition of 2017

2017 has already brought so much into my life already...a temporary move to Spain to work on design, a fresh perspective to move forwards creatively as well as a bit of peace from the noise and pace of city life.  Yet, with all this positive mojo on my back, my to-do list seems never-ending and forever expanding like a black hole in my universe! So the thought of entering a design competition wasn’t quite planned...especially when I found out I only had 2 days to come up with a design concept and produce a collection to upload onto over 20 garments just to enter it!  But I immediately knew I had to forge ahead when I read the brief on the theme of the competition by PAOM which was: “Resistance” (definition: the refusal to accept or comply with something).  Quite topical though taking a political point of view wasn’t required.

As I had been photographing a lot of graffiti in the previous few weeks, I decided that this would be my starting point/inspiration.  I love street art in all its manifestations and recall fondly taking a two hour street art tour in Berlin a few years back which for the first time really made me appreciate the artistry involved and the spirit behind it.

To get started, I referred back to a Pinterest board I had created a while back appropriately called “Artistic Licence” based on a WGSN trend I was interested in.  I think graffiti art is the ultimate artistic licence an artist can take to some extent. This Pinterest PAOM Resistance board I created has some of the photos I took around me. So here’s how things developed from there…

I’d love to hear from anyone who’s done anything like this before for PAOM or other print on demand websites.  I definitely think it’s a worthwhile exercise irrespective of the final outcome. Let me know your thoughts if you have or are thinking of doing these types of competitions in the Comments below!