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Challenges: Create your own original pattern

Birds eye view of textile samples in pink and maroon tones
Birds eye view of textile samples in pink and maroon tones
Student work from UAL Insights Textiles Summer School, 2017. Photograph: Joygun Nehar.
Written by
Josephine Cowell
Published date
18 June 2020

Want to develop your own unique patterns? Josephine shows you how, by using your own photos to get started.

The challenge

How do artists and designers generate ideas for pattern from their first point of inspiration?

This challenge focuses on the process of developing ideas and designs from original photography.

It will help you create lots of inspired design work which you can use when you get back in the studio!

Many different ideas can spring from one source of inspiration. The strongest designs happen when the designer is always revisiting and questioning their research. For this challenge, the original photos you take in part 1 below are your visual research material.

Trying out these challenges are especially useful for textile design. They can help inspire repeat patterns for print designs and even the pattern, shape and form of knitted pieces.

an image of various cut patterns on a desk
Student work developed from initial pattern and colour exploration. Photograph, Joygun Nehar.

What materials do I need?

  • A digital camera, or camera phone
  • Any but not all of the following: paper scraps, old magazines, drawing/ painting materials, fabric scraps etc.

How long will I need to complete the challenge?

Part 1: Up to 1 hour each
Part 2 and 3: 1-3hrs depending on how detailed you want to go

Part 1: Collect your own original visual material

Take photographs from around your house or outside space which you feel contain interesting pattern and texture.

Take time to really look at objects and surfaces you may not noticed before.


  • The surface of a piece of furniture
  • A pattern from nature
various images including, stones, flowers, tiles and boxes of tea
Original photographs capturing interesting pattern and texture, Photographs: Josephine Cowell

Part 2: Create 4 artworks inspired by pattern or texture

Choose one of your images, the one you think has the most beautiful/ interesting pattern/ texture in it.

Now, using any technique, and whatever materials you have (for example, drawing, painting, collaging etc) create 4 (minimum) artworks inspired by elements of pattern or texture in your image.

Either divide your page into 4 or work on four separate pages.

Top tip: Don’t copy your photo! Theses artworks are not observational drawings. Really look at your image and pick out elements you want to play with to create something new.

an composition of illustrated spirals
4 artworks developed from original photographs, Photographs: Josephine Cowell.

Part 3: Build your own pattern library

Create a library of as many artworks as you like from different photos. You can use these designs in any creative project in the future.

If you've not done the ‘Create your own colour palette’ challenge, complete that next to add to your design toolkit.

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