If you’re into minimal, abstract art (or if you just really like topography), this is the print for you! Inspired by topographical maps, this pattern is either a hiker’s worst nightmare or.. just another lake bed. Either way, you’re sure to be mesmerized by this print’s swirling shapes and looping lines. Wear it on your new favorite shirt, your next notebook, or spot it on your morning coffee cup!

I knew when I started sketching ideas for these patterns that I wanted my end result to consist of abstract line art. I started browsing Pinterest for patterns and textures that interested me or that I would purchase in real life. From there, I put together a mood board in Photoshop. It included my favorite line patterns and shapes, some color inspiration, a plant (because I wanted the pattern to be organic and not geometric), and some photo inspiration.

Then, I started sketching. I followed along with Skillshare videos to see if I wanted to use any identifiable objects in my pattern (I didn’t). I drew shapes like I saw in the topographical map on my mood board; I drew a couple variations of something that looks kind of like tree bark; I drew a leaf, and I drew some funky lines.

I could tell pretty quickly that I wanted the topography shapes in my hero pattern, so I got to work on that. I took a photo of my sketch, image traced it in Illustrator, and tidied it up to preserve my original shapes. Then I duplicated and resized the original shapes to puzzle-piece the pattern together. Both creating the original pattern block and making it repeat were a lot more satisfying than I expected.

Even though the shapes in my pattern are inspired by topographical maps, they kind of give me flashbacks to learning about mitosis in high school biology. They look like weird cells to me, and I like that they’re open to interpretation. My partner said this pattern gave him some Georgia O’Keefe vibes, which I thought was understandable but funny.

Then, I moved on to my secondary or supporting pattern. I was conflicted at first about whether to make a really sparse pattern inspired by the way snow looks when you look straight up into the sky while the snow is falling; I wasn’t sure whether it would complement the hero pattern quite right. I decided to go with one of the tree bark-inspired patterns instead. To make it, I started out tracing my original sketch on a Wacom pad, then improvised where I needed to.

This pattern was actually more difficult than the hero pattern to puzzle together. It’s more tightly woven, so I had to be more exacting as I assembled it. I couldn’t repurpose an existing shape to fill every hole, so I often created new shapes to fill odd spaces in the pattern. This pattern was difficult to repeat for the same reason, and I had to make a lot of adjustments as I added shapes to the edges of the pattern. I like that the final pattern is a pattern close up, but begins to look more like a texture from far away (especially when they colors have low contrast). I think that makes its potential applications more versatile.

Once I had both patterns finished up, I added them to a few product mockups. I think I would really like to use/see these products in my own daily life 🙂

Overall, I feel like I’ve gotten much more comfortable using Illustrator by doing this project, and I discovered that pattern design is a thing that people do and that’s actually really fun and satisfying. I like that I was able to make a pattern that feels like it could be on a product I would buy if I saw it in a store or online. The aesthetic of patterns that I created is one that I would like to continue exploring, either by continuing this line of patterns or through other mediums. It was also really nice to learn how to find and use product mockup files; that wasn’t something I knew how to do previously!