top of page
  • Writer's pictureRachel Goodchild

The impact of using colour in surface pattern design

Rachel Goodchild | Creating Pattern

Colour plays a pivotal role in pattern design, influencing both aesthetic appeal and communication. Colour also has the ability to significantly alter the perception and impact of an image. Using different hues and tones in surface pattern is a creative and impactful way to enhance the visual appeal. The essence of colour is a powerful tool that goes beyond mere aesthetics; it can convey emotion, communicate messages, and shape the overall perception and experience of an image. The thoughtful and intentional use of color is crucial for effective imagery, particularly when used for surface pattern design.

The designer will begin by choosing a well-balanced and harmonious colour palette, dependent on the client's brief. The mood and emotion the pattern needs to convey will be considered along with any variations in hue, brightness, or saturation. Contrasting colours can help highlight specific elements within a pattern. When creating a range, one must consider the overall harmony of the colour scheme to ensure that the colours work well together and create a cohesive look.

It is also vital to take into consideration what kind of product the pattern is required for, as colour can be a key differentiator. Think about the user's experience with the surface. Patterns on products or environments should enhance the overall user experience rather than detract from it. One also needs to be aware that different materials absorb and reflect colours differently, so one must ensure that the colours interact well with the material and appear as intended.

Adapting Different Hues for Pattern Collections

Adapting different hues for pattern collections involves strategic colour selection and coordination to ensure cohesion and harmony across the entire set. By selecting an original base colour palette, one then sets about selecting a set of hues with that pallet. While experimenting with different hues, one must ensure that the overall tone remains consistent across all patterns. Consistent tonality helps in achieving a unified and cohesive look. A gradual transition of colour shades within the collection will ensure a subtle progression from one shade to the next, creating a sense of flow and continuity. Lastly one must consider where and how the patterns will be used. Different hues may be more suitable for specific surfaces or environments, so one must tailor one's choices to the intended context.

By carefully selecting and adapting different hues within a pattern collection, you can achieve a visually rich and diversified set while maintaining an overall sense of coherence and unity. This can allow for flexibility in a pattern and ensures that the collection remains visually engaging.

Customising Pattern to Suite Different Surfaces

Here is an example of adapting the hue of the colour in a pattern so that it works to meet the requirements of a specific surface. If you look at my 'Milner Bird Green' pattern below, you see two versions. In both versions, the main background is green and the pattern is in a white colour. White is versatile and tends to work well with various backgrounds, providing a clean and neutral base. In the first version I choose a soft, almost pastel olive shade of green for the background. This colour version worked really very well on linen textiles and wallpaper.  I discovered, however, that it did not work so well when I had it printed onto a soft velvet fabric. The neutral colours almost got lost in the sheen of the velvet.

To address the issue, I set about designing a second version of the pattern. This version was the same as the first, only I chose to tweak the white and turn it into an ivory colour. Ivory is slightly warmer than white and can add a touch of warmth and richness to a design. I then added some black elements to the design to enhance it and make it 'pop out' more. Black can add depth and definition to a design, ensuring that it remains visually distinct, especially on fabrics with a reflective surface. For the background I chose a much stronger green.

This demonstrates that my decision to create a second version of 'Milner Bird Green' was based on the fabric characteristics. It is all about adaptability and attention to detail. It's essential to consider how the final product will be experienced, and adjust the design accordingly. With surface pattern it is about aesthetics, but one must also consider practicalities and think through how the final product will be perceived, in order to ensure that the pattern maintains its visual impact across different materials.

Same Pattern on Different Colour Backgrounds

Below is an example of exactly the same pattern that has been placed onto two completely contrasting backgrounds, making a significant impact on how the design is perceived. The relationship between the design and its background colour can influence the overall aesthetics, visibility, and emotional response. 

To be able to apply the same design on different background colours will demonstrate adaptability. The background colour can be used strategically to emphasise specific elements within the design. For example, by placing my vibrant Bullpod pattern onto a neutral background directs attention to the central elements.

Same Colour Pallet, but Flipping the Colours Around

By using one colour pallet, but rearranging the colours, one can create interesting variations while maintaining a cohesive and harmonious look. By simply changing the order of colours within a colour pallet, it can ensure that the resulting arrangement maintains harmony and unity. The goal is to create an aesthetically pleasing composition where colours work well together, even in their rearranged positions. This method of flipping colours can also enhance the adaptability of a pattern across different surfaces. It allows one to create variations suitable for various contexts while still adhering to the original colour palette.


Rachel Goodchild | Design Blog

Creating Pattern for Textile, Product, Home & Packaging

Rachel is a member of ACID (Anti Copying In Design) & DACS (Design & Artists Copyright Society)​All copyright, design rights and other intellectual property rights in Rachel’s designs and products,

as well as images, text and design of this blog remain the property of Rachel Goodchild.

Any infringement of these rights will be vigorously pursued. ​Copyright Images © Rachel Goodchild 2023. All rights reserved.



Design Blog

bottom of page