DesignerMim Home » Blog of a Freelance Creative » Surface Pattern Design » How to design Surface Patterns in Affinity Designer

Have you downloaded the Affinity Designer app but are struggling with the learning curve? If so, I’ll take you though some clear steps to get you designing patterns in no time!

First off, let’s talk patterns. And specifically, how to design surface patterns in Affinity Designer.

Surface Pattern Design created in Affinity Designer: rainbows, circles, stripes in bright primary colours
These days, all my designs are created in AD: including this fun and playful rainbow pattern I designed as part of a creative challenge last year.

A new design app on the block

When I first got the app it was on a free 3 month trial, and I’ve never looked back. I love the idea of buying my app outright without the financial worry of monthly subscription fees. Considering the volatile exchange rates, resulting in escalating fees of conventional subscription-based services. In steps the relative newbie on the block: Affinity by Serif. They have three excellent apps that rival the best in the industry. As I’m focussing on surface pattern design, illustration, and graphic design, I only need Affinity Designer. It is able to work seamlessly in both vector and pixel — on the same project, without compromise. That blew my mind! I struggled to flip between the two at first but, as with most new tech, I soon got the hang of it and couldn’t imagine life any other way. Isn’t that so often the way with tech?

mistakes quote by Paula Scher
Of course making mistakes helps us learn, but perhaps after reading this guide you won’t have to bump your head as much as I did!

In this guide I’ll show you the steps about how to design surface patterns in Affinity. In a later post we can talk about the different types of patterns and how to work them out. There is much to talk about when it comes to patterns — I am admittedly more than a little pattern obsessed! I guess, if you’re reading this, you are too. So we’re in good company! Welcome to the tribe!

The Steps

How to Design Surface Patterns in Affinity Designer, by DesignerMim

  1. Profile Settings

    First off, get your profile settings sorted. Decide however you need your final design setup. Is it pixels? Millimetres? What DPI? Which colourspace? It’s best practice to ensure these are decided upon first — this is especially important if you’re designing for any form of print as each manufacturer has their specific requirements. At this stage, do select ‘create artboard’ (you’ll see why lower down).

    step 1 - presets in affinity designer

  2. Create a blank square (optional step)

    While you’re learning how to do a repeat pattern, I found this to be a helpful guide.

    Create a shape with the exact same dimensions as your artboard (eg: 300 x 300px). Don’t fill the shape as you will use it as a guide when putting your pattern into a repeat.

    step 3 - repeat indicator area

  3. Create your Elements

    Second, and this is where the fun starts, you need to populate the elements you want to use in your pattern. When you’re happy with your elements and the general layout, we are going to put it into a full drop repeat.

    step 2 - create elements

  4. Create Symbol

    Select all items on your artboard and group them. Then, select ‘create symbol’. If it’s not on your desktop go to View>Studio>Symbols

    step 4 - create a symbol

  5. Create New Artboard

    Create another artboard to display your pattern. When designing, I like to see my patterns in full repeat to ensure there are no gaps and all the elements work cohesively together. With this in mind, if you created an original artboard for your symbol of 300 x 300px, then for the repeat artboard I would create an artboard of 600 x 600px.

    step 5 - repeat artboard suggested dimensions

  6. Duplicate the symbol

    For the scale we are working with, you need to have 4 symbols on your new artboard. This is then that blank square guide really helps. There are several ways to ensure alignment is correct — either you input the details in the navigation panel, or use the snapping tool, or use the alignment tools. That is absolutely whatever works best for you.

  7. Finalise

    Lastly, tweak to your hearts content. This is the fun part! Now you get to see how your pattern works, if there is room for improvement (there usually is). Remember, oftentimes a good design isn’t a complex or overly complicated design.

And that’s it!

Congratulations on designing your own Surface Pattern in Affinity Designer!

A note about printing suppliers: it is best practice to contact your printing supplier beforehand to ensure your design complies with their printing requirements. Some important questions to ask: colourspace, DPI, printable area, and ask them if there is anything else you should know. Before initiating your design, ask what you need to know in order to get the best results.

If you would like to learn more or if you have any questions, please pop me a line, or head on over to my socials and let’s connect. When I started out with AD, I struggled to find tutorials based on the desktop app. Please let me know if this helped you!

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