Flowers make for some great inspiration! Since we’ve covered quite a lot on how to paint flowers in previous blogs, this one will instead focus on creating floral patterns and putting these skills to use.

So in light of this topic, I’ll be introducing 3 easy ways to create floral patterns. Feel free to follow along!

Type 1: Tessellation

The first and probably most traditional type of patterning is tessellation, where certain shapes are repeated to leave no gaps between them. For example, squares tessellate, because they can be placed touching each other without gaps appearing (like the bathroom or kitchen tiles).

The best way to know if a shape tessellates easily is to see if it’s symmetrical both vertically and horizontally down the middle. Even a circle can tessellate when paired with a 4-corner star shape like I’ve drawn out in the image above.

As a flower’s shape might seem too complicated at first glance, you should create a guide for tessellating simple shapes first. I’ve picked a circle because a lot of flowers are circular from a top-down angle.

Next, draw in a flower shape that fits inside your shapes. For the circles, I’ve placed a daisy inside each one, while I’ve added leaves for the star shapes. You’re welcome to get more detailed if you wish, but sometimes less is more!

Tip: If you’re not sure which shapes tessellate, geometry tells us that any equilateral shape with an even number of sides (e.g. square, hexagon, octagon, etc) will tessellate by itself. Equilateral shapes with an odd number of sides (e.g. triangle, pentagon, heptagon, etc) will need an extra shape to fill in the gaps.

There are a lot of shapes that tessellate, but try to find ones that fit the flower you want to turn into a pattern. For example, if it’s a flower that has 5 large petals like a plumeria, then you might want to consider using pentagons for your guidelines.

Type 2: Display

For the next type of pattern, I came up with the name “display”, because it’s a showcase of different flowers that only becomes a pattern when repeated.

What I mean is that in its current form, it just looks like a selection of different flowers, but once that whole “tile” is repeated, then it becomes a pattern.

Alternatively, if you know how to use digital imaging software, you can copy and paste the same flowers in the same order to create a pattern in that way instead.

Type 3: Irregular

The last time of pattern I want to introduce is the irregular pattern, which sounds a bit like an oxymoron! I’d like to say it’s more like a freehand pattern, where you repeat the same motif (in this case the same type of flower) but with variations in your angles and lines.

While the final design may not tessellate, creating a larger version won’t be difficult, since you’re going in freely without having to copy the same 2 flowers. And because no 2 flowers are the same, it creates an interesting design that feels like a pattern but isn’t a true pattern.

It’s pretty fun to create and to look at though, so feel free to experiment with different types of flowers! I also recommend trying to fill in the gaps as much as possible, but this is up to you.

Colours and Details

Once you have your pattern(s) figured out, you can get to painting them. I used watercolours for mine, but you can use other media too, such as acrylic markers or alcohol markers.

Tip: Most markers will feel easier to use and get more accurate shapes while being brighter in colour, too!

Again, I recommend keeping your colour palette simple like your shapes and lines and try to think of your pattern as an overall design rather than a painting. If you’re not sure which colours to use, have a look at the colour wheel and use colour theory to see which colours work well together.

In terms of smaller details, perhaps the most detailed pattern type would be the “display” one, but with the help of a fineliner, you can get them without having to paint them.

You can also use a marker, a coloured pencil, or a fineliner to outline your flowers in the other pattern types, but again, use it at your discretion. I find that it’s good to outline parts that don’t really stand out, such as the yellow centres of each flower, but otherwise, I like to keep things as they are.

Last but not least, floral patterns are even easier to create digitally! Not only can you scan your pattern and use the old copy-and-paste method to quickly repeat your patterns, but you can also fill in colours much faster using the bucket tool. Just make sure all your shapes have enclosed lines, and you’re good to go.

In any case, I hope you had some fun creating some awesome patterns. There are also a ton of different flowers in the world, so each pattern feels new. So have fun experimenting, and I’ll see you in the next blog!

Which kind of pattern is your favourite? Do you have a particular flower you like to use as a subject, or do you prefer having a variety? Let us know in the comments below! Also, for more tips and tricks about art, feel free to subscribe to our email newsletter. We’ll also keep you up to date with new workshop releases.

Nicola Tsoi is a practising graphic designer and illustrator based in Hong Kong. During her downtime, she likes to watch birds do funny things, search for stories, and bake up a storm. She keeps a pet sourdough starter named Doughy. 

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