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Get Paisley-Perfect

Updated: Apr 22

6 Tips to Elevate Your Paisley Designs


Words by Bec, our Creative Director


A great textile designer can create any print at the drop of a hat. Paisley designs can be a challenge, but they’re so worth the effort - on both a creative and a commercial level. Put simply, you can’t be a successful textile designer without mastering them. Because sure, some seasons paisleys go out of style, but without fail they always come back (hello Etro, I’m looking at you!) - and you’ll need to cut the mustard.

Not sure where to start with these time-consuming motifs? Here’s how to nail your paisley designs - and what not to do.



1. Know Your Paisley History


Paisleys have evolved over hundreds of years. As you dive into their back story, you’ll see paisley variations go in and out of fashion – again and again (and again). The variations are endless - here are some thought-starters:

  • Consider paisleys from Kashmir compared to Persia.

  • Be inspired by the way designers in the 1970s created their own interpretation with ‘paisloids’ - from Bill Blass to Yves Saint Laurant.

  • Take a look at current interpretations.

  • Compare the intricate to the simple, the large to the small

It takes time to study a pattern’s history - but it always pays you back in spades. You’ll visually absorb the information and store it away for future use - and it will reveal itself to you just at the right time.


2. Don't Cut Corners


As a design director, I’ve seen lots of good - and not-so-good - paisleys over the years. The not-so-good paisleys are always the ‘lazy’ ones. They tend to lack a proper paisley shape: a bit warped, not drawn evenly or neatly, odd ‘tails’ and uninteresting details.


Paisleys are a labour of love that take time and concentration. When you’re creating a beautiful motif, it’s super important to put the effort in. Plus, it’s really fun to do. There’s nothing more satisfying than getting lost in the details, so make the most of it and immerse yourself in these beautiful motifs.


The good news is that while paisleys do take time, there are ways to speed up the process. We spill the secrets on intricate painting and time-saving Photoshop hacks in our new Gouache Paisley course, coming soon.



3. Pay Attention to Detail


Once you’ve done your research and drawn the perfect motif shape, you’ll see how many variations there are to paisley centres. Scalloping, flowers, lines, paisleys within paisleys – the list goes on.

Take the time to draw different decorations in each motif – these are the details that will help to elevate your work and set you apart. Also notice the ‘extras’ in paisley designs: swirls, non-paisley shapes, even jacobean-style flowers. You can use these to add to the flow of your design.


4. Don't Overwork It


Just like kneading the perfect loaf of bread, it’s super important to know when to stop. If you overwork your motifs the design will become too busy. Overworking can also make the final fabric print too heavy. All those lines will end up bleeding into each other, creating a blobby effect and complete loss of detail.


Practice makes perfect. The more paisley designs you create, the easier it’ll get to just ‘know’ when it’s just right – and the better you’ll be able to hone into your intuition.


5. Start With A Vision


Context is key. As textile designers, it’s easy to get lost in the artistry of designing your print. A compelling vision will stop you going on a tangent (and make the entire process faster, too).

The context of your work really depends on what’s trending at the time and also the product you’re creating. A beautiful flowing dress might require a large bold paisley with nice areas of negative space to allow flow and breath, whereas a men’s shirt may require a small repetitive layout.


Top tip: The 1970’s is right on trend right now, so you can’t go wrong with mid-scale paisleys in tight layouts.


6. Don't Forget To Draw To Scale


This is an important one. Drawing to the scale of your final artwork means you’ll avoid changing their size in Photoshop later (which creates different line widths and therefore an inconsistent design – a definite no-no).


Draw plenty of motifs so you have oodles to choose from when working up your layout in photoshop. If you don’t use them all, you’ll always find another design down the track you can pop them into. Nothing is ever wasted.


Want some hands-on guidance so you can nail that paisley print? Our brand new course, Gouache Paisleys: from Concept to Completion is now live. Click here to read more.