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How To Design a Paisley with Impact

Updated: Feb 15, 2022

Words by Erin, Digital Design Media Manager

Paisley prints are uber prominent RN. The ethnic design sprawls across clothing rails country-wide, and shows no sign of slowing. Which means, if you haven’t already jumped on board the paisley bandwagon, now’s a good time to do so!

Becky, our senior designer, LOVES working on paisley prints. Here, she shows you how to create one that wows.

“Paisley prints are fun to design because they can be used in so many different ways, ” she says, ticking placements, engineered layouts, scarf layouts, classic allovers and allovers with borders off on her finger tips. Never attempted one?  Becky says the paisley motif is a good place to start.


Paisleys are teardrop-shaped with a curve at the upper end. And that’s about as much as they ever have in common with one another, as they can vary in dramatically in size and shape.  “Some are quite round while others are long and elegant.” See what she means by an elegant shape, in this image below?

This little chilli pepper is full of detail and intricacy. Sometimes it contains a little leaf or flower design, and – ingeniously – you can re-use it throughout your design. “I like to pull out the details from within the paisley to use throughout the rest of the design I’m creating, ” she says. It helps with not just consistency but efficiency, too!

Paisleys are of Persian origin and became popular in the west in the 18th and 19th centuries. Interestingly, the English name derives from the town of Paisley in the West of Scotland, which is where a lot of paisley designs were produced and exported from.

Paisley motifs are always found in Paisley designs (obviously!) but it’s not uncommon to find a paisley in a non-traditional design. “Paisleys can be paired with botanical flowers and other floral elements. They also make a striking border, which adds value for money for a buyer.”


Decorative scrolls make a great secondary element when designing a paisley print. They can be as pretty as the paisley itself and filled with the same level of detail.

Scrolls are also an effective ‘linking element,’ which help to give a paisley design a lovely overall flow, Becky says. “Some paisleys already have a small scroll at the end (see above) which can be adapted to use elsewhere in the design, even combining it with something else you may have drawn.”


Jacobean elements are stylised floral patterns that sometimes involve other motifs such as fruits, small animals and birds. It’s a woven fabric that dates back to the 17th Century (Outlander fan, anyone?)  “Jacobean stylised florals and stylised leaves can add so much impact to any paisley design.” They don’t have to make a huge statement, but a little will go a long way.

We hope this inspires you to try Paisley!

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Love to illustrate florals? We show you how to master pen work in our drawing course: Floral Illustration for Textile Design. Go on, it doesn’t hurt to have a read.


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