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Illustrative Blooms: Secrets to Drawing Stunning Flowers for Fabric Design

Updated: Jul 16, 2021

Words by Charis, Senior Designer.

Florals. We love designing them, we love wearing them, and our clients love buying them. So it’s no wonder that for most surface pattern designers, creating and illustrating beautiful floral designs makes up the majority of our days.

Forever current, illustrated blooms are reimagined time after time on the runways. Just look at Johanna Ortiz’s latest oversized iterations for a fresh 2021 take on the trend. But let's be honest - as fun and worthwhile as they are to work on, drawing picture-perfect flowers isn’t always easy to do.

Want the inside scoop on how we’ve perfected our skills over the years? Here are some of our favourite secret tips and tricks to improving your floral drawings - and even better, they’re all super easy to implement.

1. Learn About Flowers (and Look Closer!)

Okay, this one might seem obvious, but learning more about flowers can really improve your hand-drawn florals for surface design.

Get curious about how different flowers grow and open, and learn about their shape and form. Look closer at any veins on the petals, and notice the direction they’re going in. Do any of the petals fold over or curl up on themselves? Inspect your flower at different angles and take note of the foreshortening of the petals facing towards you.

When you take the time to appreciate all the tiny details in these natural wonders, you’ll remember to draw them in, too. And it will make your print designs look less generic and more individual and exclusive. So here’s your permission to shout yourself a gorgeous bunch of flowers and enjoy (it’s for work!).

Want more direction on how to find inspiration in nature? Read our blog post Make the Most of Spring for some top tips on how to make the most of your research time.

2. Avoid 'Wonky' Flowers

There’s nothing worse than spending lots of your precious time drawing a flower, only to step back and notice it looks a bit…off. It’s happened to all of us at some stage, but there are a few things to be mindful of that can save you lots of time.

The main culprit of a wonky-looking flower usually has to do with the structure of the drawn flower. All petals grow out of the centre of a flower, and while that seems simple enough, it gets a bit trickier when there are lots of layered-up petals. You should always be able to follow the central vein or midline of any petal back to the centre of the flower (even if you can’t see it, it should be suggested). If your petal is heading off in another direction, even subtly, your flower won’t look realistic.

But here’s the good news! Usually, a quick adjustment or tweak will get your flower back on track, and looking as gorgeous as possible. If you don't have the time to adjust your work on paper, a few quick tricks on our trusty friend Photoshop will have your bloom looking perfect in no time.

3. Look Centre Stage

Another reason hand-drawn flowers can look a little funny is that the centre of the flower is not quite right. And we get it. Drawing stamens is HARD. If you take a look at a peony centre you’ll see thousands of tiny stamen- where do you even start?

There’s a sweet spot to drawing flower centres, and that’s capturing some of the detail and direction, but also not going over the top. If you get too detailed, the centre can look really heavy and it’s all your eye will notice. But if the centre lacks detail it can look like an ambiguous blob. Tricky.

Our approach? Try drawing the stamen first (usually oval shapes), and then draw in their stems - technically called the filament if we’re getting fancy. Capture the direction they’re going in, but don’t worry about drawing all of them. That way you should have a flower centre perfect for fabric design.

4. Get Edgy

This one’s a super quick trick to get your flowers looking better - focus on the edges of your flowers. When you’re new to drawing flowers, or if you’re rushing, you might be tempted to draw the edges of your petal as neatly and smoothly as possible. But in reality, nature isn’t perfect!

The edges of petals can be wobbly, rippled, or wavy. Even if the petal edge you’re looking at is smooth, drawing it with subtle waves will show the undulating movement in the flower - and it looks super pretty in a fabric design. So forget drawing perfectly straight lines, give them some movement and show off their natural form.

5. Draw Flowers for Fabric Design

There are some types of illustration that work better for surface pattern design than others. After many years of working in the industry, trust me when I say that even the most beautifully hand-rendered florals can be unsuccessful when printed on fabric and turned into garments or homewares. The trick is knowing what works and what doesn’t.

So, before you even start drawing your flowers it’s a good idea to think about end-use. Will it be screen printed or digitally printed? Is it for swimwear or homewares? All this information would affect the types of flowers you draw and the style you draw them in.

So you’ve drawn some beautiful flowers with a fabric print in mind, what’s next? Learn how to take your illustrations from scan to production-ready files in our Photoshop for Fabric Design: Illustration Course.


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