is the unit of design or major theme in artwork especially in pattern making. Where it is repeated several times and at regular intervals. Motifs can also be formed from natural or artificial objects, abstract geometry, regular or irregular shapes.


it is an arrangement of regular and repeated motif from nature or the environment in general in such a way that rhythm is created in colour, tone or texture on a given surface. Pattern making features very well in textile design, wallpapers, carpet, boarder design etc.

The compositions in the above items in most cases are based on a particular theme or motif.


an arrangement or composition of some art elements, motifs and symbols into a unified piece or pattern. Design could also mean a representation in drawing or other media, the idea an artist intends to execute. It is a mental plan schemed purposefully to arrive at the motivated aim. Design has some elements which if well utilized will enhance design making. They include line, motif, form, colour, texture and space. In a way, pattern making is a designing exercise.

Pattern making

Is the art of creating designs on paper or any other surface for various purposes. As mentioned earlier in this post, patterns should have specific themes or motifs.

There are different ways of putting designs together using various elements. They include:

Pattern making with lines: Different types of lines can be combined effectively to form patterns in art. Such lines include structural lines (vertical, oblique, horizontal etc) and rhythmic lines in the form of scrolls, spiral, loops, waves etc.

Pattern making with lines

Design symbols and shapes:  A lot of patterns can be made from symbols, signs and shapes as motifs. They can be composed from letters of the alphabets, abstract or regular shapes, religious symbols like the cross, masks, stars, moon, sun, etc. Others are musical instruments, craft objects like the decorated calabash, crown, fan, beads, etc. some of this shapes and symbols could be used in stylized form to give room for creative skill among artists.Design symbols and shapes

Design from abstract: Motifs for designs can also be put together from abstract forms. Abstract shapes can be derived from nature and also from geometrical shapes. While abstract shapes or forms are derived from nature, among other means, geometrical shapes are based on human mathematical concept or idea. Such shapes from nature are somehow distorted. Geometrical shapes include circles, triangles, rectangle, squares, cuboids, cylinders, cones etc.

Design from abstract

Design from Nature: Abundant motifs for designs can be obtained from nature. This is a very wonderful gift of nature to the artist. Such forms can be derived from animals, birds, reptiles, flowers, leaves, fruits and many more, all in their various species or varieties. Sometimes, impressions derived from the texture on trees, pods, rocks, crocodile, leopard, tiger etc can be made into patterns or design in art. Lifting the picture of an animal or bird from their inactive position does not exhibit enough creativity. Artist should therefore learn how to portray such gifts of nature in their own way and in the most exciting form. A flying bird and a jumping kangaroo could be better motifs than the sleeping of dormant ones. An active shapes as motif can enhance rhythm which is very important in design. Furthermore bringing in some embellishments into the shape of such animals or insects in a way of stylization can help to improve the artist’s skill and creativity.

Design from Nature

Repeat pattern: It is a systematic arrangement of motif in order to achieve rhythm. There are various methods of transferring motifs into the actual surface in pattern making process. There are also different types of repeat order. They are more noticeable in textile designs, wallpapers, gift-wrappers and mural or wall decorations. The popular types of repeat arrangement in pattern making are – simple repeat, half drop, mirror repeat, half slide, counter-change repeat etc.

Repeat pattern

Suggested steps in pattern making (mostly in textile design)

Make several sketches of the intended motif

  • Put your selected motif into a size-given box with your pencil and ruler. This will now serve as the dimension of each design unit on the larger paper. Cut out this motif to the design unit or repeat unit size given.
  • Use, the measurement to divide the space available for the design into squares or rectangles as the case may be, leaving some reasonable margin round the paper. Do this in pencil faintly for such lines must be erased before applying colour.
  • Fix the smaller piece of paper which contains your motif into each box which should be the same size in each of the boxes. Trace out the shape into the larger paper without shifting the position. Use a writing material (pen) that the writing is invisible to write for the tracing. A tracing board or light box is very suitable and faster where there is any in the art studio.
  • Spaces between motifs should be filled up with additional or supportive motif which is better included in the initial planning. Such additional shapes must not shift away emphasis from the major theme.
  • After transferring the motif into every unit, prepare your colour chart. Mix them on the pallete and test them on a rough sample.
  • Trace out the shapes carefully with your tiny sable brush or pen. You could re-trace the marks with pencil very faintly in such a way that such pencil strokes will not show under your colouring. Distribute your colours accordingly and carefully, showing every details. Hard brushes may not be too good for a design of this nature. Felt pens or markers could be permitted.
  • The background should be painted to make the design more solid while the law of colour contrast must be obeyed. Avoid the use of similar tones or line for both the motif and the background.
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