What makes a pattern collection look cohesive?
Let me tell you about the aspects that need to be considered when creating a pattern collection.
There are many advice out there about the "right size" of a collection, about how many patterns actually make a collection. In my opinion, there is no right or wrong. It also depends a lot on the industry. Normally, the fabric industry will look for more and different patterns than wallpaper or fashion. But even then, I have seen many fabric collections with fewer patterns presented in different and coordinating colorways. Just consider that the more patterns in a collection, the more difficult it will become to offer something interesting without being repetitive.
I struggled with this at the beginning, a lot! The first collection I've ever made was about lavenders. Even if the complexity of the prints varied, the motifs were all lavenders and only lavenders. After experimenting a lot and trying new things I understood the concept of theme. It always helps to think of the theme as a story, a scene, a particular moment. Then, you can approach the theme from different angles. For example, this collection is called Forget-Me-Not and was inspired by the striking blues and yellows from my spring garden and named after that particular flower. Months later, reviewing the collection with more expertise, I realized that almost there was no variety and that it was really repetitive.
So I re-arranged the whole collection. I wasn't ready to let some pattern "go", because I really love them, but then I took the inspiration (striking blues and yellows from my spring garden) and explored it a little bit further: what is spring for me? What do I love the most about spring? How does that make me feel? What is a clear sign of spring? What textures are common at that time?... and so on. This is the result:
And that leads us to another major topic: COLOR. And this is also very subjective since it depends on the designer's style. Some may need 20 colors, some may be great with 8. To be a cohesive collection, it should offer a good mix of dark, medium, and light colors as well as both contrasting and neutral colors. In my opinion, the key is to offer a variety of colors without it ending up in a super busy, multicolored collection. I know, easier said than done. A good tip I received from this great and talented artists and designers community was to print an overview of the collection in Greyscale. This way, you'll see if there is enough contrast or not.
Something similar happens with composition types. A cohesive collection has to be a balance between different kinds of compositions: Some patterns will be tossed, others, half-drops, diamond, etc... (If you want to learn more about the different kinds of patterns, go here).
The scale is so important as well: There should be a balance between bigger and smaller prints and the scale is normally related to the role of the pattern in the collection (there is more information about that here) There should also be a healthy variety of styles of patterns, i.e. floral, conversational, geometric and so on.
This is one of the most difficult aspects to achieve, the "own hand", that particular way of painting or drawing that unite all the patterns in a beautiful ribbon, ready to gift it to the world. I usually don't like to be put in a box or put others in boxes and style is a creative identity that is never finished, we evolve and grow and so does our style. My advice is to... experiment! A lot. Start a #100daysproject. Paint with different mediums, create just for the sake of it, create what you want to see in the world. Explore different themes and color palettes and most important: have FUN and PATIENCE!
BTW: If you are interested in experimenting with prints and patterns,
you can get my Game to Unlock your Creativity for free here.