Inspiring : Emily Julstrom {surface design}

Emily Julstrom says it’s good to get as many terrible ideas off your chest as possible so you can get to something interesting. I think she must have done an awful lot of work, because what I see is utter skill and total clarity of vision.

I first came across some of Emily’s surface designs on Pinterest (oh yes! I still love it – I’m here)– lush florals in a modern illustrative style, full-bodied and sensuous. So delicious!


emily julstrom - magenta flowers

emily julstrom – magenta flowers


But when I dug a bit deeper, I discovered her work jumps from illustration through art direction to surface design and lots in between, AND in every format from digital animation right down to absolutely stunning pencil drawings, and traditional figure painting. SO good, that even though she only graduated from design school last year, she’s already worked with Tupperware and Skippy Peanut Butter, to name a few.


emily julstrom - blue bulbs

emily julstrom – blue bulbs


emily julstrom - jungle

emily julstrom – jungle


After graduating from Ringling College of Art & Design with a BFA in Illustration in 2014, she now freelances full-time, and works from her tiny studio home in Chicago.

When working for a client, Emily stresses that communication is key. “At Ringling two ideas were stressed to the students – to ideate extensively, and to respect, understand and commit to what a client asks for. Often times you cannot do both. So, be incredibly clear about your intentions – I show the client my ideas each step of the way first in sketches, then thumbnails, color studies, value studies, and final tweaks. Whether I’m working for me or a client, it’s important to always have a plan so that I know I’m meeting my needs or the needs of my client and won’t get stuck along the way to a good finished product.”

“When I have the opportunity to be creative, I sit down and write down as many ideas and sketches as I possibly can. One way to move away from the cliche and into something new is to create word lists – each word relating to the last in slowly more and more remote ways until you have something strange and unexpected.”


emily julstrom - brights

emily julstrom – brights


emily julstrom - brights

emily julstrom – brights


It doesn’t hurt to have a great atmosphere when you’re growing up either. “Growing up in Indonesia I was surrounded by a constant supply of intriguing textiles and arts that probably jump-started my need to live a life based heavily on aesthetic designs. I also was lucky enough to have a mother who would let me sit down and draw as long as I wanted any and every day – always supporting any avenues I wanted to explore from my ill-fated attempts at jewelry, or sharing with me her love of paper flowers.”


emily julstrom - magenta geometric

emily julstrom – magenta geometric


“One of the things I miss most about being in school was having all the time I wanted to explore and learn. I’m so thrilled to have a steady income and job but I do miss the days of having all the energy I need to learn more new and exciting techniques. I’m still grappling with it myself, and so far all I know is that to gain one thing you must lose another and that might mean one weekend I don’t do much socializing in exchange for sitting down and making an effort to learn, or not eating out for a month so I have the funds to try a new software.”


“I truly believe anything is possible if you are able to think and prioritize what matters to you. “



emily julstrom - the mother of dragons

emily julstrom – illustration – the mother of dragons


from emily's sketchbook

from emily’s sketchbook


What’s the best piece of advice she’s ever been given? “I’ve been given amazing art advice, on all kinds of subjects…but the most helpful thing I’ve ever heard was during a period where I was out of work. I was told to invest in myself and believe that I would find the work.”

“It ended up being true and I know that if in that period I hadn’t have been spending my time working hard and investing my time in learning and creating I wouldn’t be where I am now.”


“So believe and invest in yourself or you have no chance of achieving what you’re hoping for.”



You can find more of Emily’s work on her site,



emily's studio, where she surrounds herself with books and colour

emily’s studio, where she surrounds herself with books and colour


Inspiring: Julie Emmerson {surface design}

Based on the Sunshine Coast in Queensland, Julie Emmerson is making her mark in the world of pattern. And just like her location, her patterns are filled with sunshine too – bright colours, simple shapes and warmth.


 emmerson - vintage spring

emmerson – vintage spring


After a long career in graphic design, she says it was a natural progression. “Creatives are always looking for new ways to express themselves and learn so for me, exploring the freedom of drawing, painting and digital design then converting it to pattern has been my next step. I started approx 3 years ago, have sold patterns through my US agent and my dream is to have my own ongoing signature line of products sold worldwide and to also teach up and coming designers.”


julie emmerson - indian summer

julie emmerson – indian summer



julie emmerson - cutesy flowers

julie emmerson – cutesy flowers


Having that career background with constant hands-on in Photoshop and Illustrator has meant that some parts of the new career direction come easily and naturally – but not everything. “Understanding colour and loads of other technical skills have been helpful when designing, and knowing Photoshop and Illustrator have been invaluable in creating patterns and product mockups.”

“But Accounts … Web Coding … Marketing … these things make my eyes glaze over. My brain just switches off. When I do eventually tackle these things, I take a deep breath and get it over and done with. I leave my End of Year finances with my accountant and everything in between I manage myself, albeit grudgingly. Coding for my website makes my head spin so I outsource this and I am still pushing through with consistency in marketing. I’m quite shy so it’s a challenge for me to promote my designs and products on all the social media platforms but I’m getting better.”


julie emmerson - springtime buttercups

julie emmerson – springtime buttercups


She’s received recognition for her work already – design sales through a US agent, as well as subtantial sales of artwork locally, and she says that that acknowledgement of her skills and style has been really important for her. But her sights are set higher still – her desire is to secure a licensing deal with a manufacturer of globally distributed products.

Fortunately, fear of high places is not an issue for her – in fact, it’s quite the opposite. For real. Julie explains, “I experience “High Place Phenomenon”, not a fear of heights but the opposite, a desire to jump … be it a plane, hot air balloon, high building… Don’t worry, I’m not crazy! It’s more common than you think. Authors of a study on “high place phenomenon” at Florida State University’s psychology department concluded that this feeling is a positive trait implying “an urge to jump affirms the urge to live.” and this definitely sums up how I feel about life.”


julie emmerson - secret flowers

julie emmerson – secret flowers


Her best piece of advice? “One thing I have always missed in life is a mentor to guide me careerwise, so I have sought advice through friends, family and various books and online resources. The best advice that resonates with me in relation to my creative journey is from Steven Pressfield in The War of Art. ‘The more important a project is to your soul’s evolution, the more resistance you will feel to it.’ ”


You can find more of Julie’s designs on her website,


How to Color Patterns in Illustrator
(How to Color Patterns in Illustrator: Guest post by Sew Heidi.
We’ve been working on colour this month, so I thought this would be a fitting one to finish with! Heidi always writes such great posts, and this is no exception. Enjoy.)

I’ve watched many designers fight through the process of recoloring seamless repeating patterns. They’ll drag the pattern out of the swatch panel, edit it, and then drag it back in. Are you guilty of recoloring patterns this way? If so, you’re not alone – but I will help you break this bad habit, and show you a much quicker, easier and more intuitive way to do this. Ready? Let’s go!

What You’ll Need:

Note: This tutorial also applies to recoloring artwork / objects that are not or do not contain repeating patterns, but the example below will be done with a pattern.

Step 1: Access Illustrator’s Live Color Feature

Select an instance of your pattern in your file and choose Edit > Edit Colors > Recolor Artwork (1) or click on the color wheel icon (2) in your control bar.

Step 2 (for versions AI CC 2015 and newer – if you’re on AI CC 2014 and earlier, skip to Step 3): Reset Colors

In the CC 2015 update, Adobe released a new Live Color feature that automatically recolors the artwork based on recently used colors. I personally dislike this new feature and haven’t been able to find a way to turn it off (perhaps you will like it in which case you’re in luck!).  If upon launching Live Color, your artwork automatically changes colors, you may want to reset to the original colors. Do this by clicking the eye dropper icon (1) towards the upper right to “Get colors from selected art”.

Once you click this, the original colors will be restored.

Step 3: Using the Live Color Interface

Upon launching Live Color, you will see 2 lists of colors: Current Colors (1) in the left column and New Colors (2) in the right column. The Current column contains the colors that your artwork is currently made up of, and the New column contains the colors that you will be changing your artwork to.

Step 4: Swapping Colors

If you want to swap color positions, it’s as simple as dragging and dropping colors over each other in the New column. In the below example, I’ve taken the middle caramel color and dragged it onto the dark brown color in the top position (1).
illustrator_color_patterns_step3-1.1You can see now that the color positions in the pattern have been swapped (2) and the New column reflects the new color positions (3).

Step 5: Merging / Overwriting Colors

If you have too many colors in your artwork and you want to merge them, you can drag the colors from the Current column into the New column (1).
You will now see in your artwork (2) and in the New column (3) that the caramel color has over written the dark brown color.

Step 6: Choosing Brand New Colors

You may want to completely change the colors of your artwork, which is easy to do! Double click on the color in the New column that you want to change (1). This will launch the Color Picker (2) where you can select any color you want. If you want to choose a specific color from your Color Swatches, click Color Swatches (3).
illustrator_color_patterns_step3-3.1Your Color Swatches are now loaded (4) (which may just be the default AI swatches unless you’ve defined custom swatches). Note: only solid color swatches will load here, you will not see pattern or gradient swatches. If you want to switch back to the Color Picker, click Color Models (5).
illustrator_color_patterns_step3-3.2Once you’ve selected new colors for some or all of the color positions, your artwork should show the recolored results (6) and the New column should reflect the new colors you’ve chosen (7).

Step 7: Randomly Change Color Order

This is one of my favorite features in Live Color as it will often give you color results that you may not have thought of on your own. With only 3 colors, the results aren’t super exciting, but if your artwork has more colors, you can click this button many times to quickly get a ton of different color options. Simply click the “Randomly change color order” button (1) to watch the colors change in the artwork.
Below you can see 2 different colorways (2 & 3) I’ve quickly created using this button.

Step 8: Accepting the New Colors

Once your artwork is recolored and you’re ready to accept the changes, you are almost ready to hit the OK button. Before you do this however, make sure that the check box for Recolor Art in the bottom left corner IS checked (1). If this is not checked, the artwork will not actually be recolored and you will lose all your changes. Once you have double checked that this box is checked, you can hit OK (2)!
Once you’ve hit OK, have a look at your swatches panel. You will now notice, you have the original swatch plus the newly colored swatch (3). Every time you create a new colorway of your pattern using Live Color, it will automatically create a new swatch instance for you – so cool!

Not Just for Patterns!

Remember, the Live Color feature is not just for patterns! You can use it to recolor any artwork in Illustrator whether it’s solid blocks of color or solid blocks of color and patterns. It also will recolor both strokes and fills. Simply select the artwork, choose Edit > Edit Colors > Recolor Artwork and swap, overwrite or choose completely new colors. Be mindful that when using Live Color for artwork other than patterns, you may want to create a copy of the artwork first (1). Unlike how AI creates a new pattern swatch of your new colorway, it will not automatically create a new instance of your artwork.

And Last But Not Least, the Live Color Disclaimer: There is No Undo!

I get asked all the time and see designers trying to do it all the time: cmd/ctrl + Z while in Live Color. Unfortunately there is no “Edit > Undo” within Live Color. This is true both while you are inside the interface and after you’ve hit “OK”. If you are in the Live Color interface and define a new color using the Color Picker, then accidentally overwrite it, there’s no way to get it back.  Additionally, if you hit OK and then want to jump back one step into the Live Color interface to modify some of your changes, there is no way to do this. Choosing Edit > Undo will simply change your pattern back to the original colors.

This disclaimer aside, Live Color is by far the fastest, easiest and most efficient ways to color patterns and other artwork in Illustrator. Give it a try and I promise, you’ll never go back to your old ways!


Heidi B describes herself as the “Fashion Tech Evangelista”, and has been working with and teaching Illustrator for more than 15 years. If you get the impression she knows her stuff, you’d be right – and she’s got some pretty cool tutorials on her website to prove it. You can find her at

How to choose the perfect colours for your brand (Part 2)
perfect colour 2


What was your favourite colour as a kid? Mine was always yellow – I couldn’t finish colouring in a picture unless it had some yellow in it somewhere; it always just looked dull. These days, I’m much more open to all the colour combinations; each palette has its own particular mood to convey (but notice I’ve still got yellow in my branding, haha).

Carrying on from last week’s post (here), we continue looking at the multitude of ways you can use to come up with the perfect palette for YOUR brand.

You can make your own palette from scratch in various ways. As noted in the last post, is a great place to go and play with colour. They’ve got a great online community there too, so you can share the palettes you’ve made, AS WELL AS apply them to patterns … also made by you! (and others. Go on, it’s totally addictive.)  is a modern take on colour pickers, and it’s a bit geeky if that’s your thing. It provides you with the ability to make up you own palettes from scratch, and gives you auto options to choose more colours by changing the criteria (e.g. complementary, triadic, tetradic, etc), so I do feel it comes from a designer’s perspective, and assumes that you already have some knowledge of colour. Having said that, it does include some very nice tools, colour charts, and tutorials on using colour within HTML, CSS, and SCSS.


Extracting colour from a photo

One of my very favourite methods of getting a great palette is to find an image that really, really nails who and what your brand is. (It doesn’t matter if it’s not your image – you’re just using it for inspiration, and this exercise is a totally private one.) When you extract the colours from an image like that, it should be pretty darn close to the perfect palette for you. For example, if your biz personality is bright and fun, and you’ve got an image of a fairground on a sunny day, chances are you’ll find the colours that you need right there.

If it’s already a digital image, great. If not, get it onto your screen somehow. Next, go to any one of the many colour picker sites online – such as,, Lokesh Dhakar’s color-thief or However, my fave picker is Adobe’s, at and you’ll see why in a minute. (ALL of these generators will provide you with at least the hex-code of your colour – this is the 6-digit identifying number (denoted by the hash key #) so that you’ll always get EXACTLY the same colour every time you use it.)

Start by loading up your photo (on color.adobe, the link to load is at the bottom of the page), and let the generator do its thing. Now in Adobe, the big advantage is that once you’ve loaded up the image, it will show you the points it’s used for sampling – and you can move them around to tweak your palette. Alternatively, you can change the ‘mood’ from the drop-down menu on the left. Once you’re happy, you can either save it (if you’re an Adobe member), or click on the little colour-wheel icon on the right and it will take you to the colour wheel, where you can tweak some more, or just find the hex codes for the colours you’ve got. Easy peasy!



using the adobe colour picker



using the adobe colour picker


Some basic colour theory

There is OOOODLES of stuff about the theory of colour out there, and really, you don’t need to know anything beyond the basics.

The technical terms you will find most helpful are these –

* Hue is pure colour, and includes all the colours in the spectrum (red, green, blue, etc).

* Value is to do with how dark and light it is – from almost white to almost black.

* Saturation is to do with how pure the colour is – it runs in a scale from the purest colour, through to almost entirely grey. (Consider also, that each hue has a different value – red is much darker than yellow, and that is why when you change the saturation on each of those colours, a different grey value will result.)





yellow saturationred saturation



Start with the colour wheel, you The most basic method of choosing colours is to start by looking at the hue i.e. pure colour), and the relationships that you can form around the colour wheel.


colourwheel 500px


One method of choosing colour is to use balance. Pick two colours directly opposite, you’ve got balance. Make a symmetrical triangle, and you’ve got balance. Make a square or rectangle, and you’ve got balance. Tweak those hues with value and saturation, and you’ll still have balance.


Another method is to choose colours next to each other on the wheel – because they’ve got a hue in common, they’ll look good together. Again, tweak those hues with value and saturation, and you’ve got yourself a useful palette.



As noted, there are TONS of ways you can come up with colour; it entirely depends on your brand and what mood you want to convey, that fits your business personality.


A last word on choosing colours for branding.

A very important thing to remember when you’re choosing colours for your palette is that these colours will be used for all sorts of things – text, backgrounds, borders on images, highlights, buttons….. and so much more. SO you’ll need to make sure it’s a useful palette. Ensure you include at least one dark colour, and one light colour, and that there is enough contrast between the different combinations.

OK, have fun!


Oh, and p.s., I would LOVE you to tell me what your fave colour was as a kid, and if it’s still your fave now. Do you use it in your biz brand? Or would you consider it for your brand? Leave me a comment below, and tell me what your biz is, too! 


Colour-junkie Julie x