The Secret to a Successful Career in Surface Design

business tips freelance life starting out Jun 09, 2022

Words by Erin, Digital Design Media Manager

First of all, congratulations for being on this design journey — wherever you are, whatever stage you’re at.

You've made the wonderfully rewarding decision to nurture your passion for print. The fact that you are even reading this blog proves it!

You are doing the work and putting it out there. And we know that can be scary. Even the simple act of putting brush to paper,  and not sharing it online will expose you to the worst critic there is….. yourself. 

We know here from personal experience how awful that inner nag can sound. 

“My painted rose doesn’t look anything like I wanted!”

“I have published my digital folio but had no interest in my work!”

“I’m a failure.”

“I’m not a good enough artist to be in print design”

“I cannot complete this print in Photoshop, but I should be able to!”

“My work is rubbish.”

A quick tally around the studio reveals that ALL our designers have had one or more of these horrible negative thoughts.

You see, it’s sooooo common for creative people to be hard on themselves. To expect INSTANT results, INSTANT success. We think part of it is to do with social media and that dreamy, hyper-fantasy filter it forces us to see the world through. Rarely do we see the hard work, the difficulties and the dead ends that build up to those winning moments. 

But whatever the reason is, one thing is certain: These thoughts can be damaging, if you let them be. 

It might not feel this way now, but we all have a choice. To either be paralysed by our fears or propelled by them. 


Consider option one: you tell yourself you’re not good enough to be a print designer day after day, and pretty soon you start to believe it. Your desk becomes a place you dread, because you know the second you pick up a pen you’ll spar with that evil self inside. You start to avoid the work because it just feels too damn awful. 

Consider option two: you acknowledge those horrible voices. You greet them with a smile and drop your fists. A little like you might see a haunted character do in a ghost story, you just accept that they are there. 

And you do the work anyway.

You ever hear the saying, “Feel the fear and do it anyway”? It’s the ‘do it’ part that’s important for your career path. 

Our creative director, Bec, says the secret of success in this business is very straight forward. “To get to the top of your game in ANY industry, it takes practice, serious focused practice. Not just an hour here or there, we’re talking eight hours a day, five days a week for at least a year.”

She continues,“You will not be able to paint the perfect paisley from the outset, you will not be able to master a rose on your first attempt. The only way you will master your motifs and design is by doing, over and over again.”

It sounds like a lot, we know. It’s a bit more of a marathon than a sprint to the finish line... but it's doable and your hard work will pay off.

Aurelia from Create the Cut proves it with these early paintings created over nine years ago. 


She says, "In the beginning, I had no idea what I was doing, there weren't that many people sharing art online at that time and I had no idea about how to paint the kind of paintings that I liked, but I never let that stop me from just trying. I used what materials I had and just got started. 


“In the beginning, I was always comparing myself to others and struggled to like my own work, but eventually, those feelings got better. I started to just compare myself with the previous me. These first paintings are precious to me now.” 

If you're not familiar with her work, here are some examples of her paintings today:




There's no reason why you can't be Aurelia. It just takes time. 

And if you're going to dedicate serious hours to design, you want to make sure you're taking the exact steps you need to reach that dream career in future. With courses at The Print School you can be sure you're getting the best tips and techniques to put into practice. 

We have them for all levels but if you see yourself in Aurelia's earlier work and you're just starting out, we can't recommend these ones more strongly: Beginners: Watercolour Florals for Fabric Design and Beginners: Floral Illustration for Fabric Design

There's also a brand new arrival we haven't announced to the world yet (so, sssshhhh!) called Beginners Course for Surface Design, which covers a broad spectrum of the skills you'll need to nail this in the months and years to come (and believe us, if you put that work in, you will). 


You might also like...

My Design Journey: Sue Schreiber
My Design Journey: Maxine Hamilton
My Design Journey: Amanda Joy








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