Why You Won't Find Me On Any of the Pattern Bank Sites


As a designer, I feel strongly about designers sticking together to create industry standards. In the last several years there has been a proliferation of stock image sites and pattern banks that sell pattern designs for next-to-nothing. Coincidently, they pay designers half of next-to-nothing. To me, that means that it’s easy and cheap to obtain these patterns, but they are probably not very good. (Good, Cheap, Fast… you can only pick 2).


close up image of a person in a light blue denim shirt painting blue watercolor stripes on white paper.


When you sell through a pattern bank site you are giving the company exclusive rights to your work for as long as the copyright exists, including renewals, etc. Once you upload your work to their site, you can't sell this work anywhere else, ever, unless you fully terminate the agreement with that site which is more than just closing your account. Even at that, they do still obtain some rights. This is a deal breaker for me— and I haven’t really even gotten into the lousy pay. Let’s dig in.

When a designer creates a repeat pattern, it takes a considerable amount of time. Just getting the elements of the design and the layout working properly can take hours. Sometimes the way my brain works in Photoshop or Illustrator isn't exactly the way pattern sites or clients expect you to deliver a file. The pattern banks want fully organized and editable elements and layers for their final art-- fair enough, provided they are paying appropriately.  Also, everything has to be in perfect repeat and clean. Sometimes I want to work out the design and then get the repeat right, thus, more time spent. Have you ever properly cleaned up scanned motifs in photoshop? It’s not fast. Lastly, it could take me a few hours after everything is done to separate the elements onto layers and label them so that someone else can use what I’ve created. So at this point, I'm a few days in with regard to time. Let's say 24 hours, for the sake of doing the math. That’s a decent average.

Now on to payment. Right now, a popular pattern site is "licensing" patterns for $55, $95, $135, & $350 (most expensive is “exclusive/premium”). The designer gets paid 50% of the commission, provided they aren't running a special or promotion, in which case your commission would be less. So, for a few days of work and a lovely repeat pattern you could make, assuming a premium design and no promotions, $175 each sale. Less taxes and Paypal fees.  You can only sell a premium design once. Then it's removed from the site and the buyer can make whatever they want in perpetuity. No time limit, no product or production limits!So, you end up with about $150 for this "exclusive premium" sale.  If you spent about 3 days of time creating and preparing your artwork & design you're looking at roughly $6 an hour before taxes. (If you're holding steady at $6/hour I wouldn't worry about taxes). To keep things in perspective, they are hiring at my local McDonalds for $14 and up per hour. The above "premium" sale  is a best-case scenario. More likely you would sell a $95 license maybe 3 times over several months and end up again at an hourly rate of roughly $6 before taxes or Paypal fees. Not only is it not worth your time, it's not worth the damage done to our industry.

It's not all about money for me-- not at all. But it comes down to money when it's this unfair for hard working designers. As far as I'm concerned, it cheapens the industry and encourages more of the "but I'll give you exposure if you work for free" attitude that is so destructive to people in any creative field. So, you won't find me on the pattern bank sites. I value my work and myself-- and that of other artists and designers-- far too much to cave into giving my work away, because honestly, that's what it is.


image of a woman working on a laptop from above. All that is visible are arms with bracelets. On top of the image is a banner that looks taped. The text says "Selling on Pattern Sites".


handwritten jenny sign-off

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