Latte art is constant improvement and you can never be perfect or ready with it. It is only a matter how much you want to challenge yourself and use your imagination.
I’m sorry, espresso also has an effect on your latte art. Horribly under-extracted, 1:4 ratio espresso won’t work well with steamed milk. I’ve heard few times that it is easier to make latte art to longer (more yield) espressos but I’d like to disagree. For me, higher viscosity or TDS in the espresso, the easier and prettier latte art I’m able to make. Lower viscosity or TDS tend to get my pattern “stuck” and they don’t spread or behave correctly. So get your espresso right before dreaming about swans and decaffeinated zebras.
I have also noticed that your coffee’s roasting date has an effect the patterns. Basically the fresher coffee, the better latte art. Thought, I wouldn’t use coffee roasted 1-2 days ago because of radical degassing which will create small bubbles to the drink’s surface.
Last time we talked about surface tension and how it affects the spreading of the patterns. Another factor that makes your patterns spread is pouring speed. Basically, the harder/faster you pour, the more the patterns are going to spread. This is of course in relation with how full your cup is. In different patterns you need to use different pouring speeds and they can be roughly divided into two groups:
More advanced patterns like Phoenix:
In the pouring fast category you glide the pattern on top of the drink. By gliding you will move the patterns in the cup and at the same time they will spread. In the pouring slow category the task is to kind of set or draw the pattern on top of the drink. Then you don’t want to pour fast because that would be the patterns messy.
Sinking and draw troughs
When you get to the more advanced patterns, you might have to sink in some parts of your pour. The sinking draws the pattern to the direction of the sinking. By sinking I mean that you need to pour from higher so that the milk sinks under the crema and foam. It is totally same thing as do at start of the pour with canvas thinking. Sinking will have to be used in at least two wing swan and swirl fan.
Consider also your draw through in the end of the pour. Faster draw throughs tend to move and sink your pattern and slower ones might leave ugly tails in the pattern. In some patterns you don’t even have to draw through at all. In overall try to get draw through as smooth as possible and thing about slowing or speeding up if it’s necessary for the pattern. Most important is that you lift your pitcher a bit when drawing through so that you don’t continue making “pattern” and create your pattern a nice “tale”.
Shape of your pitcher’s spout
Shape of your pitcher’s spout affects a lot what kind of patterns are easiest to make with it even though more experienced pourers are able to handle the basic patterns with all sorts of spouts. Hearts and tulips are easier to pour with more rounded and wider spouts as the milk will pour with higher volume at a time. Rosettas will be hard with rounded spouts because rosettas require clear details created by narrower milk flow. An exception to this “rule” is slowsetta where you want thick layer to the pattern created by greater milk flow.
On the other side are rosettas and more detailed patterns (swans, peacocks etc.) which require narrower and sharper spouts so that you get your details into the pattern. Remember that with narrower spouts you need compensate the slower milk flow with pouring faster/harder to get your patterns appear.