Fabric Design Tutorial: Photo Collage Bonus Mashup

I posted a tutorial just a few days ago showing how to create a “scrapbook style” fabric design from a collection of photos. You can think of this post a variation on that theme. It’s a different way of using the same tutorial.

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In my last artist newsletter, the free download I sent to subscribers was a photo of a sunflower on a transparent background. It went along with the Prospect Park utility boxes project that I did recently; in fact, you can see that sunflower in the cafe scene and on the bicycle headlight on one of the boxes.

Maybe a fabric design with photos of your dogs or friends and family isn’t something you are interested in. What about flowers? This fabric design is a mashup; it uses that sunflower photo (and several other flowers) plus exactly the technique I described in the scrapbook style tutorial to make something totally new. I used the “color cell” option in the Background tool set (paint palette icon) to add the blocks of solid color to this design.

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What other variations on this theme can you come up with?

Fabric Design Tutorial: Create a “Mini Photo Scrapbook” Fabric Design

Screen Shot 2016-07-13 at 11.48.36 AMI am going to call this tutorial the first in what I hope will be a series of “Suggestion Box Tutorials“.

I got an email from a woman this morning asking for help designing a fabric to make a keepsake zipper bag. She and a collection of friends are meeting up this summer and she wanted a little something to give each of them to commemorate the occasion. She had a great idea for what she wanted the fabric to look like: a collection of photos and little graphics that were all significant to this group of friends. The photos should be scattered like postage stamps on a white background. She even sent me a sketch.

Her question was: did I know of anywhere there was a tutorial that could show her how to do this and how could she make sure that it was just the scale and size she wanted?

Could I think of anything? No. So, this seemed like the perfect tutorial for me to write.

What does your intention tell you about your design?

If you have had the chance to take a class from me, you know that one of my tips for creating really successful fabric designs is to design with intention. The intended use for your fabric can give you so many hints about how you need to set up your design files.

This fabric is intended to be a lining for a small zipper bag. So we know that will use pieces of fabric that are maybe 10-12″ square. If I create a repeating tile that is larger than 12″, I won’t see all of the photos that will be in the design because I will be just cutting out a piece. Maybe that’s ok. Or maybe you want to make sure that each bag has every photo visible. That’s a choice for you to make.

I also know that if my zipper bag is 10-12 inches, I probably need the photos to be pretty small in relation to that so that the scale makes sense. If the photos are each 6 inches, I will only be able to see a couple of them once I cut it out.

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Do the math.

So for this project, I am going to use that information to set up my design file (aka do the math). Why do I need to do that now? Can’t I just do the fun part (designing it) and worry about that math stuff later?

The number one thing I hear from new fabric designers is:

I uploaded my thing to Spoonflower and it was so awesome, but it was totally the wrong size! I thought it would be small but when I uploaded it, it was huge! I don’t know what happened. I was so surprised.

This is the step where you can make it turn out exactly the size you want it to be. It just involves a tiny bit of math.

  1. Decide what size you want your repeat to be. By “repeat” I mean the file that you will upload to Spoonflower. Spoonflower computers will repeat that file it to fill as much fabric as you want to print. Yes, you repeat your repeat. English is weird.

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I decided that for this zipper bag lining, I want my repeat to be 12″ because I want to be able to see the whole thing with all of the little photos when I cut out my lining piece. That’s my design choice. You make your choice.

2. The magic number is 150.

The only thing you need to remember about resolution for this project is 150. Resolution is the number of dots (or pixels) per inch that the file needs in order to print at the size you want. Dots per inch = DPI.

Spoonflower’s printers use a resolution of 150 DPI. That’s why 150 is our magic number. That means if you set your file to 150 DPI, you will get exactly what you expect to get. That’s a rule. 150 uploaded = 150 printed. In otherwords, if I make a file that is 12 inches at 150DPI, I will get a printed design that is 12 inches. No more, no less. So how do I set up the file?

3. Figure out how many pixels that is.

Resolution is the number of pixels per inch. Since we know how many inches we need (12″) and we know how many pixels per inch (150 DPI) we can figure out how many total pixels that is. And we need to know the total number of pixels because that’s the number our graphics program will ask for.

inches x resolution = pixels

12 inches x 150 pixels per inch = 1800 pixels

That means if I want a file that will print exactly 12 inches wide, I need to make a file in my graphics program that is 1800 pixels wide.

Remember that number. 1800 pixels. Write it down on a scrap of paper.

Create a new blank file.

For this design, I am going to use a program called PicMonkey because I think it is the ideal tool for this design. It’s going to make it easy. You can use any program you want to to make your designs, but PicMonkey has some built in tools that I know will work really well for this. That’s why I picked it. It’s a free online graphics software that works right in your web browser. You don’t need to download anything.

Go to PicMonkey.com. At the top of the screen you will see a menu bar.

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Click on the option on the right that says Collage.

Set up the Layout.

Screen Shot 2016-07-13 at 1.22.09 PMThe reason that PicMonkey is such a great tool for this project is because of this collage tool. Look at the left sidebar on your screen for the icon that looks like a grid. If you hover your mouse over it, it will say “Layouts”. Click the Layouts button.

Feel free to explore the options in this panel! These are all of the different ways that PicMonkey can layout a collage for you.

(There are some options that are marked with a crown – those are part of the upgraded “Royale” package that PicMonkey offers, which is an annual fee of $40/year. We will use a free layout option for this project but that $40 per year membership is totally worth it. Note: I don’t get anything from PicMonkey for telling you that; it’s just my personal opinion. I just love PicMonkey.)

Screen Shot 2016-07-13 at 1.24.22 PMClick on the option called “Square Deal” out of that list and then pick the little icon at the very far right (a grid of 25 squares.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Remember when I told you to write down “1800 pixels”. The very next thing you want to do is set this file to be 1800 pixels. Look at the bottom center of the screen and you will see where to type that in. I put in 1800 for both the width and the height, so I will have a 12 x 12 inch square as my file size. (See how easy that was!) Hint, if you click the Lock Icon after you do this, it will keep it at this size while you are doing the next steps and rearranging things.

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Add your photos.

The dotted lines in this layout represent the places I can drop in my photos and graphics to make up this design. But first I need to load them into Picmonkey.

Screen Shot 2016-07-13 at 1.35.43 PMLook back again at the left sidebar. Choose the top icon that looks like a picture of mountains and is labeled “Images”. The very first thing in the panel of thumbnails will be a button (top left) that says “Open Photos”. Click that and it will pop up a window for you to find the files on your hard drive.Screen Shot 2016-07-13 at 1.36.58 PM

A hint: It’s super helpful if you collect everything you want to use for this design and put it all together in a folder on your Desktop (or somewhere else handy). Then you can select and upload them all at once instead of needing to hunt and peck all over your computer to find what you need. Load all of the photos you want to use right now. You can click that “Open Photos” button more than once to keep adding photos.

Screen Shot 2016-07-13 at 1.44.14 PMYou will see all of your photos pop up in the thumbnails along the left side of the screen. They don’t have to be photos. Anything in a .jpg format will work, like little graphics or screenshots. Just make sure you have permission to use them.

Now the photos are ready to use. I chose a bunch of photos of my dogs for this example.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fill in the blanks.

You can now click and drag the photos from the left sidebar and drop them in the boxes in the template on the right. If I look back to the sketch my friend made, she has photos scattered all around the design, so I am not going to fill in every box in the template, but I will leave some spaces.

Screen Shot 2016-07-13 at 3.05.41 PMWant to vary the sizes of the boxes a little? You can click and drag to change the size and shape of the rows and columns. Hover with your mouse between a couple of boxes and you will see a double arrow pop up. You can drag with that double arrow to make the columns and rows bigger and smaller.

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Recenter a photos? Hover over a picture and wait for your cursor to change to a 4-pointed arrow. Now you can move the photo around within the box (to recenter it).

Want to add another photo and insert an extra box into the template? Grab a photo from the thumbnails, drag it over to where you want to add it and wait for a blue outlined box to pop up. When you drop the photo it will add a new box where that blue outline was. Now there are two photos in that space.

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Zoom? Click any photo in the collage to see an Edit button (top left) or an “X” (top right). Click the “Edit” button and a menu will pop up that will let you zoom and rotate that photo you have selected. Click the “X” to remove the photo.

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How do you know if the photos you are using are going to work and not look pixellated? Pretty much it is what-you-see-is-what-you-get. I could help you do the math to check that you have enough pixels in each of these photos and so on, but honestly, if it looks blurry, or pixellated, or in any way yucky when you look at it in this step, it’s going to look that way when you print it. It’s pretty simple. Your best bet is: if it looks yucky, choose a different picture. You can’t fix blurry or pixellated.

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Public art in Minneapolis. The boxes are here!

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My utility boxes have all been installed! Andy and I took a field trip this morning to walk the neighborhood and see what they look like. I am so happy with how they turned out! I have created a whole new page for the project here on my website: I Spy Utility Boxes

IMG_3667I will add more behind-the-scenes posts, photos from the walkthrough and more to that page in the next few weeks. I also wrote a book to accompany this project! You can see the details of that there too.

Here is a press release about the project that went out today.

If you’d like to join us for the walking tour, we will be meeting at the corner of 29th and University Ave at 6:00 pm on Thursday July 14th. We will walk around to see all 3 boxes and then go over to Surly for a drink. I’d love to see you there!

 

A teacher’s life: My week at Arrowmont School

IMG_3597I just got back from teaching a week-long workshop at the Arrowmont School of Arts & Crafts in Gatlinburg TN. Arrowmont is like summer art camp for grownups in all the best and worst ways. Each class is an intensive week. Studios are open 7:30 am – 1:00 am nearly every day. Students and teachers stay in no-frills dorm-like rooms; meals are provided at the dining hall. There are evening slide talks and open studios. Above is a view of the main building as I am walking down from my cabin.

IMG_3530There was a little snafu with a late shuttle and some very bad communication when I first arrived, so my week started off a little rocky, but things smoothed out as the week went on. I was teaching in the textiles studio, which is set up like the most amazing dye lab you can imagine. Only we weren’t doing anything with dyes, because I was teaching a whole week about digital fabric design with Spoonflower. Having this lab full of computers and scanners is not exactly the norm for Arrowmont, but it worked out just fine. We got to try some things in class which I almost never have time to do, so it was fun for me to be able to teach the students some more complex techniques.

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Class started right away on Sunday evening and continued through Friday afternoon. There were 9 classes running during the week I was there. I had 6 amazing students in class; class sizes ranged between 3-15 people. Running parallel to us were classes in woodworking, paper, ceramics, mold-making, wire sculpture and mixed media jewelry. We had 37 hours of class time and we packed it full. We talked about color, patterns, making things seamless, effective repeats, scale, texture…

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One afternoon we went for a photo walk around campus to collect photos of textures to use in our designs. We focused on work with Photoshop, but also explored a variety of other programs and tools that are really suited to fabric design. We made organic photographic patterns; we made geometric patterns from cut paper; we made faux batiks and digitally painted designs. Spoonflower worked with us to get fabrics shipped out lightning fast, so that we could create some designs on Monday and have the fabrics in our hands on Friday afternoon.

The gallery which was just outside of our classroom featured an exhibition of work by this year’s Arrowmont instructors. You can see my piece (my Wallflower dress) along the wall on the right. Arrowmont’s awesome gallery director came and filmed a little clip of me teaching to add to the interactive (QRcode) part of the gallery exhibition. I will post a little clip of that sometime soon.

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Our class worked really well together and I think everyone left totally fired up about designing some of their own fabrics. Below is a few of them goofing around with their freshly printed fat quarters on Friday afternoon. I was so proud of what they accomplished. And they blew me away with how much they learned. One student had me sit down on Friday with her and she talked through a step-by-step plan she had made for how to finish her “final project” design when she got home. She had come up with about 18 steps and knew exactly what to do at each step. SO proud!

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If you have ever wondered what this kind of workshop experience is like: intense, exhausting, focused. Part of the appeal is that you can come and have hours to use specialized equipment and facilities. With a digital class though, I had to be a little more on the ball. There were no special tools or equipment we needed to use; we all brought our own laptops. So the special and intense part of this class was having the one-on-one help and hands-on practice with the tools, with me to look over and remind you to check the checkmark or unlock the layer when suddenly something seemed to stop working.

One of the funniest things about Arrowmont is that just a 5 minute walk away is the tourist trap town of Gatlinburg, which is full of t-shirt shops, ice cream, deep fried food and old time photos. (There’s also a Starbucks and a Walgreens, which I found the first night I was there.) Arrowmont feels like a magic bubble in the woods; they really are odd neighbors. There is a really nice aquarium in town, which I visited on Sunday morning since I didn’t have much classroom setup to do. I took a selfie with a shark.

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In our discussion about colorways, my class and I decided if you were going to walk down the street and then design a Gatlinburg fabric it would need to include these colors:

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(And if you are designing fabric for anyone under the age of 8, throw in some neon green.) I met some fascinating teachers, I had fantastic students to work with and I had some great conversations with the work-study students that were busy all over campus. Thanks to Arrowmont for a one-of-a-kind experience.

Work in Progress: Everyday Objects from Everyday Objects

Screen Shot 2016-06-14 at 11.24.05 PMI’ve been wrapping up two huge projects this week and this is my favorite one. I started working on this “I Spy” artwork last year as part of a grant from a local neighborhood. Together we are creating wraps to cover 3 sets of utility boxes; I make the art, they get the permits and approvals. I have told you a little about the program that makes these art-covered-utility-boxes happen and my original concept for these designs, now I can tell you a little more about where that ended up.

I collected hundreds of photos from the neighborhood and started playing with the designs I could make from them. I use photos in my work all the time. One of the designs I put in my proposal to the neighborhood was something like this one, which is created from a photo on pencil erasers.

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But these boxes are big: 77×44 inches. And thinking about that pattern covering the whole box was boring. I like the pattern, but that wasn’t going to draw people over to look at my art. That pattern was designed for a garment (I have a dress made out of it.) and that’s what it works for. The new patterns I was playing with were kind of the same. I really wanted people to connect with this art and these weren’t cutting it.

The theme of my project was making art from everyday objects. As I was driving somewhere and thinking about it, I suddenly had an idea. (Driving is the best place to work out ideas.) What if I made everyday objects from everyday objects? Make a fire hydrant, but make it all out of “I Voted” stickers, roses, and bolts. Butterflies from coffee cups? I liked where this was going. So, I started with a blue jay.

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I noticed that I had a lot of blue things in my collection of photos and I think bluejays are beautiful and they are certainly everyday in my neighborhood. I found a photo to use as a reference and started assembling my bluejay. He is made from the wheel from a dumpster, a faucet handle, a ball of yarn, a rotary telephone dial, a latte, a pair of scissors. I thought using all circles would give him a feathery texture. His branch is made from a stack of rusted springs from the antique store in the neighborhood (also the source of the telephone). It’s all photos from the neighborhood: the yarn came from the Weavers Guild of MN, the latte from the coffee shop, the faucet from the community garden. I cut each of the images out in Photoshop, so I had just the object with a transparent background and then placed them all into a bigger file. And let me tell you these were big files (and that caused some problems). By the time I was finished, several of them were at least 1GB. A typical photo is 1/1000th that size.

More to come…

NEW Spoonflower Handbook Master Class in August 2016

Greenhouse-masterclass2-Register_BLOGThat’s right, we loved it so much, we are doing another one. It’s a summer session of the Spoonflower Handbook Master Class!  You can read all of the details here. This session will focus on working with Photoshop instead of Illustrator and I have a bunch of fun stuff planned for you. Registration is open and it is filling up. Let me know if you have questions and I hope to see YOU there.