Digital Design Tutorial: Painted Valentine’s Hearts Repeat

Screen Shot 2016-02-01 at 1.06.19 PMUsually I write tutorials with fabric in mind, and although this would make very cute fabric, I have an idea for something a little different with this one.

Making the Hearts

To start this design, I cut the hearts out of black paper, taped them on a white background and scanned them.  I set the scanner to capture 300 dpi, because I hadn’t yet decided what size to make them and that gives me some flexibility.  I like the wonky quality of handcut hearts vs something I drew digitally, so that’s why I did it this way.

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I opened the scan in Photoshop and adjusted the contrast a little bit to make sure the hearts were crisp and black.  Then I selected the white background with the Magic Wand tool and deleted it, so that my hearts were on a layer all by themselves and I could add in a separate white background layer.

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Screen Shot 2016-02-01 at 12.02.12 PMNext I colored the hearts using the Paint Bucket tool.  I chose pinks, purples, red and gold for my design.  Choose the Paint Bucket tool, choose a color from the palette and then click on each of the hearts to paint it.

Adding the Paint Texture

You could actually stop here and this would be a good design all on its own, but I wanted to add something special to this design: a watercolor paint texture.

I created my own paint texture as a separate file.  I painted with watery black craft paint on a piece of watercolor paper, let it dry and scanned it.  I built up several layers of the same scanned paint and created a seamless paint texture.  (You wouldn’t necessarily need to make a seamless texture for this project, but I wanted to reuse this paint later, so it was worth that little bit of extra effort.)


Then I turned this painted texture into something I can use as a Layer Overlay.  To do that, I select the whole image and then choose from the menus: Edit -> Define Pattern.

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Now switch back to the file with the hearts design.  Select the hearts layer, then choose Layer -> Layer Style -> Pattern Overlay from the menu and it will bring up a dialog box with some settings you can adjust.


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You can choose the pattern by clicking the tiny arrow to the right of the pattern swatch box and it will bring up a palette of patterns, including that paint texture you just defined.  I adjusted the opacity and made my pattern partly transparent because I wanted the colors to show through.  You can also adjust the scale of the pattern.  When you click OK, you will see the new pattern overlay, which I think looks pretty cool.

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Options for finishing

  1. You could stop right here, save and have a repeat ready to upload to Spoonflower to make fabric or wrapping paper.  You might want to check the crop (to make sure you have even spacing around the outside of the hearts) and remember that we scanned at higher resolution than we needed, so think about the finished size you would like and adjust the size of this file.  (For example, I chose Image ->Image Size and resized this to 4 inches wide at 150 dpi, so I know exactly the size it will print when I upload it.)
  2. Make wallpaper for your iPad!  I thought it would be fun to make a pattern that I could upload to my iPad and use as a wallpaper background pattern.


To make an image to fit your iPad, you want a larger image that is filled with several repeats. First I selected my single repeat of the hearts design and chose Edit -> Define Pattern from the menu.  This is another way to use that same tool we used to create the paint texture.

Now create a new file that is about 2000 pixels on a side.  Select the whole canvas and choose Edit -> Fill.  The Fill dialog box will pop up.  Choose Pattern from the top menu dropdown and the same pattern selection box will pop up, click the tiny down arrow and your new heart repeat will be one of the options.

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Save your new file.  There are several ways to get this image to your iPad.  Email it to yourself and then save the image to your camera roll out of the email.  If you have a Mac, you can use AirDrop.  If you have another kind of tablet, just use whatever method you use to transfer other files to your device (ie sync).


30 Second Photoshop Tutorial: Using Guidelines

The guideline tool in Photoshop is another great 30 second tutorial opportunity. I will revisit the “Dogs Chasing Squirrels” damask design that I have been working on to show you how to use guidelines.

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Those bright cyan colored lines through the center of this design are guidelines.  Because this is an almost symmetrical design, I wanted to see where the center was top-to-bottom and side-to-side as I was working.  Those lines won’t show up in my finished design, but they are really helpful for me as I am working to be able to line things up or check for balance in the design.

How do you make a guideline?

First make sure that the rulers view is turned on.  (There’s an option for that under the View Menu).  Then click inside the ruler area and drag onto your canvas.  Wherever you let up that click-drag, it will drop a guideline.  You can do the same thing from both the top and side rulers (my tool palette is covering up the side ruler in this screenshot).


I use guidelines to line up pieces of a design or to give me an idea of where I might want to crop.  Sometimes I use them to help with layout.  I can use the rulers to lay out guidelines to show me a 1 inch border around all of the edges of a canvas or place a centerline, for example.  For this dogs design, I actually replaced the original swirly grass I had cut out with this more “grassy” version and I used the guidelines to help line up my replacement sections.

You can move the guidelines after you have dropped them by choosing the move tool (4 pointed arrow) and hovering your cursor over the guideline.  Your cursor will change to a double sided arrow and then you can click and move the guideline.

You can also personalize the look of your guidelines by changing the color or by making them dashed lines instead of solid. You can find that under Preferences -> Grids, Guides & Slices.  (The ones marked “Canvas” in this palette are what I have been showing you.)

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When you save or export your file as a .jpg, the guidelines will disappear.

Just announced: Etsy Seller Advisory Board Includes… me!


From Etsy’s website Tuesday:

In October, we launched a variety of new community initiatives to build upon the existing channels that foster conversation between Etsy and our global community. At that time, we also began accepting applications for the Seller Advisory Board with the goal of bringing together a group of sellers to provide input about the challenges you face as small business owners and play a key role in shaping the way future decisions are made.

Since then, we received more than 600 thoughtful and inspiring applications, which a team of Etsy Admin reviewed over the course of several weeks. Now, we are excited to report that we have selected 15 sellers to be a part of the 2016 Seller Advisory Board. We selected these sellers based on their commitment to the Etsy community as a whole and the valuable perspectives they provide as small business owners. They will work closely with us throughout the year to gather feedback from the community and provide insight on how we can help sellers succeed. They will also work to gather feedback from more than 200 sellers who were invited to join subcommittees of the Seller Advisory Board.  Read more…

I am thrilled to pieces to be a part of this board and I am so excited that I will be traveling to NYC for a board meeting very soon.  I only know a tiny bit about the rest of the board members; we have been connecting with each other on Instagram and Twitter all day.  I am the “oldest” seller in the group, I think; not age-wise (although that is possible too) but in that I have had my shop since 2005.  I was really passionate in my application about the fact that I don’t want to be a wholesaler/manufacturer and “quit my day job” but that I consider my Etsy shop to be one of the components of my artistic livelihood and that I like having a small niche shop.


30 Second Photoshop Tutorial: Copy with Move + Option Key

miniOptionIt takes some time to put together a really good tutorial for a project or design, but there are some great techniques that only take a few seconds to explain.  This is one I use all the time to copy objects in Photoshop.

Select an object, like this little flower.

Choose the Move tool.

Hold down the option key as you click and drag that object.

Viola!  You now have a copy of that shape.  Copies made this way will be in the same layer as the original; if you use copy/paste commands, Photoshop will create a new layer for each copy you paste in.

Today I was working on a “dogs chasing squirrels” damask and I decided I wanted a few more flowers in the grass, so I used this technique to copy them.  While each was selected, I also rotated and resized a little bit to add some variety, so they would look less like copies.

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Design-your-own-Fabric Tutorial: Making Wings


For Halloween, my niece wanted to be a butterfly fairy.  Her talented mama made the fancy princess dress, but I was asked to help with the fairy wings.  We thought it would be the most fun if the wings were not stiff wire edged things, but more like a flowy cape, so you can pretend to fly, which is absolutely necessary when you are 5 years old.  So I designed some wings and had them printed at on fabric at Spoonflower.

Here’s how you can make your own.

I started with a photograph of a butterfly.  For the wings above, I used a monarch because that matched the colors of her costume, but I did some screenshots for you using another butterfly that we photographed at the zoo, so you can see some other variations.  It helps to have a butterfly shape that goes pretty straight across at the top (not a strong V shape), but you can adjust that a little in a later step.

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First, I opened the photo in Photoshop and made a new layer, so the butterfly photo is on one layer and there is a blank background layer. I selected the butterfly using the Quick Select and Lasso tools, inverted the selection (so now the background is selected instead of the butterfly) and deleted the background. I selected the butterfly and straightened it out a little (using the Transform tool).  You can see that my butterfly is a little lop-sided here right to left, which is perfectly fine for a butterfly, but makes it harder to make a 2 sided cape.  So I am going to fix that.

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I used the Marquee Select tool to select the right half of the butterfly and delete it.  Then I copied the left half, flipped it horizontally and moved it over to the right side.

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This is going to make it much easier to sew together later because I won’t have to worry about a front and back side; they are both the same and will match up when I put them right sides together to sew it.  I selected and merged the two layers (right and left side) to make it into a single butterfly layer again and used the Eraser tool to touch up a little bit at the head and tail and any jagged edges from my quick selecting job, so I had nice smooth lines around all the edges.

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Next, I need to make this butterfly the right size to fit my little butterfly fairy.  We measured her wingspan, which was 41 inches from wrist to wrist.  Using the Crop Tool, I cropped the butterfly to get rid of the extra white space around it and resized it to be 42 inches across at 150 dpi.  Make sure you check the “lock” icon to the left of width/height so that it maintains the same ratio and doesn’t squash your photo.  (I made it 42 because I left a little space for a seam allowance.  You will see how that works in just a bit.)

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An aside for a just a minute about resolution.  I didn’t worry too much about what the resolution of this photo was to begin with because I don’t actually need this print to be super crisp and sharp.  For this project I was totally ok with it being a little pixellated or fuzzy because it’s going to read as a butterfly no matter what.  This won’t be the case for every project; you have to use your judgement.

Now to add some color.  For our monarch butterfly, I recolored a bit to add some yellow to the orange and black so that it matched her dress.  You can add any color you like to make a butterfly in your favorite color or you can skip this step if you love your butterfly the way it is.  Select the butterfly, choose the Paintbrush Tool and set it to “Hue” in the toolbar Mode menu.  Then choose a color in the palette and paint over your butterfly.

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Lastly, I don’t want to have to sew precisely around every scallop on the edge of that wing to make sure that I don’t have any white showing on my finished wings.  So I am going to add a seam allowance in black to allow give me a little wiggle room.  Double click the butterfly layer in the Layers Palette and a new Layer Style Palette will pop up (you can also choose Layer Style from the top Layer menu).

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I chose Stroke under Styles and set it to put a 75 pixel stroke on the outside of my butterfly and set the color to black.  75 px at 150 dpi = 1/2 inch.  So now I have a 1/2 inch black border around the edge.  Save this.

My butterfly wings are just barely small enough that I can put two of them (front and back) on a single yard of fabric.  I chose the Poly Crepe de Chine from Spoonflower for these wings because it is exactly the right weight and floaty-ness for wings.  So I made a new canvas 52×36 inches at 150 dpi and placed two butterfly wings on it.  If your wings are bigger, you may need 2 yards and then you can just upload as is and center the design.

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Export as a .jpg, upload to Spoonflower and wait with great anticipation while they are printed.  To finish up the wings, I cut them out and pinned them right sides together.  I cut two 20 inch pieces of black and white polkadotted ribbon and tucked them in at the top edge, about 4 inches either side of the center.  I cut two 8 inch pieces of narrow black elastic and tucked them in at the top edges of the wing tips.  Then I stitched around the whole thing with a 3/8 inch seam allowance (catching all of the ribbon/elastic as I stitched), leaving a little space to turn right side out.  Clip the seam allowance as needed, turn and press with a synthetics setting.  Slip stitch the opening.

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To wear the butterfly wings, you can either use the ribbon ties at the neck just like a cape, or we wrapped them over the front of her shoulders and tied them behind her back (my sister’s brilliant idea), so you only saw two little stripes of ribbon.  (The fairy liked not having it around her neck.)  The elastic loops slipped over her wrists.  She had a fancy fairy dress to match these, but I love them with all black too. Not in to butterflies?  Why not look for a photo of a moth, a bat, a hawk or there are even lizards with “wings” that might be perfect for pretending to be a dragon or griffin!  We also made a tiny pair of matching wings for her doll to have a matching costume.  Same method, smaller scale. 



It’s almost here…


registerRegistration for the Spoonflower Handbook Master Class opens on Monday January 4th.  I am really excited about this one – I have been wanting to teach this class for years!  I am taking care of all of the registration details so if you have any questions, this is the place to ask.  Edited:  It’s now open. Register here!