Tag Archives: Fabric Design Tutorial

Try it: Spoonflower’s Fill-a-Yard tool and 8-bit Art

Spoonflower has a new Fill-A-Yard tool. It’s very simple to use.

  • Create a collection of fabrics.
  • Choose a template (this is 1 yard with 6 inch squares).
  • Click the fabric you want from the thumbnails on the right, then click the square you want to fill with the fabric design.
  • It will print as a “cheater quilt” as one piece of fabric with this design of squares filled with other designs.

As I was demonstrating this for a class a few days ago I suddenly had a brainstorm: I wondered if I could make a picture. It would have to be something ultra simple like 8-bit art (think PacMan or Space Invaders) because there aren’t very many squares to work with. So this morning, I collected a bunch of fabrics to try making a rubber ducky. Here’s my rubber ducky quilt. I think it’s pretty charming and it would make a sweet baby gift.

Want to see how it works? You can try this out with the Just Duckie collection of fabrics I put together. From that collection, just click where it says “Want to use this collection for a Fill-A-Yard project? Start Designing”.

What else can you “draw” using just 42 squares? I’d love to hear about it!

A Taste of Digital Fabric Design

Designing  and printing your own custom fabrics is a new innovation in the craft world.  Services like Spoonflower.com allow you to design and digitally print small amounts of yardage with your own custom designs. Learn the basics to set up a file and manage color; get tips for file resolution and formatting and see samples of fabrics you can create. Students will create a collaborative design in class and get a sample to keep.

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?

Classes on the Road: Digital Fabric Design at Arrowmont

Screen Shot 2015-07-15 at 12.38.04 PMIn June, I will be spending a week at Arrowmont School of Arts & Crafts in Gatlinburg TN.  I haven’t ever been to Arrowmont, but I have heard all kinds of amazing things about the experience there, so I am excited to have been invited.

Our class at Arrowmont will be intense.  We have 37 hours to explore all kinds of techniques for designing your own fabric.  For the class in April at Spoonflower, we are going to focus on Adobe Illustrator, but for this one at Arrowmont, it is all about Photoshop and layers and texture.  I have had several potential students email with questions about the class (which is awesome) and so I thought I should talk a little more about what we will be doing, since the description in the Arrowmont catalog is necessarily brief.

waterlilyquiltMy theme for this class will be exploring the different paths you can take to design fabric. Everyone knows the feeling of staring at a blank page with an equally blank mind.  Where do you start?

We are going to start this class by building a common vocabulary.  We will talk about pixels and resolution and color.  We will learn about different design tools that are common to Photoshop and other graphics programs (select, layer, opacity, offsets).  Then we will start building a toolbox of techniques.  Each day in this class we will take a different path to start a fabric design.  One day we will work with scanned found objects; one day we will start with photos; one day we will doodle with paint.  We will learn ways to layer and manipulate textures borrowed from other objects.

Are you ready for this class? You don’t need to know anything about Photoshop or designing fabric.  It is helpful if you are comfortable working with computers and you have maybe explored Photoshop (or other graphics programs) a little on your own.  You should be able to pull a photo off of your camera, save it and find it again.  You should be able to connect to wifi and navigate webpages.  You should be brave enough to try things and not worry that you are going to “break something”.

Screen Shot 2014-10-06 at 6.37.11 PMWe will be creating a faux batik, similar to this tutorial I put together.  Why faux batik?  Because it is a fantastic way of practicing a set of design techniques you can use for many other things: scanning your original artwork and manipulating the colors, digitally coloring a design, layering with a photographic textures.  It’s a great model that will teach you many skills that you will be able to use for future designs.

We will all go crosseyed if we have to spend 7 hours a day looking at computer screens, so I have a lot of design ideas and exercises that we will do offline as well to help break things up.  These will be things like learning how to make seamlessly repeating designs or creating balance in a repeating pattern. We will take a photo walk looking for textures.

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You will also have time in class to explore something independently.  I want you to be able to work on your own, but with the ability to ask questions and screw things up with help right there.  So we will set aside time for me to work with each student one-on-one to explore your own design goal.

These are some of my goals for class.  I hope that by the end of class, students will have learned:

  • digital vocabulary for fabric design (pixels, resolution, repeats, seamless, layers, colorway etc)
  • scanning and manipulating your own artwork and found objects
  • creating a design using original art (painted paper) and layers
  • creating a colorway from a photograph
  • using photographs in fabric designs
  • basic Photoshop skills and tools
  • other tools for digital design: RepperPatterns, Adobe Color
  • independent projects with instructor guidance
  • tour of Spoonflower site and tools, show and tell of printed fabrics, examples

You can see all of the details at Arrowmont’s website.  If you want to know more about any part of class, feel free to email me!

Digital Fabric Tutorial: Taking your design up a notch

I posted a tutorial last week to make your own Valentines hearts design.  Today I want to talk about how you can take this basic design and make it better.  In the original design tutorial, I cut and scanned 6 hearts and created a repeating pattern from that little motif, which I have outlined in blue below so it is easy to spot.  Those 6 hearts repeat over and over to make the pattern.
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If you step back and look at this design, it works, but the purple hearts form a grid-like pattern that is pretty obvious.  Your eye is drawn to that regular pattern; it gets kind of stuck and doesn’t move around the whole design. There is maybe even an illusion that the purple dominates the design a little bit.

One technique you can try to make your repeat tile have better flow and seem more dynamic is to make it bigger.  For example for the repeat below, instead of 6 hearts, I made a larger canvas and copy/pasted the same hearts so I had 24 hearts instead of 6.  I also added 4 more colors to my palette, taking the total from 6 to 10.  I used the same method to paint and overlay the texture.

Can you find the repeat tile now?  I think it’s much harder to do.  There’s more variation with colors and more distance between two elements of the same color.  I repeated some of the colors, so they form a less grid-like pattern.

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Here are the two designs side by side, first showing the repeating tile and then the designs on their own.

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Starting with 48 hearts would add even more variation to the design.  I could also try varying the hearts themselves a little bit.  That could be as simple as flipping a few of them horizontally or even by cutting a few more hearts at the beginning of the design before I scanned.  I could also choose to have it repeat using a half-drop or half-brick pattern which would shift the tiles and add a little more variability. (You do have to plan ahead for half-drop/brick to make sure that your pattern matches up when shifted 1/2 tile.)

I often work this way when I am doing a repeat.  Start first with the small version and get it close to the design look and colors I want.  Then I increase my canvas size, put four copies of the design on the canvas and start to create variations.  Sometimes I repeat that process one or two more times until I have a repeating pattern that I like.  I check it often to see what it looks like when it is repeating and to see what stands out.

Design-your-own-Fabric Tutorial: Making Wings

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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. 

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