Tag Archives: Photoshop Tutorial

Tutorial: Color schemes from photos & using Creative Cloud Libraries

Screen Shot 2016-05-31 at 10.10.31 AMI write a newsletter for the MN chapter of the Surface Design Association and each month I include a color scheme for inspiration. I know color is a hard thing for a lot of people. I work very intuitively with color and I personally don’t put a lot of thought into color theory or color wheels; I just go with what feels right to me. But not everyone can work that way. So I like to provide a little jumping off point by pulling a set of colors from a photograph to use as color inspiration. Maybe you can use it as a jumping off point for a new design. Maybe it makes you look deeper at a photo to see the way colors work together. Maybe it makes you think about how there are unexpected colors in shadows. I think there is something for anyone to relate to.

As a dyer or surface designer that works with paints, dyes or pigments you can look at the palette and mix up your colors to work from there. As a digital designer, I can import these colors directly in to my graphics program. It doesn’t really matter if I am working with the exact colors from the photo for a single design, but where that is handy is when I want to make a set of coordinating designs where matching colors is important.

I start by pulling colors from the photo using a program called Adobe Color, which is also part of the Adobe Capture app, so you can use it in your web browser (Color) or on your phone/tablet (Capture).

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Go to Adobe Color and look for the camera icon that says Create from image (green circle) or click in the center of the screen. Choose the image you would like to use.

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When it pops up the photo, it will automatically choose 5 colors, shown by little bubbles on the photo. You can click and move those bubbles around to adjust the colors. On the top left, there is also a palette marked Color Mood, which gives you options for “colorful”, “bright”, “muted” etc.

You’ll need to have an Adobe ID to save this color scheme. If you already have a subscription to Photoshop or any of the other Adobe software, you should use the same ID. Once you have a set of colors you are happy with, click the Save button.

A little note: No Adobe account? If you don’t want to have one more account name and password to remember, I totally get that. If that’s the case, just take a screenshot of this screen instead of saving. You can work from a screenshot almost as easily.

Screen Shot 2016-05-31 at 10.17.15 AMGive your color theme a name and choose where you want to save it. Creative Cloud is the subscription service that you get your Photoshop subscription from. (Because this is always a question I get asked when I talk about this in a class, it doesn’t have anything to do with “The Cloud” or saving things to “The Cloud”, Creative Cloud is your Adobe account. It’s just badly named.) By default, you have a Library named “My Library” but you can create a new one and give it a different name. You have the option of making this color scheme part of the public gallery if you choose “Publish this theme to Explore”. That’s up to you.

Why save it this way and not just on my hard drive? This is the cool part. Anything I save to My Library is available to me in any other Adobe program. So once I have captured this color scheme, I can switch over to Photoshop.

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When I open the Libraries panel in Photoshop, there is my Dandelion color theme right at the top. I can click on those colors and use them just like the regular color palette. (If Libraries isn’t open look in the top menubar for Window -> Libraries and that will open it up.)

It works exactly the same way in Illustrator. If you mouse over one of those color chips, you will also get two more pieces of information. The top number (example above #D8923A) is the hex code for that color. The bottom number is the RGB values. You can type those numbers into any other graphics program and get the same color. Here’s what that looks like in PicMonkey.

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If that hexcode looks familiar to you, it’s because that system is also what is used on Spoonflower’s ColorMap.

If you didn’t save to Creative Cloud and are working from a screenshot, you can open the screenshot and use the eyedropper tool to get the same hexcode and RGB information.

Want to see it in use? Here’s a very quick and simple example of patterns of chevrons and polkadots drawn in Illustrator, which use colors pulled from the photo. This could be the front and back of a pillow. Or the outside and lining of a totebag. Or some coordinating quilt prints.

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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. 



Design Tutorial: Creating a layered design

Often when I teach an intro fabric design class, the students and I create a collaborative fabric design during class, which I have printed and mail to them after class.  This most recent class played along with me and made this design using speech bubble shaped post-it-notes and wrote their favorite “clean” swear word.  I thought it would make a funny fabric, especially given the day I had before I got to class.  So I scanned our design and got ready to put it into a repeat and it just seemed sort of blah.  We needed a much more colorful fabric to match our colorful language.  So I added some color and after I sent the swatches, I told my class I would post a tutorial about how I did it so they could check back.  My screenshots for this are in Photoshop, but many other design programs have the same tools you can use.

We started with a scanned image of post-it-notes on black paper.  I scanned this at 150 dpi because I wanted to print it at the same size and that is the resolution I need for fabric.

Screen Shot 2015-02-05 at 9.47.06 AMThe first thing I wanted to do was to move the speech bubbles to a layer all by themselves.  This way I could insert something into the background and have them float over top.  When I open the image in Photoshop, it automatically makes it a locked background layer. (See the lock icon?)  When I go to the Layers palette and double click the layer that says Background, it will unlock it and convert it to a regular layer (Layer 0), which is what we need.

Screen Shot 2015-02-05 at 9.50.26 AMNext I want to remove the black background and leave just the speech bubbles by themselves on this layer.  Choose the Magic Wand tool and click anywhere in that black background.  You can see what’s selected because Photoshop traces around it with dashed lines.  Once you have it selected, hit the delete key.  Your black background will disappear.  The checkered pattern you now see indicates that this part of the design is transparent.  (It won’t show on your finished design.)

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Next I will add a new background layer back in, by choosing the new layer icon (looks like a page with a bent corner) to make Layer 1. Then choose Edit -> Fill from the menu to fill it with black.  You will probably also have to put your layers in the right order by clicking and dragging them in the palette to make sure the bubbles are on top and the black layer on the bottom.

Screen Shot 2015-02-05 at 9.52.10 AMSo it doesn’t actually look like we have done much at this point, but what we have done is split the design into two layers so that we can now insert something in between them.  Next, I am going to add a Text layer, by clicking the text tool and dragging a text box to fill the design space.  Now I can type text into this layer.  I filled it with cartoon style swear words (*&%$!!@) to match our theme.  It doesn’t matter what color they are, we will change that next.  Drag the text layer so it is sandwiched between Layers 0 and 1.

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Now the color!  If you double click the Text layer in the Layers Palette, a window will pop up giving you options for Layer Styles.  We are going to use a Gradient Overlay to add a rainbow to this text.

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The last little tweak I made to the design was to add a black outline to our speech bubbles to help make them pop out from the background a little more.  That is easy to do with the same Layer Styles tool.  Double click Layer 0 with the speech bubbles and choose Stroke from the style options.  I added a 3 px border of black.

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And this is the finished design.

Screen Shot 2015-02-05 at 9.57.24 AMNow I understand that this is a pretty silly fabric and you aren’t probably going to run right out and order yards of it.  But by using the same steps you learned here, you can create fabrics like these:

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These sheep are drawn with a fine tip sharpie and scanned.  I cut them out from the background the same way and added a white Stroke to the layer so they have that white outline.  The background for this design instead of text, is a piece of painted paper that I scanned and added a Color Overlay (from the Layer Styles Palette) in green.

Or dancing sheep on a knitted background.

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