Wednesday, March 30, 2016

First Time Fabric Designer

I was recently contacted by My Fabric Designs with an offer to try their fabric printing services.  That offer was not contingent on mentioning the company here on my blog, but I thought my learning process might be of interest to someone, so I am going to share that here.

Of course, as of a month ago, I knew nothing about the actual mechanics of fabric design.  But I love fabric, and I sure would love to be able to design my own custom fabrics!  So my answer was a definite “yes” when given the opportunity to jump right in!

My Fabric Designs was kind enough to send me a swatch book to get a better idea of their fabric choices.  I am horrible at translating thread count and/or ounces per yard from a description into an idea of what the actual fabric feels like in hand, so the swatches are extremely helpful.  There are plenty of polyester options that do not interest me, but also a fair amount of cottons, with a bit of silk and linen thrown in for good measure.  The silk crepe de chine, for instance, is probably too lightweight and sheer for my purposes - but better to know that before ordering, right!?

First things first . . . get acquainted with Photoshop.  My Fabric Designs does have a fabric creator tool on their website, but I wanted to have a bit more flexibility (and it is time I actually learn to use Photoshop!).  Illustrator might be a better choice, but I am taking baby steps.  

Then it was off to my local library for a bit of research.  The most helpful book I found there is Mastering the Art of Fabric Printing and Design.  I was mostly looking for some helpful hints on how to create a seamless repeat, but there is a lot of information about basic color theory, composition, etc. in there as well.

I was skeptical that the printing process could be printed on grain, so I thought it best to avoid straight lines and grid patterns.

And then a lot of time was spent puttering around on my computer.  As a test, and to get the lay of the land, I decided that a random polka dot pattern would be a good starting point.  

Since it is Spring, and there is a whole lot of blooming happening around these parts, I figured photos were a good place to start for floral designs.

So I have been taking quite a few pictures of local flora.  (Thank you, neighbors, for your lovely yards full of beautiful blossoms!)

And a little while later, I came up with something I liked.  Then there was even more fun to be had with color filters in Photoshop.

After coming up with a couple of designs I was happy with, I was finally ready to order some swatches of my new fabric designs!

And, if anyone has any suggestions of books or tutorials and/or experiences with digital fabric design, I would love to hear them!

[Disclosure:  My Fabric Designs sent the Swatch Book to me, but the opinions posted here are my own.]


  1. I strongly recommend you give Illustrator a shot when it comes to designing patterns. It has a very easy to use and handy too called pattern designer which shows your repeat live as you edit your square. Very good for creating more complicated repeats as you can control your edges perfectly, and you can easily see what goes where. The Adobe website has a guide on how to use it. Trust me, you will find it much easier than photoshop!

    1. Thank you for the info! I knew going in that Illustrator was probably the better choice, but it is good to have confirmation. I just wish that it was not just available as a monthly subscription.

    2. Yes the subscription is a bit blah - but I think you can get the first month free - and then cancel any time. So if you only needed it for a little while, you could get away with only paying $30-50 (its more expensive here in Australia cos we have Australia-Tax but that should be about right in USD).
      I've found its way cheaper now on subscription because the CS Suite used to be over $1000 and they would update it every 18 moths or so. This way its cheaper and you can always get the most latest version.

  2. Wow -- I'm very impressed with your designs. They're beautiful!

  3. looking good. I am also making fabrics with them and I am really impressed with the quality. Just finishing a dress that I will post soon.

  4. I"ve read a lot of the digital design books, but the one that had the handiest tips was Digital Textile Design by Bowles, Melanie, 2009, part of the Portfolio Skills Series by Lawrence King Books. Best shortcuts for manipulating images. Very Illustrator heavy, though. Seattle library keeps a copy for me; I'd look library first (not enough to merit a purchase for any of the books).
    I have a very old version of Paint on my PC, and between that and PicMonkey, I have done alright with designs. I've been on Spoonflower for a few years and mostly make fabrics for my own use, but I've done okay sales wise. It is never going to be a source of income, but it pays for itself. Prices are similar to MFD.