Want to learn how to turn your own sewing patterns into digital files to print full-sized on high quality paper? Today, independent clothing designer and Spoonflower team member Jamie Powell visits the blog to show you how to take your own hand-drafted patterns and create digital files to print on a roll of inexpensive gift wrap either for your own garment making or to sell your pattern designs.
This tutorial will walk you through the process of turning your hand drawn sewing pattern into a digital file using Photoshop. Some basic knowledge of Photoshop is helpful, but there are only a handful of tools that are used in this tutorial, so you don’t need to be an expert. The example I use is a raglan sleeve shirt pattern that I’ve been interested in offering for sale. Digitizing your patterns is a great way to get them clean and professional looking, and even if you’re not trying to turn your projects into profits, it’s a great way to preserve your patterns and make them easy to share with friends.
The first step in getting your pattern digitized is to scan your pattern pieces so that they can be edited in Photoshop.
If your pattern pieces are large, you will need to cut them into pieces small enough to fit on your scanner bed. I’m scanning a raglan sleeve shirt pattern that shows sizes S - XL and in order to fit everything onto an 8 ½” x 11” scanner bed, the 4 separate pattern pieces had to be cut up into about 18 pieces. For a complex pattern like this, I advise using a small symmetrical image centered over your cutting lines - this will make it easier to reassemble your pattern pieces later.
Scan your pattern pieces and save the images as .jpg files. The resolution of your images is important. I'm planning to print my pattern at Spoonflower where I know that images will be printed at 150 dpi, so I want to make sure that the scanned images I'm working with are scanned at 150 dpi so that they print out their actual size. If you can choose your resolution when you scan, then choose the resolution you want to print your pattern at. If you don't have this option when scanning, then you can change the resolution once you've opened your file in Photoshop by going to the Image menu and choosing Image Size.
Enter your desired resolution - this will change the resolution without changing the dimensions of the image.
Phase 2: REASSEMBLE THE PATTERN PIECES IN PHOTOSHOP
Once all your pattern pieces are scanned, you’re going to open the .jpg files in Photoshop and put them back together. Create a new file in Photoshop by going to the File Menu and selecting New. Enter the size dimensions of your new file to be large enough to fit your reassembled pattern piece at your desired print resolution. Using my pattern’s sleeve as an example, the largest size sleeve is about 15” wide x 18” tall. I made a new canvas that was 16 inches by 20 inches to make sure my reassembled sleeve would completely fit.
Choose the first scanned pattern piece you’re going to work with. First, use the Rectangular Marquee Tool from the toolbar running down the left side of the screen (you can also hover over each icon on the toolbar for a moment to make the name of each tool appear). Starting at any corner, use this tool to draw a box around your pattern piece. Next, copy your selection (right click and select copy or Ctrl+C), then paste the selection onto your New blank file, which will create a new Layer. With the marquee tool still selected, right click inside your pattern piece and choose Free Transform. You can now rotate and drag your pattern piece into place.
Repeated the select, copy, and paste steps with each pattern piece until your pattern piece is reassembled on the new canvas. You will need to use the Magic Eraser Tool if you are assembling multiple pieces to erase the white background of each scanned pattern piece. From the toolbar on the left, choose the Eraser tool and click on the tiny arrow at the bottom corner of the icon which will give you more Eraser options. Click on the Magic Eraser option.
Click anywhere on the blank area of your scanned pattern piece and it will remove everything matching that color, making the background transparent and leaving only your black lines behind. (Note: whichever Layer is highlighted on the Layers menu in the bottom right of your screen is the layer you are editing).
Sometimes the scanned images will be hard to see when you open them in Photoshop. You can increase the Contrast and decrease the Brightness on each pattern piece layer to make your hand drawn lines easier to see and line up. Under the Image Menu, choose Adjustments, then Brightness and Contrast. The Levels tool under the same menu will produce similar effects. Once the pattern pieces are fully reassembled, you can get rid of all the layers by going to the Layer menu, then choosing Flatten Image.
Phase 3: MAKING THE PATTERN FILE
The next step will be to trace your reassembled pattern piece with the Pen Tool to get rid of all the hand drawn cutting lines and messiness. On your now reassembled pattern file, create a New Layer and then select the Paint Bucket tool from your toolbar on the left. Click anywhere on your canvas with the paint bucket to fill in the layer - I used a white fill layer but you can use whatever color will give you a good contrast against the hand drawn pattern lines. This new filled in layer should be on top of your pattern piece layer, hiding it from your view for the moment. Now, lower the opacity of your new layer down to about 30%, so that you can see the lines of your pattern piece through your new layer.
With your New Layer selected, choose the Pen Tool from the toolbar on the left. Click along the outline of your pattern. Each spot you click will connect to the spot before it, until you have come back to your starting point and enclose your pattern shape.
You can adjust your line to fit and curve as you go by clicking on any point on the line. This will make 3 dots appear. You can move each dot up, down, forwards, and backwards with your mouse or arrow keys to get just the right curve (it will take a little experimenting to get the hang of this, if you’re anything like me! Just remember - there is an Undo button under the Edit Menu if you change a line and don’t like the outcome.)
Trace until you get back to your starting point - a small circle will appear just before you connect back to your first point, and all your individual dots will disappear once you’ve connected back to that point. Next, right-click inside your enclosed dotted line and choose Make Selection from the pop up menu. The outline will start sort of blinking. Now, using the Paint Bucket tool again, fill in your pattern piece with a different color (I chose a set of pastel colors just for fun). This will fill in your selection. Now you can hide your hand drawn layer by clicking the little eye icon next to it you see only your finished piece.
Since I have four sizes shown on each pattern piece, I repeated the steps above, creating a new layer and tracing around the outer limit of each pattern size line, and filling in each layer with a different color. When I stack them all on top of each other, each size is clearly shown in a different color making it easy for the final user to cut out the size they want and get to sewing!
You can now add a text layer to your finished pattern piece providing all the important information using the Text Tool from the toolbar on the left. You can also use the pencil tool to draw an arrow showing the grainline. The Pencil tool is also found on the toolbar. Choose the weight in pixels for your line, and you can make a perfectly straight line by holding down the Shift key as you draw your line across the screen. Once your line is drawn, use the Free Transform tool we used earlier if you need to adjust the direction/orientation of your line.
Phase 4: SAVING YOUR FILE TO PRINT
Now your finished pattern is neat, clean, and ready to share. I’m printing my pattern on a roll of 26” x 72” matte paper at Spoonflower (it’s the giftwrap but I find it’s perfect paper for patterns as well!) that will include instructions, pattern pieces, and a sizing chart. So, my first step in preparing my file for printing is to create a New File that fits my print dimensions of 26” wide x 72” high, at 150 dpi. Now I’ve opened each of the files of my four reassembled pattern pieces. Flatten each of those files down to a single layer (if you had text, and multiple size layers like in my example) by going to the Layer menu and choosing Flattern Image. Next, use the Rectangular Marquee Tool from earlier to draw a box around your entire pattern piece. Copy your selection, then paste it onto your New File. With the marquee tool still selected, right click and choose the Free Transform tool that you used earlier when assembling the pattern pieces to move your finished piece into your desired print layout position. Repeat these steps for each pattern piece until all your pieces are arranged the way you’d like them to print. If you’d like to include instructions, choose the Text Tool from your toolbox and draw out a text box to type your instructions into. The finished product can be saved in whatever file format you’d like to use for printing, I saved mine as a .jpg and it was around 4MB
Whatever your plans for digitizing your hand drawn patterns, this finished product is sure to save you time down the road. You can easily copy patterns to share with your friends or for a class, or you can offer your patterns for sale either as a print or digital download. I’ve added my raglan pattern to the marketplace on Spoonflower, and I’ve also linked it from my website, Seven Sages, where I have the completed shirt available for sale as well. (Check out my tutorial for how to sew your own soft and stretchy jersey raglan using this pattern too.) Once your pattern is digital, the sky's the limit! See what fun, new applications you can discover for your own digitized patterns!
About Our Guest Blogger
In addition to being part of the Spoonflower team, Jamie designs a clothing line, Seven Sages, that produces limited edition runs of women’s clothing with a mission to deliver high quality garments with low environmental impact. When she’s not busy working at Spoonflower and sewing, Jamie enjoys being a thrift store addict, a dog lover, and a pretty good cook.