How do I create an image?

MAY 19, 2008 updated Apr 26, 2021

There’s no single answer to this question, but I can offer a few suggestions.

Professional textile designers frequently use Photoshop to create or prepare their designs. They might start with a scan of a painting or drawing or they might compose the image in Photoshop. The pros also sometimes use special plugins for Photoshop. But Spoonflower is not just for pros, so…

There are a number of free programs available for creating and manipulating images, a few of which were sent to me recently by Meggiecat, a terrific craft blogger:

  • Inkscape : Vector drawing
  • Paint.NET: Photoshop type of program
  • Art Rage : Realistic art painting, oils, chalk, etc. (earlier version is offered for free). Here’s an image Kim put together using Art Rage without any prior experience.
  • LineTracer: Converts scanned sketches to .eps.
  • Wintopo: Raster to vector converter newer, more robust than LineTracer

Note (6-23-2008): Do NOT try to upload TIF files created using Microsoft Image Composer. If that is the only program you have for preparing designs, save and upload a JPG instead of a TIF.

Other ideas:

  • Find a high-resolution public domain image from one of
    thRandom rocks picked up on the beach at Gig Harbor. e amazing galleries available online. Be aware that you may only be able to employ an image of this sort for private, rather than commercial, use. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association, for example, offers incredible galleries online, including this one: Art of the NOAA Photo Library.
  • You could also print a photo or image of your own on fabric, although you should be aware that color shifting is likely to occur in a photographic image. The cleanest looking images printed on textiles have a relatively small palette of colors (under 30 or so), whereas if you examined photos and scans at the pixel-level of detail you would see thousands of colors.
  • Scan something — a kid’s drawing, a leaf, a swatch of vintage fabric. In order to have it print at its best you would probably need to clean up an image like this in Photoshop, but even without that level of attention you can get some rewarding results.

Tell me what you come up with and I’ll add it to the list!

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17 comments

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  • What about feedsacks that were made prior to 1940? I have a lot of really old feed sacks but I don’t know and can’t find any information on if I can copy them

  • Thanks a lot for sharing this useful and attractive information and I will be waiting for other interesting posts from you in the nearest future.keep it up.

  • Just thought I’d let you know there IS a way to enlarge a photo! If you use a vector based program, you can enlarge the photo in whatever dpi to the exact inches you want it to be. Yes, it might affect the image quality, but if there aren’t many small details it might work out grand! Anna Kohls – I could help you if you wanted! mrshervi@hotmail.com

  • Actually, I’d want to go as large as possible. If I wanted to print about a 50″ width of the fabric, what would the resolution have to be for the photo? (I have an 8mp camera, if that helps.) Probably a hard question to answer…the photo would serve as a background and a completely different image would be embroidered on top of it (that one wouldn’t be printed), so little details aren’t important. Perhaps I should decide on the photo first and then ask, yes?


  • Yes, you can upload a photo and center it on a piece of fabric. Sounds as if the fat quarter size is most likely to what you will want. If the photo is too large, you can use the 'edit size' button to shrink it to fit into the fabric size you've selected. If the photo is too small, however, there's nothing you can do to make it bigger apart from re-uploading a higher resolution file.

  • I’m interested in having a photo (b&w) printed on fabric (preferably the upholstery-weight you have). I want just the photo printed once, it’s not a pattern or anything. I actually want to use it to embroider on. Does that fit in with your services?

  • I am very computer illiterate but have tons of freehand designs I would like to print, any suggestions? I don’t even know what computer program I should learn.

  • I am very computer illiterate but have tons of freehand designs I would like to print, any suggestions? I don’t even know what computer program I should learn.

  • Another free raster-based software for drawing or image retouching is Gimp. (http://www.gimp.org) One could, for example, use it to reduce the palette of a photograph or scan down to something appropriate for printing via Spoonflower.

  • I, personally, dislike using Photoshop for any kind of design work. But specifically for fabric design applications – Photoshop has issues scaling detailed images up and down in size. I prefer to use Freehand (now out of date due to Adobe’s purchase of Macromedia) or Illustrator so that the images are vector based and can be scaled to any size. I start all my pattern designs in flash using a reference sketch and move them over to Freehand or Illustrator for tiling. vector based art also gives you the flexibility to reproduce your patterns in any size on any medium.

  • Of course, you’d want to be sure that your vintage fabric was in the public domain so as to avoid any copyright trouble. This is difficult to research if there is no printed selvage left on your fabric…