How to create images, reprised

NOV 7, 2008 updated Apr 26, 2021

There sure are a lot of you out there doing some amazing design work!  Even a quick glance at our Flickr pool will prove my point.  But we’ve had a rash of questions lately about how a fabric design novice goes about creating an image to print.  Stephen posted about this early on in the life of Spoonflower, but I thought I’d post about this again for all you new users. 

Though I’ve mentioned Julia Rothman’s repeat pattern tutorial on design*sponge before, it’s worth posting here again because it’s a very low-tech, approachable way to work up a seamlessly repeating design.  All’s you need are paper, drawing or painting materials, scissors, and tape!  Oh, and a scanner.  But the important point is that you don’t need Photoshop or Illustrator to create a repeating pattern.  If our own scanner didn’t currently lack a power cord, I would show you all a repeating pattern that I myself designed.  This method works great, and if I can do it, I assure you that anyone can!

For those of you who would like to try composing images on your computer, you may want to take a first stab at this with ArtRage before investing in one of the more sophisticated design programs.  ArtRage offers a free, limited version of its painting program, but at $25 for the full-scale program, it’s very affordable and easy to use.  This program contains painting and drawing tools as well as rulers and stencils, including the ability to create your own stencils. 

If manipulating photographs is more what you have in mind but you don’t actually own Photoshop, you can download a free 30-day trial of this super-sophisticated photo manipulation and design program.  There are a zillion fun tutorials out there that will teach you what to do with your photos if you want more than just a simple photograph on fabric.  You can turn your photos into line drawings (perhaps to embroider over?) or Andy Warhol-esque popart prints for framing, or you can cut and paste elements of photos onto new canvases to create repeating patterns.  I have an antique Dresden plate quilt made of hundreds of different scraps, one of which is a dog’s head repeated on a white and green polka dot background.  It cracks me up every time I spot it.  While it was obviously designed in the days before Photoshop, it would be so easy to make something similar and equally hilarious. 

So there are some ideas for you design beginners out there.  For those of you who are more adept at design, feel free to chime in with some other easy ideas here.  If there are enough of them, I can post about those, too!

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