Border Print Tutorial: True Up’s Kim Kight launches her book blog tour at Spoonflower!

NOV 30, 2011 updated May 30, 2016

We at Spoonflower are beyond thrilled to have one of our favorite "fabric obsessed" bloggers, Kim Kight, making a first stop on her book blog tour here today.  In case you're not a regular reader of Kim's wonderful blog True Up–and you should be!–she has a fantastic new book out, A Field Guide to Fabric Design.  Divided into sections on design and color, methods of printing, and an overview of the world of fabric design, Field Guide includes plenty of well-illustrated tutorials on how to create repeating designs both by hand and on a computer, how to select and test colors for digital printing, and the differences among print methods and ink chemistries.  One of my favorite things about Kim's book is the designer roundtable sections in which she poses questions to professional fabric designers–like, 'Do you follow or ignore trends?' and 'What are your creative obstacles?' and more–and shares their answers.  These sections sound like a chat you'd have over a cup of coffee with half a dozen of your best fabric-designing buddies, and I enjoyed the varied perspectives.  Plus, it's nice to match a designer's style up with a personality, don't you think? 

One other favorite thing about this book is pictures of gorgeous fabrics.  LOTS of pictures of gorgeous fabrics.  Just like True Up, Field Guide is eye candy for the fabric obsessed and an excellent, solid guide to turning your beautiful fabric visions into reality to boot.  I can't recommend it hightly enough.

To kick off her book blog tour, Kim has put together a tutorial especially for Spoonflower readers on how to turn your design into a border print.  Given how many times the Spoonflower help staff has been emailed with questions about how to turn files oriented in the traditional way into border print files for skirts, dresses, tea towels, tablecloths, curtains, and the like, I'm thinking this ought to come in mighty handy. 

Read on for Kim's border print tutorial, plus a chance to win a copy of her Field Guide to Fabric Design below!

Thank you, Spoonflower, for having me here today!

What’s a Border Print?

Most fabric prints are oriented "with the roll," as shown in the diagram below.
Sometimes, though, you want your print to run with the selvage. These are called “railroaded” prints. Railroaded prints come in handy for seamlessly upholstering sofas, benches, headboards, and the like. Border prints are a type of railroaded print, and have all kinds of uses — pillowcases, skirts, aprons, tablecloths, tote bags, you name it. Typical border prints have motifs running along one or both selvages and a solid color or simpler print filling in the center. But, really, you’re only limited by your imagination here. And, sure, the width of the fabric too.



It is possible to print railroaded prints and border prints with Spoonflower — in fact it’s easier than regular repeating designs because you only have to worry about making the design repeat on one edge. You just have to set up your file a bit differently and beware of large file sizes.

I won’t go into the specifics of how to set up repeats here.  If you aren’t already familiar, I hope you’ll check out my book, which has tutorials for creating repeating designs by hand and with Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator. Repeat tutorials can also be found on Spoonflower’s list of surface design resources.

File Setup for Border Prints

I worked in Photoshop for this design, but these guidelines apply to Illustrator as well.

My design was inspired by vintage air mail envelopes. I designed the crosshatch pattern below first (to reference the inside of security envelopes), and it ended up being 4.717 inches square. I wanted more room than that for the “Air Mail” stripe, so I doubled that figure to 9.434 inches.
Image08Consult the Spoonflower Fabrics Page for printable widths. That will be the width of your file. I chose 42”, the printable width of the quilting cotton.
A Note on Widths and Selling Your Designs in the Spoonflower Shop: Buyers can choose to print your design on any of Spoonflower’s fabrics. You may wish to edit the design’s description and mention that it should only be printed on fabrics of a certain width, or else the design will start repeating itself vertically, and that probably wouldn’t look good.

Another alternative is to design to the width of Spoonflower’s widest fabric (58 inches/145 cm, currently) and make the rightmost edge “cut-offable.” Spoonflower crops designs from the right, so if someone orders your 58” wide design on Spoonflower’s cotton silk (40” printable area), the rightmost 18” would be cut off. (You probably wouldn’t want to do this with double border prints since the right border could be cut off.)

I tiled my security envelope pattern in the 42 x 9.434” space, matching the seams carefully — it ended up being two tiles tall and nine wide, with the ninth copy in each row getting a little cut off. I designed my stripe and resized it to 9.434” wide, rotated it 90 degrees clockwise, and placed it on the left edge of the file.

I chose colors from my Spoonflower Color Map, and was unsurprised that once I put in the RGB codes in my color picker, the screen colors looked vastly different than the fabric colors. If I’d gone with the colors I had been playing with on the screen, I’d have ended up with a purply pink and a lavender-blue. I can’t stress enough the importance of using the Color Map! Hint: cut individual swatches out of the chart so you can see the colors next to each other, away from the “noise” of the other swatches.

If you have two or more repeating patterns within your border print, as I do here, the height of your file will be the least common multiple of the individual pattern’s widths (that is, the width before they are rotated 90 degrees). Grade school math coming in handy! For example, if you have a 10” tossed floral for the background and a 18” row of flowers for the border, the height of the file would be 90”. You can see how this could lead to huge file sizes — be careful, because 40MB is Spoonflower’s limit on file size.

Upload your design as usual, resize if necessary (I changed mine to 300 dpi) and choose the “basic” repeat. You’re done!
Printed Selvages!

Incidentally, this technique can also be used for adding selvage information to your fabric. To illustrate the purpose of the book, I designed a mini-collection of fabrics that had “Your Name Here” in the selvage, on the headers, bolt ends etc., and printed them with Spoonflower for photography in the book. Keep in mind that the print doesn’t end up in the actual selvage of the fabric — maybe an inch or two in — but it’s still nice to have that information on there.


Thanks so much, Kim, and we wish you the best of luck on your blog tour! 

If you'd like to win a copy of A Field Guide to Fabric Design, please just leave a comment on this post.  Entires for this giveaway will close tomorrow, Thursday, 12/1 at noon EST.  Good luck!  THIS GIVEAWAY IS NOW CLOSED AND WE'LL BE ANNOUNCING A WINNER SHORTLY.  THANKS, EVERYONE!

Oh, and speaking of giveaways closing, entries for the giveaway of Samarra Khaja's fabrics from last week have now closed, and we've selected a winner.  We'll be contacting winner Lea Vollmer shortly to share the good news!

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