SpoonChallenge: Creating a Fabric Collection

Last week you gathered inspiration and prepared for the design process. This week, Bonnie Christine shares tips and tricks for creating your collection’s focal print. Gather your drawing supplies or digital design tools and get ready to get creative!

Designing a focal print

One of my favorite parts of designing a pattern collection is the sketching phase. This is where a collection really begins to take form and come to life. After spending plenty of time gathering inspiration, it’s time to put pen to paper. It’s always fun to see what actually comes out when you begin sketching!

As you begin sketching, be sure to reference your inspiration boards, photographs, collection words and story frequently. This will give your final sketches a cohesive feel, look and theme. One thing you’ll want to keep in mind as you sketch for your collection, is the importance of a focal print. A well rounded collection will include 8-12 prints and at least 2-3 focal prints. (Ideally, you’ll include a few medium scale prints and a few smaller (and simpler) coordinate prints as well.) A focal print is the winner of the collection, the one that draws the viewer into the collection first. If it were available as part of a collection on fabric, this is the one the browser wouldn’t be able to leave without.

There are several things that make up a good focal print. It’s usually made of a larger scale, is very complex and consists of several colors (though of course, there are always exceptions to the rule!). You may even have a hard time finding the technical repeat of a focal print. This print should draw all the other prints together and really round out the collection as a whole. Below are a few of my own prints that I consider to be focal prints.

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Before you begin sketching, here are a few of my suggestions!

Pen or pencil? Using either a pen or pencil is fine, but they each mean you’ll be designing in a different way. If using a pen, choose one that has a smooth black line (my favorites are called uni pens). This will give you a great scan and a good chance of being able to use the live trace feature in Adobe Illustrator if you’re happy with your final sketch. Using a pencil gives you more freedom while you draw, but usually means that you’ll need to trace over your lines again. You could either do this using a lightbox and pen, or by using a Wacom Tablet directly within Illustrator.

Paper and notebook. What will you be drawing on? Loose leaf paper or a notebook will both suffice, but try to choose a bright white, smooth paper for the best scanning results. If using a notebook, try to choose one that will lay flat while you draw and scan in your images.

Scale. Generally, you’ll want to draw at a medium scale. A good rule of thumb is that the more detailed a sketch, the larger your scale should be. This will just allow for easily scanning in your sketches and grabbing all those details you’ve added. For something like a flower bloom, I usually sketch at about the size of the palm of my hand, just to give you a reference.

Lightbox. Having a lightbox will make the sketching phase so much easier, especially if you like to draw in pencil first (like me!). A lightbox will allow you to easily trace over your original sketches with a nice dark black ink pen, which will give you great results during the design process.

Scanning. Of course, the next phase involves actually getting your sketches into the computer! Depending on how you plan to design, there are several ways to accomplish this. You can either scan them in using a scanner, or snap photos of them using a camera or smartphone. Scanning will give you the best results if you want to use the live trace feature in Adobe Illustrator, but if you plan to trace over your sketches using a Wacom Tablet, a snapshot will work just fine. Just remember to take a photo directly above your sketch (to avoid skewing your drawing) and take it in plenty of natural daylight. I also like to crop out any edges or shadows from my notebook, to give myself a nice clean area to work from.

Scanning in your sketches properly will give you the best results when you begin illustrating. Here’s a step by step tutorial on how to optimally scan in your sketches for the best results when using Adobe Illustrator to design.

What’s your favorite way to sketch? Do you use pen or pencil? Do you reference your photographs or draw from memory? We’d love to hear more about how your work, so share with us in the comments section!

About Our Guest Blogger

BioBonnie Christine is a fabric designer for Art Gallery Fabrics, teacher and creator. In addition to teaching Adobe Illustrator and sharing all that she knows through her courses, you can find her working in the garden and spending time with her husband and children.