12 Days of Design: Day 7 Create A Digital File

JAN 7, 2017 updated Apr 30, 2021



Hopefully yesterday you were able to scan your sketches into the computer and nail down your design elements (if not that’s okay, get caught up here) because today it’s time to get digital! While professional designers frequently use Photoshop or Illustrator to whip up designs, Spoonflower is not just for pros! Here is a handful of our free favorite tools and apps.


Sketchbook is a great mobile tool for freehand drawing and creating designs from scratch that is available for both Android and Apple devices! Both SketchBook Express and SketchBook are free, and they offer add-on tools you can purchase.

Nifty Features:

  • Lots of brushes, pens, markers and other drawing tools.

  • You can create custom canvas sizes up to 2500 x 2500 pixels which prints at 16.7 x 16.7 inches on fabric.

  • Ability to create layers and use blending modes.

PixlrPixlr is perfect for photo-editing and sprucing up your pictures. Pixlr is available for both Android and Apple devices and can also be used on a desktop computer! There a few different free versions, but the “Free Photo Editor” has the most tools.

Nifty Features:

  • Many overlays and effects to choose from. You can even add text!

  • Create collages or blend photos together.

  • You can’t enlarge an existing image, but you can decrease the canvas size.


COLOURlovers helps you create your own design, or you can explore templates for inspiration. Currently this tools is only accessible via a web application – no mobile app available yet!

Nifty Features:

  • Your design is always seamless! No more bad repeat issues.

  • You can enter in specific hex codes from your trusty Spoonflower color map.

  • Upload your design right into your Spoonflower account, directly from their website! Just enter in the inch dimensions you need your design to be.


PicMonkey can edit your photos, or you can use their clipart and text to make something brand new. Right now, this tool is only accessible through a web application — no mobile app available yet!

Nifty Features:

  • Start with a blank canvas and add text, effects and borders, or upload your own pictures and customize them.

  • You can adjust the canvas size up to 18 x 21 inches.

  • Collage maker with flexible layouts.


GIMP is a flexible web application that can be used for a variety of design projects. This tool is very similar to Photoshop!

Nifty Features:

  • Create designs at a high resolution – great for large-scale layouts, and photography.

  • Perfect for both freehand drawing, painting and photo-editing.

  • Retouch and enhance photos with its sophisticated toolset.



Click here for a YouTube channel with lots of how-to textile design videos!

This is just a small sampling of design tools we’ve used ourselves, but a quick web search will bring up many more design program tutorials and videos. Please share your favorite tools with us in the comments below. Happy creating!

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  • I would like to make a template for the “fill a yard” design feature that uses triangles instead of squares. How do I do that?

    • Hi Diana,

      That would be a wonderful feature to have! Currently, our Fill-A-Yard technology only allows users to build the designs with squares, so we do not have a way for you to create triangles.

      There are lots of ways to think “outside the box” with FAY, though. Here are some more recent blog posts you can explore to inspire something that might work for your project: https://blog.spoonflower.com/tag/fill-a-yard/

  • How does the sizing work? If I want to have buffalos that at 1/4 in and can create on photoshop, what type of file sizing should I export?

    • Hi Seth,
      Great question! The basic rule of thumb is to make your design file whichever size you’d like your final repeat to be, when set at 150dpi. So, for an 1/4 inch buffalo repeat, create 1/4 inch design file at 150dpi. More information on image resolution is available here. I hope that helps, but if you have any more questions don’t hesitate to ask! – Meredith from Spoonflower

  • Which program would you suggest for printing a design on 45 width fabric with no repeat?

  • As a total beginner in fabric design and (more importantly) design tools and software, I’m feeling somewhat the same as Donna. I’m certainly inspired by the 12 Days of Design although working through each ‘Day’ and developing skills is more likely to take me 12 months, I reckon.
    It’s encouraging to see that there are free tools and apps to get a feel for them before spending lots of money on something like Illustrator that I suspect would be too complicated for me to even get going.
    A question: Can each of the apps you recommend above be used in conjunction with one another? Would it be a good idea to download them all?
    Meanwhile, thank you for the fascinating information and inspiration each day!

  • This is something I really want to learn. I am very overwhelmed;
    do you have any suggestions for a real beginner?