12 Days of Design: Day 4 Select a Medium

JAN 4, 2017

You have your inspirationtheme and color palette, so it’s time to choose a medium for creating your design. Don’t be afraid to experiment! You can create with any tools or supplies you like, from crayons to puff paint to digital design software. Mix different ways to create—make a collage of photos and words from a magazine, scan a painting to add digital graphics and text overlays, or bust your fabric stash to add texture and depth to a drawing. Just be creative and have fun. Follow along with us today as we go into depth about a few of the most popular techniques designers in our community like to use. 


Watercolor has been a huge trend in textile design the past few years thanks in part to the digital print revolution. Subtle watercolor prints beautifully onto fabric with the digital print process, allowing the texture and hand of the artist to truly shine. Learn a few tips from one of our favorite watercolor designers, Emily Sanford, as she shares her advice on how to get started with this medium.

Just to get the creative juices flowing, here are a few choice watercolor designs from the Spoonflower Marketplace

Flamingos Making A Splash by Karismithdesigns
Sakura Branches by svetlana_prikhnenko
Watercolor Flowers, Spring by susan_magdangal

Recommended supplies for the serious watercolorist:

We’re really into Daniel Smith tubes right now. These watercolors are made with entirely natural, highly saturated pigments, just as the ancient Egyptians once used, but produced using modern methods of course. They are a little on the pricy side but you only need just a small amount to make a big impact. Spanish company Escoda makes remarkable brushes using high quality synthetic materials that come close as it gets to replicating real sable.

Block Printing

Block printing is another exciting medium that has made a huge impact on the surface design world, enabling designers to achieve unique marks and an unmistakable aesthetic that allows for huge creativity. Prints can be carved out of a wide variety of materials, the most popular being wood, linoleum blocks (linocut), easy carving rubber, styrofoam, and even potatoes. Last year we sat down with friend and Spoonflower designer Rochelle New, about her favorite techniques for this medium.

Hare // Burgundy Rabbit Linocut by Andrea Lauren
Sprig, Mist Lemon was created from a block print motif by kateriley
Popular motifs for woodblock stamps include ornate paisleys, medallions and flowers. These designs originate from India, and the stamps can be purchased from Etsy.

Recommended supplies:

If you’re just getting started, the Speedball Speedy Carve rubber medium is definitely a great choice. Try that before moving on to more difficult materials like lino and wood. If you just want to dabble in all of the various mediums available for block printing, try the Speedball Ultimate Fabric and Paper Block Printing Kit which comes with literally all the supplies you need to get off and running. Linoleum cutters and v gouges can be found in any craft supply store, and we also were impressed with the selection on Etsy.


Farawar Folk by Cerigwen

Vector art is huge in the surface design world, and it’s safe to say the majority of designs are made this way. Unlike raster (or pixelated) graphics, vector artwork is composed of mathematical points and outlines, creating shapes that are able to be scaled up or down in size without any loss to the original quality. For this medium, you’ll need to get comfortable using software such as Adobe Illustrator, CorelDRAW, Inkscape, or something similar with vector capability. Adobe Illustrator is not free, but many other software programs are open source or free to use. A few terms to know when talking about vectors:

Vector: Vector graphics are created from points, lines, shapes and curves that are based on mathematical formulas. These elements are filled with color, blends, tints or gradients, and lines have a stroke attribute such as a solid or dashed line with different thicknesses and colors. File extensions for vector graphics are: .SVG, .EPS, .AI. Most clip art is made using vectors.

graphic by artist Bob Ewing on dribbble

Bézier curves:  a curved line or path defined by mathematical equations. The most basic Bézier curve is made up of two end points and control handles attached to each node. The control handles define the shape of the curve on either side of the common node.

Anchor points:  In vector based programs, anchor points are used to manipulate paths and fills. Paths are lines, which can be straight or curved. Closed paths are objects such as circles or stars, in which the start and end of the path are the same point.

“Self Portrait” by Chris Phillips on dribbble

The most amazing thing about vector graphics? This medium allows you to scale your design up, down, and every which way without distorting it at all. Pretty cool, eh? You certainly cannot do that with pixels or raster images!

Check out some tips from Spoonflower contributor and designer Cerigwen, a master at this technique.

A few more of our favorite techniques: The classic pencil, pen and ink, photography, shibori dyeing methods, found object collage, just to name a few. Almost anything can become a medium for your designs, the only limit is your creativity! So what medium will you choose? We can’t wait to see! Don’t forget to snap pics of your process and share on Instagram with the hashtag #12DaysofDesign. The most fun part of the process is getting feedback from your peers, so don’t be shy!

Stick with us, because tomorrow we’ll focus on sketching our ideas.

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  • Awesome DIY for creating a textile print design. It is really informative for the new textile designers to learn such kind of techniques to become a professional one.