Turn Your Hand Lettering into a Fabric Design: Backgrounds and Repeats

MAY 2, 2018

Kathy Glynn, the author of Hand Lettering Step by Step: Techniques & Projects to Express Yourself Creatively, is back to share the second part of her DIY hand lettering tutorial. By the time you’re done, you’ll be ready to digitally print your calligraphy onto your favorite fabric, wallpaper or gift wrap. If you missed part one, digitizing your lettering, of Kathy’s two-part series, be sure to take a peek before you get started today.

Kathy: Designing your own fabric is a fun way to share your lettering with others or to incorporate your lettering into your craft projects. Before you get started, decide on the elements you want to use, keeping in mind that the design will be repeated. Today I’m using a calligraphic phrase I previously scanned and a scanned watercolor swatch to color the lettering. I used the watercolor swatch to create a custom pattern in Photoshop that gives the lettering a subtle gradation effect.


Adobe Photoshop – You can download a free seven-day trial here
Digitized artwork: calligraphic phrase and watercolor background – See how to digitize your hand lettering here

Create and Open Your Files

In Photoshop, create a new file to contain the fabric design. Select the dimensions of the file. I created a 3.5 x 3.5” (9 x 9 cm) square with a transparent background. Click OK. I named the file “follow your heart fabric”.

Important note about sizing your design for Spoonflower: When you upload a design, it’s converted to 150 dpi which can cause some unexpected changes in scale if your original canvas size is larger than 150. You can use the Smaller/Bigger buttons or enter in a specific dpi by clicking on the “Change DPI” link on your design page. Once you make an adjustment, don’t forget to click on “Save this Layout” to make the change stick.

Place Your Art

Next, bring in your lettering by selecting File > Place Linked. Navigate to where your digitized lettering is located and select the file, then click the Place button. Hit Enter and the image should now be in the center of the file.

With the Move tool selected, move the image up. Then resize the image to fill the space by selecting one of the corner anchors. Hold the Shift key while pulling on the anchor to ensure that the image keeps its proportions.

Clean Up the Watercolor Swatch

Open the file containing the watercolor swatch and select the Magic Wand tool from the Toolbar. Click on the outer white section. This will select all the white within the image.

From the Application Bar, click on Select > Inverse to select any part of the image that is not white (basically the watercolor swatch excluding the white background).

Select Layer > New > Layer Via Copy. This will create a layer with only the swatch. Turn off the background layer by clicking on the “eye” icon next to the layer.

Make a User-Defined Pattern

Select the Rectangle Marquee tool from the toolbar. Drag the cursor across the image, encapsulating the swatch.

Select Edit > Define Pattern. This will save the image selected by the Marquee tool as a user-defined pattern (as opposed to a predefined pattern in Photoshop).

Apply the Color Swatch to the Lettering

Select the window containing the calligraphic phrase.

Double-click on the layer to bring up the Layer Style dialog box. Click the box next to Pattern Overlay listed under Styles. Check to see that the pattern defaulted to the last user-defined pattern created, the watercolor swatch. If it didn’t, click on the arrow to the right of the swatch to allow you to select the pattern of your choice. You can change the scale of the pattern by typing in a value or using the slider. When you’re happy with the selection, click the OK button.

Create a Seamless Pattern

Now that you have the word phrase created in a way that you like it, make a copy of it by selecting Layer > New > Layer Via Copy. Now, move the new layer down below the original layer by selecting the Move tool from the toolbar.

To create interest in the pattern layout, we will offset the lettering following the instructions below. Click on Filter > Other > Offset.

Offsetting Your Lettering

Using the Offset filter in Photoshop is an easy way to create seamless patterns. This filter offsets the image horizontally or vertically based on the settings you provide. Specific to my design, I chose to offset the image horizontally by 1200 pixels because I liked how the embellished ascender of the letter intertwined with the descender loop of the letter from the image above. If you’re interested in an even horizontal offset, just calculate the offset by taking the width of the image in pixels and then dividing by two.

Make sure you have selected the copy layer when applying the Offset command. Enter 1200 next to Horizontal to move the image to the right 1200 pixels.

Test Pattern Design

Select the Rectangle Marquee tool from the toolbar. Drag your cursor across the image, encapsulating what will be repeated in the pattern.

Select Edit > Define Pattern. The Pattern Name dialog box will appear; use the default pattern name. In this instance, it is Pattern 12.

Now create a new file with dimensions larger than the pattern size. You want to see the pattern repeat a couple of times. I chose to create a 15 x 15″ (38 x 38 cm) image with a transparent background.

To test the pattern, select Layer > New Fill Layer > Pattern. A New Layer dialog box will appear. Click OK. Next, a Pattern Fill dialog box will appear.

The default pattern should be the most recently created user-defined pattern. You can also select a specific pattern by clicking on the arrow next to the pattern image.

The design may be a bit hard to see against the transparent background. Create a new layer by selecting Layer > New Fill Layer > Solid Color.

A New Layer dialog box appears. Click OK.

A Color Picker dialog box appears. At the bottom of the dialog box, enter the hex code for white (ffffff) next to the pound sign and click OK.

Move the layer below the pattern layer by grabbing the layer while pressing down on the mouse. You should be able to see the pattern design well enough to see whether there are any issues with your design.

Crop Your Design and Save

If you’re happy with the test, switch back to the fabric file. Your selection from the Rectangle Marquee tool should still be highlighted. Select the Crop tool from the toolbar. The file will be cropped to the marquee selection. Save the file as a TIFF, JPEG, PNG, or GIF file. Upload your design to your Spoonflower account and order on one of your favorite fabrics

Don’t stop at just fabric! 

Not only can you create fabric through Spoonflower, you can also create wallpaper and wrapping paper. A fun project is to create a list of words that fall under one theme. Digitize them and place them together like pieces of a puzzle, creating a repeat for fabric, gift paper, or wallpaper.

Turn Your Hand Lettering into a Fabric Design: Backgrounds and Repeats | Spoonflower Blog
A family tree becomes the perfect wall art using just an $8 wallpaper swatch!

My sister created the sweet bags shown here using my custom fabric. You can use your fabric in so many ways—in a quilt, pillows, clothing, or even in one of these 25 DIY projects for a wedding.

About the Artist 
Kathy Glynn is an artist, calligrapher and newly-published author of Hand Lettering Step by Step: Techniques and Projects to Express Yourself Creatively (Get Creative 6, February 2018). Her lovely abstract paintings in watercolor and acrylics are sold nationally in West Elm, and online at Domino Magazine (Domino.com), and Minted.com. Her calligraphy has been featured on popular wedding blogs, Style Me Pretty100 Layer Cake and Wedding Sparrow. Kathy shares her creative musings on social media as Artsy Canvas Girl. 
About the Book
Kathy’s first book, Hand Lettering Step by Step: Techniques and Projects to Express Yourself Creatively (Get Creative 6, February 2018), will help you to master hand lettering, brush lettering, and pointed pen calligraphy—to create lettering that’s expressive, exquisite, and romantic. After explaining the basics, Kathy explains how to combine styles, add embellishments, and even digitize lettering. The book contains more than 20 DIY projects including wedding invitations, temporary tattoos, DIY fabric, metal etching, and a custom family tree.

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  • That is so awesome, I just bought her book today,, I had no idea this stuff was available.