Today's quick design tip– how to change colors in your surface design using Adobe Illustrator— is brought to you by Spoonflower help team member Theresa!
Some of our favorite Spoonflower design challenges are those where designers are asked to use a particular color palette to create their designs. Individual artists' interpretation of the contest theme and use of the color palette create suprisingly unique and creative fabric designs.
Top 10 designs from the Bedtime Design Challenge
Want to learn how to turn your own sewing patterns into digital files to print full-sized on high quality paper? Today, independent clothing designer and Spoonflower team member Jamie Powell visits the blog to show you how to take your own hand-drafted patterns and create digital files to print on a roll of inexpensive gift wrap either for your own garment making or to sell your pattern designs.
This tutorial will walk you through the process of turning your hand drawn sewing pattern into a digital file using Photoshop. Some basic knowledge of Photoshop is helpful, but there are only a handful of tools that are used in this tutorial, so you don’t need to be an expert. The example I use is a raglan sleeve shirt pattern that I’ve been interested in offering for sale. Digitizing your patterns is a great way to get them clean and professional looking, and even if you’re not trying to turn your projects into profits, it’s a great way to preserve your patterns and make them easy to share with friends.
Photographs can bring a meaningful touch to any DIY project, and PicMonkey is a free and easy way to prepare a photo for print. Check out this step by step tutorial for taking a photo and turning it into fabric to stitch up a pillow, tea towel, or your favorite sewing project!
The holiday season is quickly approaching and we wanted to send a friendly reminder to designers to make their designs for sale on gift wrap! Be sure to double check these important steps:
- When you upload a design to Spoonflower, the scale will automatically default to 150 dpi across all three substrates–fabric, wallpaper and gift wrap. If you make a change to one substrate (fabric, wallpaper or gift wrap), it will not automatically change the scale of the other substrates.
- It may be helpful to note that gift wrap designs are best displayed at a smaller scale so we suggest manually adjusting the size (and repeat if necessary) of your design on the gift wrap preview.
Once you’re happy with the layout of your gift wrap design, be sure to click “Save this Layout” to save your changes!
The Spoonflower help desk gets frequent emails from folks who want to try their hand at creating seamlessly repeating designs without spending a small fortune on Photoshop or Illustrator right off the bat. Fortunately, there are ways of getting around that $600-$700 price tag! Today Sally Harmon, aka Boris Thumbkin, offers a tutorial on how to use Picmonkey to create a seamlessly repeating design below. Read on for the details, and never be afraid of seamless repeats again!
Years ago,whenever I was on the phone or watching TV, I would doodle with a fine-line Sharpie in an 18" x 24" sketchbook.
These were drawn without plan or preliminary sketch so while there are parts that don't work for me, there are sections that I think could serve well as fabric. The challenge will be to transform these busy line drawings into satisfactory repeating designs.
Step 1: Because these 18 X 24-inch doodles are way too big for my scanner, I photograph them to turn them into digital files. Then I do as much editing of the photos as possible in iPhoto (the basic photo management program that ships with Macs). I crop, straighten, de-saturate, and increase the exposure and definition.
Then I upload this image file to Spoonflower.
Step 2: After uploading, I try out the mirror repeat option on Spoonflower because it's the easiest way to make a design repeat seamlessly. Mirror repeat reflects an image along both the x- and y-axes and for certain small sections of my drawings, I like the way mirror repeat looks.
But for many sections it's not the best solution. Part of the appeal of these drawings is their interocking density which is lost here.
I also don't like the reversed text.
I will need the basic, half-brick, or half-drop option. However, because my drawings go all the way to the edge of the paper, there will be discontinuities where the design sides come together.
Luckily, there's a way to create a seamless basic repeat using PicMonkey's "DIY Sticker" feature. It's a bit fiddly and involves a fair amount of to-ing and fro-ing, but it works!
Step 3: First, I'll need to create my stickers in Picmonkey. I'll be making two kinds of overlays–"bridging motifs" and "precise quadrants." Let's talk about bridging motifs first. Bridging motifs are small elements within my design that may prove useful to bridge gaps between design edges. In this example below, I'm going to select a flower as a bridging motif.
I go to "Edit with PicMonkey" and I crop around a flower I want to use.
Now let's talk about "precise quadrants." To demonstrate these, I've put colored dots on each quadrant of the design below. I start like this:
I take the full design from Spoonflower to PicMonkey. I go to "Basic Edits," then "Resize" until the numbers in each box are even. Then I jot down these dimensions and save the image to Spoonflower. This particular image measures 3648 x 2736 pixels.
I then return to PicMonkey–yes,again!–and I crop the red quadrant. Sometimes I find I need to check the "Scale Photo" box to get the numbers precise. My cropped height is exactly half of my original image's height; my cropped width is exactly half of my original image's width. In this case, that's 1824 x 1368 pixels.
I repeat these steps with the remaining three quadrants. On my desktop I now have all four quadrants (red, yellow, blue, and green) plus the bridging motif (a flower).
Step 4: To lay it all out, I return to Spoonflower. I click on "Custom fabric" from the "Create" tab. Under "Other Design Options" I click "Fat Quarter." [Please note that you must be logged in to Spoonflower to see the "other design options" feature.]
I go to "Overlays," then "Make Your Own."
I upload all four quadrants from my desktop and I re-arrange them like so:
In this way I've brought the image motifs from the outside edges to the inside edges, essentially turning the image inside-out.
I do not completely fill the blank fat quarter. I keep the quadrants congruent and leave a narrow white cross between them (like the mullion and transverse elements of a window).
Here, before my final crop, I've used a light pink geometric rectangular sticker stretched between the edges to check my precision:
Oops! The red arrows show where I'm ever so slightly off. I adjust the red quadrant so that the tops of the indicated circle will line up better.
When I'm satisfied, I merge all the elements.
Step 5: Now I want to bridge the gap created by the blank cross. There are several ways I can do this.
I can draw lines (using "draw") between different elements:
I can also erase elements that don't want to connect (again using "Draw"):
Another option is to add geometric stickers:
Or I can use my own "bridging motif" stickers:
When I'm done bridging those blank cross areas, I save my design to Spoonflower.
Step 6: I check my image in different views to be sure that it repeats seamlessly. If I want to add some color, I run my design through the Spoonflower color changer. Then I return the design to PicMonkey for any final editing.
Prior to proofing, I like to try reducing the size of my image by increasing its DPI sufficiently so that I can check the repeat in the Spoonflower preview window.
A Few Notes About Repeats:
What I'm doing here is very similar to the offset filter plug-in available on Photoshop and elsewhere. Dr. Andy Mathis explains how to create a seamless repeat in Photoshop using the offset filter on YouTube.
My technique is also very similar to the technique Julia Rothman explains in a Design*Sponge tutorial on how to create a seamless repeat the old-fashioned way, using paper, scissors, and tape.
Making This Simpler:
Lest you feel intimdated by all the steps I've outlined above, please note that only rarely is it neccessary to go through the whole process above.
If my image "falls off the edge" in only a few places and if these are straight lines, I can simply match the lines up using geometric stickers.
Sometimes I just need a little more space to "tie up loose ends." In this case, I just turn my whole image into a sticker, float it on a fat quarter, merge, and draw in anything missing.
Sometimes I can suggest continuity by simply matching color from edge to edge.
Sometimes only one axis is problematic. If that's the case, I work with halves rather than quadrants.
Certain motifs–like stairs, ladders, roofs, stems, and signs–are particularly helpful when connecting edges.
Making This Trickier:
Now for some extra-credit questions!
What if I wanted my design to be in half-drop or half-brick repeat?
What if my axes were off-center (i.e. my quadrants were not congruent)?
What if my axes were angled? Or curved?
What if I were to use mirror-image along one axis and basic, half-drop, or half-brick along the other?
What if i laid one kind of repeat over another?
Most of us study repeats only as a means to an end. However, if you're interested in learning more about the mathematics involved you might want to check out the seventeen wallpaper groups and orbifold notation or a great book called Symmetry, Shape, and Space: an Introduction to Mathermatics Through Geometry, particularly chapter 5.
Hope you all found this a useful technique for designing seamless repeats!
This week, Spoonflower designer and paper collage artist, Sally Harmon (aka, Boris_Thumbkin), shares a tutorial on how to create a collection of fabric designs out of a single large paper collage. We’re in awe of Sally’s low-tech, approachable design technique which uses only scissors, paper, a camera, and the editing tools available right here on the Spoonflower site. Read on for the full tutorial below!
The process I show here is just one of many ways that you can create a whole collection of fabric designs from a cut paper collage. It’s a method that works for me because it’s low-tech, low overhead, low pressure, and no-stick since there’s no glue involved. WIth a little luck, you can create an entire collection of fabric designs sharing colors, shapes, and motifs!
1. Collect Paper. For all but the largest and most intricate shapes I like to use paint chips from a hardware or home improvement store. They’re free, they’re colorful, and they lay relatively flat.
2. Cut the Paper Into Shapes. First, trim any writing off the paint chips. Then just start cutting out shapes! I try to do a mix of shapes: geometric and organic, large and small, vertically- and horizontally-oriented, etc. Simple shapes can be cut freehand or, if you want some fancier shapes, try drawing them on the back of the paint chips first and then cutting them out.
Shapes with parts inaccessible to scissors can be cut out using an X-Acto knife fitted with a #15 blade and a cutting mat or board. Change the blade frequently and don’t rush or worry too much. Most mistakes can be repaired later and some turn out not to have been mistakes after all!
3. Lay Out The Cut Shapes to Create a Collage. I lay my shapes out onto sheets of 20″x30″ foamcore. These are good because they’re stiff enough to carry around in case I need to move my collage while working on it. Some of the black ones reverse to white so you get two background colors in one piece. And, if I lay out a composition that I end up really liking, I can rubber-cement the pieces down. The 20 x 30 inch size is easily photographed and if I do decide to keep it permanently, it’s also easily framed.
Here’s my first pass. Although I’m underwhelmed by the composition as a whole, I think parts of it will probably work well as fabric designs.
This week Anda Corrie from Etsy shares a tutorial for making a kid's art smock. She made one using fabric created from her daughter's own drawings! For more on how to turn drawings into fabric designs, check out Anda's previous Photoshop tutorial.
This tutorial will show you how to create a very basic pattern and then sew a simple art smock for your child. In this example I’ve first created Spoonflower fabric based off my daughter’s artwork — the techniques I describe in this tutorial might be helpful if you want to do something similar.
- a few sheets of 8.5 x 11” paper
- tape, scissors, pencil, & ruler
- sewing machine, matching (or contrasting) thread
- 3 yards of ¼” double-fold bias tape
- 1 yard cotton quilting-weight fabric, or ½ yard of fabric for main and a 16”x6” scrap of fabric for pocket (for a toddler or preschool-aged child)
How-To: Tape two pieces of paper together along their long edge. If your child is older than 4 you may need to tape more pieces together — or just rustle up some bigger paper.
Trace around neckline, shoulder, side, and bottom. Lift up the sleeve a bit and carefully trace along sleeve seam. Now add ½” seam allowance at shoulder and an extra inch to the side, as shown in the photo.
*French seams in a nutshell: with fabric wrong side together, sew a straight stitch using a ¼” seam. Trim fabric as close as you can to where you’ve sewn. Press down seam and turn smock inside out so right sides are together. Now sew a ⅜” seam and press. The seam is now hidden and looks very smart, I think! This technique is more often used for delicate fabrics like silk… but to me they make everything look better.
Open up smock, measure to center of front neckline and cut a 4” slit.
About Our Guest Blogger
Anda Corrie is an American illustrator, Etsy designer, and émigré living in Berlin, Germany with her small family. In her spare time she obsesses over vintage children’s books, makes homemade schnapps, sews tiny dresses that her 4-year-old stubbornly refuses to wear, and draws. Visit her Spoonflower shop for some lovely hand drawn fabric designs and her Etsy shop, Boosterseat.
CHAPEL HILL, NORTH CAROLINA: I first met Sally Harmon back in the mid 1990's when we both worked in the kitchen of a great local restaurant called Crook's Corner. Sally worked in the salads and cold appetizer station and I did some baking and occasional cooking on the line. Sally didn't gossip and chat nearly as much as the rest of us so it seemed to me to come out of nowhere when I saw a show of her large-scale cut paper collages go up on the walls of the restaurant one week. Sally's pieces were gorgeous, complicated, Dr. Seussian collages depicting what looked like fantastical machines and structures. I loved every single one of her pieces and so, it seemed, did everyone else who saw them. They were snapped up in a hurry, little round sticky dots indicating their sold status showing up under each frame within a week or two.
Fast forward about 15 years. Spoonflower had been launched two years previously and I was browsing around on the site one day, checking out all the new designs that had been recently uploaded. Several designs by someone styling themselves Boris Thumbkin caught my eye. "These look like cut up paper," I thought. "Cool!" Poking around a bit more I realized I knew this designer–it was Sally Harmon!
Fast forward a bit more and Sally and I have seen each other at a couple parties given by a mutual friend, our little girls have enjoyed playing together, and I've realized just how much Sally is doing on Spoonflower now. (A lot!) She talked with me over lunch recently about how she turns her physical paper collages into fabric designs, useful insight during a week when the fabric-of-the-week contest theme is "Paper Collage Cakes." Sally's approach is surprisingly low-tech and beginner friendly, and I hope you enjoy hearing about her technique as much as I did!
I remember the first time I saw a show of your cut paper pieces at Crook's Corner in 1996 or so, and then I was so pleased to see your designs on Spoonflower a couple of years ago. What have you been doing in the interim in terms of your creative endeavors?
I like cutting paper and I’ve just done a lot of different paper cutting projects. I try to be kind of low overhead about it and not invest lots of money in fancy paper. I get a bunch of paper samples from graphic designer friends I know, and I also use manufacturer’s paint chips that I get from hardware stores. Plus I just use black cardstock for doing traditional silhouettes.
You do silhouettes?
I've tried but those sorts of things end up being spooky when I do them. People end up looking like monsters!
Did you study art or design at all? Did you go to UNC?
I did go to UNC but I actually majored in French. I took a couple of art classes.
I guess your dad [professor and poet, William Harmon] was probably teaching when you were in school there, huh?
Yeah, I stayed away from the English department. I got my literature requirements done and that was it.
Do you currently do new paper cutting all the time?
I have a bunch of things I've done in the past and photographed and gradually I’m kind of plowing through all those and finding out what can be turned into fabric designs. Unfortunately, many of them were taken with like a 1-megapixel camera and they’re teeny tiny little images. I also photograph more recent projects as I go.
How do you design your collages to be turned into fabric designs?
When I'm working on new designs, usually I’ll just lay shapes out the way I think they’re going to work well, take pictures, and then take some close up pictures just in case. And then if I can’t make it work as a whole, I’ll take individual components and rearrange them. But then the other thing I like doing is just throwing things all down on one piece of paper and photographing that jumble. I might move things around a tiny bit after that but not much. Like in the recipe contest awhile back, my actual submission wasn’t very good. It had individual squares of different ingredients but at the end, I sort of threw them all down and photographed that, and those designs actually ended up being stronger than my contest submission.
So how do you decide what collage photos can be used as fabric designs? Do you just upload them and see if they repeat nicely?
To a certain extent, now I can look at something and tell, “That’s going to look stupid.” But at first it was just throwing things up there. I’ve deleted a lot! [Laughing.] I’ve deleted a lot of stuff that was never made public on Spoonflower.
You prefer to photograph your collages rather than scanning them?
I don’t like to use the scanner although I’ve tried. That's partly because our scanner is just a really old scanner that tends to fuzz out on the corners, which means that I end up cropping half of the image and messing up whatever repeat I had planned out. And also, I like a lot of times to either not glue the paper down or only glue it down lightly so that it casts a little bit of a shadow. If you smush it into a scanner, you lose that.
So you don't want your designs to look too flat? That’s interesting.
Yes, and I sometimes even light from one angle to cast shadows (with mixed effect).
Then do you clean up the photos at all?
Oh yeah! Usually, because I don’t have a perfect lighting setup, I run things through the Spoonflower color changer. I try to only go through once on that because it degrades things a little. I usually just do that to make the background all one color. I don’t want to lose the shadows and I want, say, all my oranges to stay orange, but I’ll just try to flatten out the background. Then I’ll take it through Picmonkey and if anything looks terrible, I’ll just put a rectangular sticker over it and move on. [Laughs.] I don’t do a lot of editing. I try to do as much editing on the paper before photographing and as little as I can after uploading.
There are things that Picnik did that Picmonkey does not do [on the Spoonflower site]. Picnik had what they called a doodle feature which wasn’t very good for drawing for me but which was good for cleaning things up. If I put a rectangular sticker over something, I could doodle along the edge to clean it up and then remove the rectangular sticker and get rid of all the smidge. But Picmonkey does have a few features that Picnik didn't have. Namely, you can make your own stickers. It’s kind of their version of the collage, or what Picnik called collage anyway. You can take whatever images you have hanging out on your desktop and stick them onto whatever else you’ve got.
So what made you make the leap to putting designs on fabric versus just keeping them on paper?
Well, I went to Joann's a few times to get fabrics for curtains, and I ended up getting some really nice, cheap fabric with pine cones on it. It took a lot of looking to find even that and I kind of thought it would be nice to find something, I don’t know, wackier and more different. It’s hard to beat the price of Joann’s but how many calico flower prints do you need? And I do make an effort myself to try to design things that aren’t super available. [Here are some of Sally's collections of designs for her living room, bedroom, and her little girls' room. Not a pine cone in sight!]
What happens to your physical collages once you’ve turned them into scanned designs?
Different things. If I really like it and I think it has a chance I’ll glue it down and save it. I’d say that only happens 10% of the time. Most of the time, once a collage is photographed it’s done.
What do you do with them all?
Give ‘em to the kids! Then they glue them down and you know, draw on them.
Do you and your kids do creative things together?
My daughter Carmen likes to go to the hardware store to get paint chips and then cut them and glue them down.
Awww, does she?
Does she have colors she really likes yet?
She used to like pink but now pink is so last year.
I wouldn’t mind if my girls got sick of pink.
Well, she tells me this after we’d painted her room pink.
Oh, that's a drag. What did you do when you were a kid? Did you grow up in a creative household where people were doing craft projects all the time?
Well, I took a lot of music classes when I was a kid. And I drew and stuff like that.
When did you start doing paper-cutting then? I mean, I didn’t know you very well back then but when I saw your first show it seemed like it came out of nowhere and I was like, “Wow, I had no idea Sally was so talented!”
I'd actually gone to hardware stores a lot and looked at all the colors and thought, “I want to do something with those!” Then one day I started collecting them and after I had folders and folders of them I thought, “Ok, now I’m going to actually need to do something with those!”
That’s funny. I've that reaction to the walls of colors but never actually did anything with them like you have. So you cut all your shapes out of paint chips?
For the most part.
How long do the collages last if you keep them?
Well, that’s the funny thing. For a long time, I assumed that the paint chips were going to be the first thing to go, to perish. And so I would get acid-free glue and acid-free board and put all those cut paint chip shapes down and glue them and now…I don’t know, 15 years later, the paint chips seem to be holding up fine. It’s the glue and the board that are not doing so well sometimes. The glue is actually what goes first. The paint chips, I mean, they're lithography ink printed on card stock.
Do you get samples of your designs printed and then do your kids like them?
Well, Carmen has done a few designs herself but she's more process oriented at her age than results oriented. But I did let her enter one of the contests once and she was really into that. She wanted to check on her contest entry all the time. She’s competitive. She got more votes than me for that particular contest and hasn’t let me forget it!
Funny. So one more thing. Where did the name "Boris Thumbkin" come from?
Well, my name, Sally Harmon, is taken. (She's a new-age pianist.) Same with my married name, Sally Palao. (She's my stepmother-in-law, the business manager of a New York theater.) So I needed to come up with something completely different. I took Russian in college and do some Russian-influenced work (like Yellow Samovars and Samovars on Black). Thus,"Boris." I also have half-realized plans to do a "Porridge Cupboard" of nursery rhyme images, ergo "Thumbkin."
This week guest author Emma Jeffery from the blog Hello Beautiful shows us how she used satellite images of her neighborhood to make some very cool throw cushions.
Emma: I must be getting sentimental in my (not so) old age as I’m increasingly drawn to surrounding myself with meaningful and thoughtful items. Sure, I’m inspired by designs and trends I see in stores online and locally, but I’m often searching for ways to translate these ideas into something more than a passing fad. I love it when items or objects in my home have a story to tell or a memory to share. They seem to give a depth and richness to my environment that store-bought items cannot.
Ask my husband, and he’ll probably share with you his opinion that we have more than enough throw pillows in our house, but anyone who enjoys fashion, design and sewing as much as I do knows that cushions are a great and easy way to change the look and feel of a room.
Have you noticed the prolific array of map designs at the moment on all kinds of home decor items, stationery, wall coverings and clothing? I’ve been thinking about how nice it would be to incorporate this design element into a fabric that actually portrayed a familiar and special part of the world — a favorite vacation spot, a childhood home, a mountain range once conquered…
I went to Google Maps and typed in the zipcode of the house that my husband and I own, where we were married and into which my eldest child was born. I actually ended up switching to the satellite view, but you could of course use the map view instead.
Next I zoomed in to get a view of our house and its surrounding area. I don’t recommend zooming in too closely as the image will become pixilated when you enlarge it. I did maximize the image on the screen by ‘hiding’ the large directions/places sidebar on the left and turned off all of the map annotation so only the satellite view remained.
I then took a screen capture of this image, saved it to my computer and opened it in Photoshop (you can also use Picmonkey), where I cropped it and brightened the colors to really make that lovely patchwork of fields pop.
Once I was happy with the image, I then needed to make it the right size – big enough to make three 16” x 16” cushions. To do this in Photoshop, just go to “Image” > “Image Size” then type in the dimensions you want. If you don’t have Photoshop, you can also open the saved image in MS Paint where you can easily increase or adjust the size of an image.
I had this printed onto Spoonflower’s linen-cotton canvas (15% off until Monday, Feb 6, 2017) which has a printable area of 54” wide. I wanted each of my cushions to be unique and to have a different part of the satellite image printed on them so that no two were alike, and I kept that in mind when resizing my image. Spoonflower prints a good quality image at 150 dpi, so to resize you need to do the following math:
Desired fabric width (in inches) x 150 = ___
Desired fabric length (in inches) x 150 = ___
In my case, I wanted the printed fabric image to measure 17” x 51”, to give me a enough fabric to sew the cushions with a ½” seam allowance.
17 x 150 = 2550 pixels
51 x 150 = 7650 pixels
I had my image centered and printed onto 2 yards so that I could use the excess white, unprinted fabric around the edge of the image, for the back of my cushions. Adjust the sizes according to your own preference and projects.
I then sewed them up in one afternoon, and suddenly my couch became not only a comfortable place to relax, but also a great talking point with our children and visitors.
Of course, these cushions will still get thrown around the room and end up on the floor as the kids makes camps and play games (that’s why we have so many cushions!), but it’s so nice to know that we have a few little reminders of a special place that is very dear to our hearts.
About Our Guest Blogger
I’m an obsessive sewer, often leaping into projects with more enthusiasm than talent, more bravado than skill and more good luck than anything else. This technique has worked well for me so far and more often than not, I make things I love, even if they’re not absolutely perfect. And though I’m no expert, I have a passion for fabric, color and design. I know what I like and what I like makes me smile.