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Create your First Fabric Design

12 January 2017 07:56


The advent of digital printers which can print onto cotton has given everyone the opportunity to create their own fabric.  However, people with no previous design experience often find that it's not quite so simple as they thought!  If you're designing because you want to design, then go ahead and experiment.  However, if you're designing because you want a fabric in a particular colour or with a certain sort of design, which you can't find in the shops, then my first advice is to keep it simple.

Follow this tutorial (which means actually do it!), then you can branch out on your own.

Once you've mastered the basics, the most difficult part of designing (apart from coming up with the ideas!) is creating a repeat.  So, for the time being, don't attempt a seamless repeat.

For this tutorial, I'm going to use a daisy in a very simple repeat.  I'm using a photograph of a daisy from Gisela Gold Online.  Please note that using someone else's photo or artwork (including a lot of clipart) is OK for your own personal use, as in practising your design techniques.  However, using it in a design which you get printed may well be breaching copyright.  It's best, as far as possible, to use your own artwork or photographs.  However, that would add another complication today, so I'm borrowing a ready-made photo.

If you've already got Photoshop, or something similar, you can use that.  However, you don't need to spend any money to get started.  I find works well for simple designs, and it's shareware, so it's free.  I'm going to use for this tutorial.

If you'd like a free checklist showing the steps to take in creating your first design, click on the button below.



How to Create a Design

You create your design on a canvas in  To open a canvas, in the top left corner click on File, New.

This will open a dialogue box where you set the size of your canvas.  Select 150 pixels/inch.  This is the resolution at which our printer works best, so our website is set up accordingly.  If you set the resolution at 150 pixels (also known as dpi - dots per inch) then it will make uploading your design simpler.  You can change this setting to centimetres, so make sure it's on inches!


You also set the size of your canvas here.  It's already on inches, so I've made my canvas 2" square.  This will give you space to create one tile (repeat), which is all you need.  The web site will do the rest.


Now open your design element - in my case, a daisy.  Check the size, by clicking on Image, Resize.


In the dialogue box, make sure the resolution is 150dpi, and set the size to the size you want your image.  I'm making my daisy 1" wide and high.

Now copy your daisy and paste it onto your 2" square blank canvas.  Move it to the centre.  (Click on the Move button under tools - this is not quite as good as in some programs.)

Select a colour for your background, using the picker tool and colour wheel.  Then fill in the background.  In theory, you can do this using the Fill tool, but it depends how crisp the edges of your design are.  Sometimes, it also fills the design!  In that case, you'll have to use the paintbrush for the detail near your design.  If you do that first, you can use the fill tool to complete the outer edges of your background.

Flatten your design, save it and upload it to our web site.  You may well have been working on a PNG file, as these are good when you're creating a design.  However, we can't print them, so save your final file as a JPG or TIFF.


Your design will show as a straight repeat.  (The first option under Select your repeat type.)

Click on one of the other options to change the repeat:

This is a half drop

This is a half brick

The mirror and centre options aren't appropriate for this design.  With some designs, the repeat option can make a big difference to the look of the final design.

If you want to make your design smaller, click on the smaller button.  If you designed at 150 dpi, you won't be able to make it larger.
If you want to make the flowers closer together, crop some of the background before you upload your design,
If you want your design more spaced out, add extra background.
For a bit more detail on how to make these changes, see the blog post Basic Design Alterations.


Have fun designing!