I’ve been designing fabric prints since 2015. To date I have 28 designs available in my Spoonflower shop. When I approve the swatch of this new “Pineapple Party” print it will be 29!
I first started designing patterns in 2015 with my “pattern a month project,” although I didn’t upload them all to my shop. In 2016 without the deadline of “one a month,” I designed them sporadically. I went back to my “one a month” project in 2017 to motivate myself and uploaded 12 new designs, plus 4 variations of other designs.
Recently I was flipping through my old sketchbooks and found watercolor pineapples, already arranged like a pattern. I grabbed my favorite black gel pen, added some black lines, scanned it, and played with the arrangement in Photoshop to create my repeat. I uploaded the repeat file to Spoonflower and am excitedly waiting for a swatch!
Read this post to learn how to turn art into fabric print patterns.
“Turn Your Artwork Into A Fabric Print Pattern” on doodlewash.com.
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Have you visited my online shop? Prints of my seascapes are available on watercolor paper or canvas, in many sizes including the new “mini” canvas 11″ x 14″ at shop.eileenmckenna.com. Take a peek!
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The other day a swatch of my Christmas Elves pattern arrived. It’s so exciting to see my designs off the sketchbook page, off the computer screen, and printed. And even more exciting…last week someone ordered my gardening fabric. I wish I could see what they make with it! I’m so proud of my growing collection.
See all my designs here.
As I sat down at the computer to design a pattern around my elf sketches, I quickly realized the sketches were just the tip of the iceberg. What kind of background did I want? A snowy scene? Or maybe a plaid background? When working with pens, paper, watercolor – basically any tools not on the computer – we have choices and options but once we move forward with a decision, things can only be changed so much. On the computer anything can be undone, changed, resized, rotated, colors altered, layers overlayed, etc. It’s a bit overwhelming! And I work as a graphic designer for a living. It must be the blending of the two – the hand drawn and the computer – that has my head swimming!
I started with the elves from my sketchbook and added this snowy night background behind them. It was interesting, but the dark sky didn’t seem right for Christmas gift wrap. I tried the plaid background, but I didn’t like the computer drawn plaid behind the watercolor. But, I ordered a fabric swatch of the snowy night out of curiosity.
Another day I went back to the sketchbook and drew Christmas elements, and eventually added watercolor to them. I also painted stripes in red and green. Back at the computer (on another day), I scanned and played around with the different elements. I liked using the watercolor stripes much better than the computer plaid. Although it was a challenge to get the stripes to look right when I repeated the pattern. I’ve order a swatch of this pattern, so I’ll keep you posted!
Here’s the Christmas Watercolor Stripes design without the repeat:
I’m interested in your thoughts! Out of the 3 designs, which do you like the best?
- Christmas Watercolor Stripes
- Snowy night at the North Pole
- Elves on plaid
Leave me a comment and let me know. Thanks!! 🙂
If you’d like to see my other gift wrap and fabric designs, please click here.
If I knew what I was getting into, maybe I wouldn’t have been so enthusiastic about pursuing pattern design. Ha ha. I say this because I am realizing all the aspects that go into designing for fabric, gift wrap, and beyond. My head was spinning a bit this weekend, as all I took it all in.
Things I need to remember:
- Select colors from a color guide, don’t rely on the computer screen. As a graphic designer, I should know this, but I get caught up in the screen colors and forget. Then my swatch arrives and I’m surprised by the colors! And I have a fabric swatch of Spoonflower’s color guide! Now, I’m keeping it next to my computer.
- What is the repeat? I get caught up in the illustrations, and forget that the way they work together is almost more important than what they are. I’m reading an interesting book called Patternalia, An Unconventional History of Polka Dots, Stripes, Plaid, Camouflage, & Other Graphic Patterns. It’s a quirky book. I’ve already started to look at patterns differently. In the book, they mention pattern effects like “figure-ground reversal – This is where the figure and background are equally sized and therefore easily confused with each other.”
- Observe other patterns. I find observing helpful when I’m trying to learn something new. Looking through patterns, determining if I think they are “successful,” and why, is really helping me. Again, it is all about how the elements work together and repeat.
- Is simpler better? I definitely overcomplicate things. I need to remember that simple is often better. Some of the successful Spoonflower patterns I looked through, had the simplest elements.
I decided to give the latest Spoonflower contest a try: The Year of the Monkey. I started by doodling in my sketchbook. At first, my monkeys were downright scary – too realistic, too scary. After I simplified them, they got cuter. When I had a few I liked, I started to sketch out how they could work together. I was getting very detailed and complicated, with many elements. When I sat at the computer, and scanned in my favorite illustrations, I made the decision to simplify. The deadline is today after all! 😉
Planning the pattern:
At the end of last year, I had just started ordering my pattern designs in wrapping paper and fabric. It’s totally different, to not only see the pattern printed, but then work with the gift wrap and fabric. As I wrapped presents in my designs and other designs, I became aware of things that I never noticed before. Most importantly that a lot of the designs have some elements that are upside down and some right side up. This way, there is no correct side.
Over the summer, when I ordered fabric in my sandcastles design, I experimented with making it into a pillow. I realized how important the size of the repeat is. If it is too big, and you try to make a small pillow (or wrap a small present), then most of the design gets cut off.
These are things you don’t notice when you are creating on the computer. As I continue to pursue surface design this year, my goal is to not only design patterns, but have them printed as gift wrap or fabric, and (most importantly) create something with them – to be the end user. I think it’s the best way for me to learn how to make successful designs.
Earlier this week I tweaked last year’s Valentine’s Day design and ordered a swatch (see above). Specifically, I changed how the pattern repeated. I’m am excitedly waiting it’s arrival! I am also working on a second Valentine’s Day themed pattern, that has more of a watercolor feel.
To see the 12 patterns I designed in 2016, click here.
I’m really proud, and happy, that I followed through on my goal to start creating surface designs. I designed the first one in January, and decided to commit to “1 Surface Design a Month.” That goal, and the end of the month deadline, really pushed me to put in the work.
12 Surface Designs
January – Art Supplies
February – Valentine’s Day
March – Gardening
April – Dahlias
May – Sandcastles
June – Echinacea
July – Shells
August – Ice Cream Cones
October – Leaves
November – Nutcrackers
December – Toy Soldiers
I’m always asking you, “What’s your favorite?” And I would love to hear, but I’ll also tell you my favorites.
I really liked when I started using the technique of creating the ink lines and watercolor backgrounds separately and then merging them in Photoshop. I started this with the shell pattern. I think the watercolor really adds a depth that you can’t get with Photoshop brushes. I started this technique with the shells, and continued it with the leaves – which is my favorite design in this style.
My other technique is drawing the elements in my sketchbook and adding color in Photoshop. My favorite design, using this technique, is the Toy Soldiers. They are just so cute!
Will I be continuing with surface design in 2016? Absolutely! As you know, I’ve made the Nutcracker and Toy Soldier patterns available on Spoonflower, where you can have them printed as fabric or gift wrap. It is really interesting to see the designs printed and to think about how it will be used. It makes you think about the design, and what works and doesn’t. It’s a different perspective than just seeing it flat on the computer screen.
In the new year, I’ll be adding a few of the other “12 designs” onto Spoonflower. And I plan to continue designing one new one a month!
I would be so grateful if you took a minute to vote for my pattern “Sandcastles on Long Island.” Just click here: http://www.spoonflower.com/contest_voters_temp/new?contest_id=306
Uploading a pattern to Spoonflower is something I’ve wanted to do for years, since I first read about Spoonflower in Country Living. I used their Sandcastles contest as extra motivation to finally upload a pattern. I’ve ordered a yard of the fabric and can’t wait to show you when it arrives!
Thank you so much for the support you have given me all along, and for casting your vote for “Sandcastles on Long Island.” 🙂
Memorial Day, the unofficial start of Summer! As I figure out what my kids will do to keep busy this Summer, I realize I need a Summer project too! And it comes at a good time for me. I could use a jolt of motivation. As I look back on all the things I wanted to try in 2015, I’m proud to say I’ve tackled most of these items.
My list for 2015:
- Lettering. Did online workshop
- Online workshops. See lettering above.
- Painting on dark paper. Used with lino.
- Doodling. Have filled a whole sketchbook in the shortest time to date!
- Video. Have done short ones on Instagram. But, still on my list! Would like to play more with stop motion.
- Patterns. Have created one a month.
- Maps. Haven’t done much with this.
- Digital Brushes. Have been working digitally.
- Watercolor Parties. Have painted with friends.
Some were great to try, like lino, but another craft to learn – which takes time! Other items on my list, like patterns – I’m even more into, than when I started the year. I feel like this is progress. That I can try new things, eliminate some, and decide to pursue others further.
Last year my Summer project was drawing figures. Last Summer I created my first watercolor/ink piece – in the style that I feel like is me. Let’s see what this Summer brings!
I can’t wait for 2015! (my creative resolution.2) There are so many things I am excited to try! The above image is the Christmas present I bought myself (see item #1).
Things I want to try in 2015:
- Linocut. It seems like a lot of work but the results are awesome! I am inspired by Andrea Lauren who I follow on Instagram (@inkprintrepeat). Check out her nutcracker – amazing!
- Lettering (“modern calligraphy”). I’d like to continue practicing my lettering. I follow @illustrationbyj on Instagram. She recommended Tombow markers which are awesome!
- Online workshops. There is so many resources online and I’d like to take advantage of them. I’m thinking about this workshop on modern calligraphy.
- Painting on dark paper. I love this look and I want to try it – check out my pinterest board to see!
- Doodling, especially flowers and wreaths. I’m so inspired by @kristinnohe on Instagram. She fills her journals with beautiful doodles.
- Video! I love seeing the progression of a project, which is why I often show my steps. I’d love to show you this in video form.
- Patterns. I’ve wanted to try this for awhile. I am inspired by glizadesign.com.
- Maps. I’d love to create a whimsical map. I love Linzie Hunter’s style.
- Digital Brushes. I am a Graphic Designer and don’t often like to mix my art with my computer work, but maybe it’s time?! There is so much cool stuff you can do.
- Watercolor Parties. Friends, watercolor, a glass of wine – what could be more fun?!
What new thing are you excited to try this year?