Art by Jane Walker.
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Design Creation Demonstration
Designing for printing on fabric
For Color Chart Creation

scroll down to #11

This demo will follow Jane's first-person account of how she works out a means of preparing her designs to be printed on fabric by a print-on-demand fabric printing service.

Preface:  I first sent a sample design to two POD fabric services, Fabric on Demand and Spoonflower.

Fabric on Demand produced a close, though dark, facsimilie of the design, but the cotton material was stiff and had a plastic feel.  When I washed 1/2 of the swatch, fading was clearly noticable and the material remained stiff and plastic.

Spoonflower produced a sample in which most of the reds had turned to one single shade of orange, resulting in substantial loss of detail in the design.  The cotton material however, was soft and fine and the colors vibrant with no fading in the wash.

Spoonflower is my choice because their methods result in the more useful product.  However, this choice means I have to learn to design with their color limitations in mind.  It will require converting my images into areas of flat colors without gradients.  I have never tried this before, so it will be exciting!

Mama Made Designs has a great tutorial for working with Spoonflower colors--my demo may replicate some of her instructions, but I recommend reading hers.  I also ordered the color chart  (chart instructions) she recommends printed on fabric by Spoonflower.  I think this is an absolute necessity for serious color designing if I use Spoonfower as my printing service.  ADDENDUM:  See #11 below for update on color chart.

Tools and equipment:
Digital camera and/or scanner, computer, Photoshop.  I will not explain how to use Photoshop in this demonstration--that is subject in itself!  This entire project is done in Photoshop 7.

1.  I chose a photograph of yucca bloomoms against a brick wall.  I have a large collections of digital photos that I take myself.
Photo of yucca blooms

2.  I put the image into Photoshop.

3.  Next, I chose part of the image to duplicate and began working up a design using a kaleidoscopic replication technique.
choosing part of the image

4.  I played with this (for hours!) and took bits and pieces that I liked.   The dark stems, grout lines, and selected blooms created fascinating juxtapositions.  I duplicated, shifted, added, and subtracted until I liked the composition.
design idea...

This was one long day's work and it has already come a long way from the original photo.

5.  The next day I generated separate color layers for each shade to replicate the contours and modeling of the blossoms.  This took several hours and the resulting template has 10 shade layers for the blossoms.  The black and taupe lines are two more layers and the background is another.  The colors are not relevant, since they will be changed to conform with what Spoonflower can reproduce.
creating flat colors

I cannot choose a color scheme until I receive my color chart, but I can play with color and refine the design, which is what I am working on below.  Some areas in the design have been modified to balance shades and contrasts.  I will eventually incorporate these changes, and the final color scheme, into the base triangle (above) and generate a print-ready design.
playing with colors

6.  My color chart had not yet arrived when I did this, but I had received two swatches with better colors than the first sample I sent in.  I was able to use them to pick colors for a test swatch of my new design:
UPDATE:  printed test swatch has arrived and here it is:
test swatch for printing  printed on fabric
The swatch is as accurate as I can make it appear on my monitor.
Note: I combined the two darkest shades on the flowers.

7.   The color chart is here!  At left is a copy of the chart image file that I sent to Spoonflower, and at right is an approximation of the how the chart came out printed on fabric.  This will be invaluable in choosing colors.  My printed chart is about 18" x 18" and each color square has a code number under it that I can type into the color picker in Photoshop and apply to my designs.
color chart comparison

8.  I have modified and refined the design and created several color variations.  Here are two with red:
red variation

9.   Naming the design--I am using a sequential alphabetical name method to name my designs.  This is the 4th, so will be a name beginning with D.   The internet has many baby name websites, which simplifies this process.  I put the design up on my screen and read lists of names and their meanings until I find some that seem good.  This is, of course, entirely subjective!  I found six name options for this design and then sat here saying them out loud over and over while looking at the design and chose the one I was the most comfortable with.  My choice was Darcy.  I was probably influenced by Jane Austen and her character Fitzwilliam Darcy.

10.  Working with the color chart:
color swatches and color chart
I printed high quality color samples of the colors I chose for this design and picked out the colors on the fabric color chart that most nearly matched them.  Most colors were on the chart, except the darkest.  I will probably substitute black, though it will not be entirely satisfactory.

Next, I will replace the colors on the design templates on the computer with the colors on the chart by putting the color code numbers into the Photoshop color-picker.

~~~~  At this point I stopped work on this to create a new color chart  ~~~~~

11.  I found that I needed a better color chart for another of my designs, so I dropped everything and set about creating one.

I generated color swatch images containing a total of 2850 colors to be printed on 1.25 yards of fabric:

12.  When it was printed on fabric, I cut the little swatches apart ( I had help!), and roughly sorted them by color.  There were many colors that printed as a single color, including at least 75% of the blues.

When the sorting and arranging was done I had approx. 965 distinct colors arranged in a serpentine format with the neutral greys separate.  I now have a far greater range of colors to choose from than the commercial color chart provides.  Colors include the softest slate blues, deep purple-blacks, earthy browns, hot pinks, and nearly every other color and/or shade one might need.

13.  The image below shows the swatches arranged on a sheet.  I plan to pin them to a heavy backing material.

This chart is for my use only at this point.  The IDs on the swatches are a simple alpha-numeric code that I slapped on them for speed and ease, and that can only be used with my chart image jpgs to insert the color into any image software.  Creating a new chart image from the swatches I have selected and arranged and then adding the html color codes would take many more hours of  work.  I cannot afford to use the hours unless I can expect a potential financial benefit in the form of a venue for selling the chart.  Since the chart is only useful to Spoonflower customers, I need Spoonflower's permission to sell it as a "Spoonflower Color Chart".  Thus far, I have not received this permission, so I will move on to paying work that is waiting for my attention.

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