A field guide to Fabric design


This year I want to learn more about designing fabric. With affordable print-your-own companies, having a one-of-a-kind fabric to match an one-of-a-kind outfit is a temptation to big to resist, right? I decided to start my research with a Field Guide to Fabric Design. It offers an diverse overview on the subject, discussions by experts and tutorials in one book. Industry recognised names like Amy butler and Bari J give their personal perspectives on the discussion topics.

Section One: Design and Colour.


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Fabric design fundamentalsIndependently if you are printing only 2 metres with Spoonflower, Woven Monkey or BHL or trying to create a portfolio for a possible job, the conventions and terminology are the same. You will need to make decisions about directionality and orientation; motif type; repeat type; spacing; colour and style. And that’s exactly what this chapter covers in jargon free style, with descriptions and colour photographs accompanying. You will find a few tips so you can develop your design style follow by experts discussions:Obstacle for creativity & trends: Set, follow or ignore. 


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Copyright is brushed upon with answers to the most asked questions and how you can protect your original work. Unfortunately it focus mainly in USA intellection property laws.

Step by Step design. How to start, tutorials on how to repeat your motif by hand and by computer. How you scan line art using photoshop and illustrator, including how to repeat seams in hand rendered scanned artwork. If you don’t have those programs you can still use open source ones like Gimp. This section close on how do you proof the design repeats. That’s the area that most print your own fabric websites /print-on-demand  interface lacks. Their preview space is often not sufficient to catch errors. One of the reasons I test my designs in different programs before uploading images for them to print.

Know your colour. How to develop colour palettes and schemes and how to work with digital colours. It includes tutorials for applying colour schemes in illustrator and photoshop. The designer discussion talks about reinforcing your brand with colour.


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Section two: Printing.


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Fabric basics. Commonly printed fabrics. Very helpful guide to understand what type of fabrics work best. Specially helpful to help for you to pick the right on demand printing company. Normally a printing company will designated a machine and regulate it specially to one type of fabric.

You will find two step by step hand printing tutorials: Block printing & Screen printing. I have personally tried: Screen print and Thermofax. I will be talking in depth about those experiences in another post.


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Digital printing. Field Guide to Fabric Design* covers pigment, dye and dye sublimation; printing and digital printing services; color in digital printing. I have printed a sample with Woven monkey and BHL. I haven’t washed them yet so I want to reserve judgement. Prior that I printed some fabric at UCA during a fabric design workshop. Here is the picture of printing in progress…


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The last chapter of the book close the subject nicely with an overview of the world of fabric design. Designing for fun and profit. Comprehensive book right? You will find a recourse list if you got inspired to have a go.

Final words: The book deliver what it says in the cover and it’s a good starting point. It gives a general overview. Once you get your head around the fundamentals you need to deepen your knowledge by practicing what you learned. Than take areas of interest and investigate more in depth information. The aesthetics of the book is modern and very well illustrated.

PicMonkey Collage

Book & digitally printed cotton fabric

Disclaimer. Book c/o of publisher. All opinions and experiences remains my own. * This is an amazon affiliate link.

  • I’ve been playing around with the idea of fabric design over the last few months and this sounds like a really informative book. I’ve added it to my wishlist hoping that I might receive it for mothers day. 🙂

  • Hey Rachel – I recommend this book (out soon!) by Melanie Bowles http://www.laurenceking.com/us/print-make-wear-creative-projects-for-digital-textile-design/ It is a really fun and practical guide to designing prints and also recommends specific sewing patterns that the prints would suit. I did the styling for the photo shoot so I’m not at all impartial but it is a seriously useful book! Have fun playing with textile design : ) xx

  • judy

    Rachel, sounds so fun..

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