Making a fabric pattern for Spoonflower

A cropped image of some lines drawn over a screencap of someone's dress inset against a screencap of an individual Spoonflower design page. Hand written text over the image says "From Idea" then an arrow "To Pattern!"

After I did the Pattern January challenge on Instagram, I turned a lot of those patterns into fabric at Spoonflower. You can learn a little about it and download a PDF of my faves in this public Patreon post, or check out the fabrics that are available here. I really love pattern design and it was really gratifying to end up with physical items in the form of fabric swatches. After I got a second round of swatches, some folks were asking about the process of making a pattern for Spoonflower, and since it’s intimidating but super easy, let’s go over the process of creating a design and uploading it to Spoonflower.

Before anything, my personal recommendation for pattern design is Krita. It’s free, it handles a million kinds of files, and it’s got some great tools for tiled pattern design. Even if you have another preferred drawing program or process, bringing your file, or your elements, into Krita to help visualise how a design repeats is invaluable.

I am going to make a version of the print in Trudy’s dress from episode 14 of season one of Miami Vice, because of course I am. I wasn’t able to get a super clear shot of it, but enough to get an idea of the spacing and the pattern of the individual floral elements. I traced what I could see and sort of projected what the lines would do, to get a feel for the pattern.

Screencap of image drawing program showing white lines drawn over the pattern on a dress, extending and projecting the pattern beyond what can be seen

Since I don’t want to straight copy the pattern, I took what I learned from tracing and built my own floral elements. I just went with five because the wide spacing between them means I can repeat an individual flower with only slight tilt variations and the eye won’t be like “TOO REPEATY.”

White, gestural lines of flowers on a black background. They're similar to, but not the same, as the flowers in the Starting the Design image.

I was mostly into this pattern because I knew I could replicate that screentone feel thanks to one of Krita’s brushes. Little fiddling and, perfect.

Black, gestural lines of flowers, with a faux screentone pattern of wide blue lines beneath, slightly off-key from the lines and creating a loose impression of form.


Okay, now let’s see how it tiles. Krita has an option under “View” that is called “Wrap Around Mode” you can also just press “W” because Krita is awesome. It’s only basic tiling, but you can draw and move and work wrapping from edge to edge like a sphere and it’s basically wizard magic.

Screencap of Krita, showing Wrap Around Mode in play, creating a tiled version of the image.


That looks okay! Let’s save as a PNG (my personal preference, do your thing, but make sure you read Spoonflower’s posts on preparing an image and resolution) and navigate over to Spoonflower where you already have an account, possibly filled with patterns you keep almost getting but keep feeling anxious about.

Screencap of Spoonflower user page, with cursor hovered over "Upload" under Design on the header.


Okay, you got this. Go to Design on the top bar, then Upload. This seems basic but I lose my place super easily on this site for some reason. If you get turned around just to back to the main Spoonflower page and that dang bar should be right there. All this part is super straightforward, as is the upload page itself. Just make sure:

Screencap of Spoonflower upload page, showing file uploaded and ownership of image agreement checked.


Once your image is uploaded, you end up at the individual design page for that image. From here, you fiddle. You can see that for this first go I experimented with a half-drop repeat, instead of the basic tile that I’d previewed on Krita. Spoonflower has a great explanation of the repeat options here.

What fabric size you’re viewing your pattern at makes a difference as well. You’ll see that I’m looking at a whole dang yard. I know this is a large pattern so I want to see how the elements cover a whole yard. You can also look at (and order) an 8×8 inch swatch, or a fat quarter (which is 21×18 inches). I suggest cycling through the different fabric size options to get a good gauge on things before moving on.

Screencap of an individual Spoonflower design page, showing pattern a little more crowded than desired.After I fidddled a bit, I felt like this design was too crowded and not as spacious as the original design I was working from. So I went back into Krita and gave all the elements some breathing room. That’s more like it!

Screencap of Krita, showing the same floral pattern with more space beteween the elements.


Back on the design page, I chose “Upload Revision” from the menu on the left of this pattern’s design page. Some info on revisions from Spoonflower here.

Screencap of Spoonflower page reached after selecting "Upload Revision"

You just shove the right file up in there, tell the nice site “Yes, I realise this will change my design and remove any fiddling I did before,” and you’re good to go. If that looks about right it’s now time to fiddle in earnest. Here’s what my final file looks like in the design pane.

Screencap of individual Spoonflower design page, showing an 8 inch by 8 inch test swatch. Only part of the design can be seen.

Whoa, that is big. Getting a swatch would be hilarious, because I wouldn’t see the design at all. Wait, it’s also blurry?! The file is fine, so why? Spoonflower has a whole article on that too, and they reassure me,

Files which are more rectangular than square or which are set up to print very large will often preview in our low-res preview window looking blurry even when the original sources files are nice and clean. Please be assured that we always print from the file that you uploaded, not the low-res preview of your file. As long as your file looks crisp and clean before upload then, it should print well with us.

Cool. So, say I decided I didn’t want a super oversize pattern? Then I can click that little “Smaller” button under the bold Design Size and make it a more petite pattern. When I like the size it is, I click the “Save This Layout” button and that fiddling is locked in.

Screencap of individual Spoonflower design page, showing an 8 inch by 8 inch test swatch. The design has been reduced so far more elements are visible within the pane.


To answer a question I was asked on Instagram about pattern scaling, customers do not have control over design scale, that’s all on you, the designer. This means you control how your work is available (rad!) but if you want a pattern available in multiple scales, you have to upload or make different versions (boo!). That’s what I did for one of my Pattern January patterns. It’s available as both Brushy Chevrons and Big Brushy Chevrons, which is about 2x the scale of the first.

Here’s what they look like as swatches in person:

Image of 8 inch by 8 inch fabric swatch, with a metal ruler at the bottom and a US quarter on the fabric, for scale.

Image of 8 inch by 8 inch fabric swatch, with a metal ruler at the bottom and a US quarter on the fabric, for scale.

Getting an idea of the scale is pretty key. Early on in playing with Spoonflower (and I mean early on, I’ve been playing with it since 2008, holy moley) I def messed scale up and got things too big or small. Thank goodness for swatches.

Before you go and order your test swatches (which you have to do to make the pattern available for general sale), go and fill all that good good info out at the bottom of the individual design page.

Screencap of Spoonflower, showing the fields to enter a design's title, collection, description, keywords, colour swatches and thumbnail.


Yes, the colour swatches are weird and don’t always reflect the colours and, unlike every other field, you have to click “update” to lock them in. It is weird. Choose the thumbnail that conveys your pattern best, fill in all your deets, the tags area will give you options if the tag you entered isn’t acceptable for whatever reason. Spoonflower is a very helpful site.

Okay, so you’ve got your pattern, you’re all settled, lets get some swatches!!! As a designer, you can get a swatch for $5 USD. That can super add up if you’re looking to get swatches of several patterns (I think I had like, 18 swatches I needed for Pattern January?!). Don’t stress though, Spoonflower got you. You can make a collection of your swatches and get a sampler. You get one big ol’ swath of fabric with all the swatches on it nice and neat.

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I highly suggest you also get the Spoonflower Sample pack when you order your sampler. It’s a little box of clearly labelled and thoroughly described swatches of the fabrics, wall papers and wrapping paper available at Spoonflower. Seeing how colours print on something, and seeing how a fabric feels makes a huge difference. It even comes with a small card listing the hex colours of the printed dots on the substrates, so you can truly compare and contrast how something looks on your monitor to how it will print out.

Phone image of a hand holding the Kona Cotton swatch from Spoonflower. The swatches are small patches of fabric printed with a rainbow of circles and accompanied by a card showing the same colours and their hex colour numbers.


Spoonflower shipping is wildly cheap for the no-rush option ($3 for me!!). But my sampler did take one million years (like, over two weeks) to print and ship. Worth it, honestly. Once you have swatches in hand you can decide you’re good to go, or that you need to fiddle some more. Watch out though, the satisfaction of holding a design you made in your hand is truly addictive.

Spoonflower has a robust help section, but here are the articles I’ve found helpful, and that I’ve linked throughout this post.

Also published on Medium.

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