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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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:
- Your design is within the specs
- It’s YOUR design
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
- How to Prepare Your File For Fabric Printing
- How big should my image be?
- What are the repeat options?
- Revising your design
- How do I know what my design will look like?
- How can I get swatches at a reduced price?
- Spoonflower Fabrics
Also published on Medium.