I often get asked about creating fabric designs to have printed at Spoonflower, and I wanted to share how I created the fabric prints that I used to sew up some funky art print zipper pouches featuring images of my paintings. (Making actual design repeats is a bit more complicated so we can chat about that later!). You may use different methods of working or different ways of setting things up, whatever works for the way you work and what you want as an end result is perfect!
I also want to note that this is not an endorsed post, nor am I an employee of Spoonflower, so I can’t answer specific questions regarding pricing, timing, order info or tracking, problems, etc.. This is a post about how I work in general, and to help share and explain my own process and experience.
First, I created the artwork.
You can do this any way you want, with paint and a brush, mixed media, digitally, whatever your medium, make some art! This might take some time depending on what you want to do with it. I had some pieces on hand that I had created over a few months.
I had a few pieces I had created for The Happy Friday Project, some personal pieces, and some experiments. Some were larger, some smaller, they are all a range of different sizes and shapes.
For the larger pieces, I took photos of them, then brought the photos in to Photoshop, cleaned them up, brightened them or bumped up their colour saturation, levels, and curves, if needed, and saved them as jpg files at 300 DPI (Dots Per Inch, 300 is standard print resolution) (always save your original images at the highest quality/largest size possible.).
For the smaller pieces, I simply scanned them directly with my regular old scanner at 300 DPI (as long as they were small enough to fit on the scanner bed, otherwise I took photos of them too) and cleaned them up in Photoshop also.
In the end I had a folder full of jpg images to use to print.
The next step was to go to Spoonflower.com and choose what kind of fabric I wanted to use for my pouches. I wanted a bit heavier weight for them so I chose their Linen Cotton Canvas Ultra– which btw prints up super bright and clear, much, much better than their previous Linen Cotton Canvas! Massive improvement!
I decided to set up a full one yard layout, to maximize the use and cost of the fabric, and also to get all of the images I wanted to use onto the fabric.
Going with how they sell their fabrics, I looked up the dimensions for the one yard measurements and printable area width-wise, which is conveniently listed with the types of fabrics they offer. Sweet!
Note: If you’re not familiar with Spoonflower, you may not realize but Spoonflower fabric is definitely more expensive than going to a store and buying ready-made yardage, of course, since it is all custom and printed on demand. I like to squeeze as much as I can onto a layout to maximize the space and expense.
I personally think Spoonflower is great too because they don’t have order minimums. A lot of other POD fabric services do have minimum quantity orders that are often quite high, so that’s something to consider.
Also, being outside of the U.S. and our Canadian dollar exchange makes it a bit more expensive again, so it’s something to factor in to total cost as well.
Next I went into Illustrator and set up an artboard to the one yard dimensions I’d noted, this case is 54” wide by one yard- 36”- high.
Then I started bringing in my images, and placing them into the layout, leaving about 1” all around each one to have a bit of room for cutting, and also to leave a bit of room for seam allowances outside of the painting images. I sized the images themselves based on how big I wanted the pouches to be at finished size.
I also had an idea to make some pouches with quotes on them that I would paint around, directly onto the fabric, so I created a few of those as well, plus filled up the leftover width of the print area with some “patch” designs to use later.
I ended up not using the paintable ones, since it would make the final cost way too high for what they are, so I’m saving those to cut up and use later in things like tote bags or mug rugs, or…? Next time I’ll just run a full yard of painting images.
Once I had my layout ready, I saved it out as a 150DPI jpg. Spoonflower print files (and pretty much most digital print files due to digital printing capabilities and quality) only need to be 150DPI at final size, which is great because it keeps the final file size smaller, and it speeds things up while uploading your file(s) to their site. That said however, making a one yard layout is a bit challenging, as it makes the file huge just by the overall image size in inches. So, it made my file too big to upload! I messed with the resolution a tiny bit in Photoshop, and dropped it down to 100DPI to get the file size low enough to upload, and away we go!
Normally I wouldn’t recommend changing resolution for print, as it makes the images blurry or pixellated, but in this case, printing digitally onto a coarser weave fabric, dropping the print resolution a tiny bit didn’t affect the print quality really at all.
I uploaded the artwork file I created, and ordered the fabric, and one month later it arrived!
I got busy sewing and made up all of the pouches I had printed, just in time for the art market this past weekend. They were a big hit and got lots of happy compliments and comments.
Just as a note about my own experience with the Spoonflower shipping times to me in Canada. It usually takes a very long time on their standard shipping speed/cost. It’s the cheapest method but count on waiting one month, if not longer, from start to finish. Which is a bit crazy seeing as we’re on the same continent, but it seems to be the case. Every order to date has been one month pretty much to the day. So you need to plan well in advance if you have a special project with a date you want to have it for!
Bumping up service to a rush, it’s a bit faster, and your order arrives by FedEx, but more often times than not, I’ve been dinged at the door for an additional “brokerage” (cough money grab cough cough) fee, usually around $30. Ouch!
If you live close to a US border, I have heard that if you send your package to a package broker in the US, it only takes about one week start to finish (!), and you just have to go down and pick it up and do all the bringing it back across border stuff yourself. I will be doing this next time I order something, most definitely!
And that’s how I created my art print fabric!