TAFA: The Textile and Fiber Art List

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Tutorial by Helen Klebesadel: Using SpoonFlower to Design Your own Fabrics

 Wallflower Lady Slippers, watercolor, 15 x 22
by  Helen Klebesadel

SpoonFlower Print on Demand Fabrics

As an artist I am best known for my large-scale highly detailed watercolor paintings with environmental and woman-centered themes.  For a long time I had thought that my Wall Flower series featuring flowers rendered from careful observation, could make a natural transition to fabric.  Encouraged by fiber artists I know I started researching how to bring this vision to reality.  Daunted by the process of figuring out how to put together a portfolio for fabrics I did what any contemporary artist would do…an internet search.  

Two years ago I stumbled on SpoonFlower.com, a print-on-demand company situated in Mebane, North Carolina that is in its Beta phase (test mode).  It has been giving artists the ability to design their own fabrics since 2008.   The company’s mission is to give people who make unique things with fabric greater power to express themselves and to make their work available to others. The company is eco-conscious, with fabrics printed using eco-friendly materials and methods, and has been slowly expanding the line of organic cotton fabrics it has available. Click here for sample packs available of the range of fabrics Spoonflower offers. 

The idea for the company was inspired by a casual comment of the founder's spouse when she mused about how wonderful it would be to print her own fabric.  An idea was born.

Spoonflower has now blossomed into an interactive community of 70,000 individuals participating in an online designers’ community and marketplace where users can create, share, and purchase a huge variety of unique fabric patterns and designs.   Designers can choose whether to make their designs public or not, and whether to make them available for sale once they have proofed designs they are happy with.  Purchasers can order swatches as small as 8x8 inches for $5.00 of any fabric in any design available for sale.

Designers have formed a creative community who follow each others work facilitated by the ability to make comments about each other’s designs on the site, and communicate through the Spoonflower Blog, Flickr Group, and Facebook page. Textile design veterans and amateurs alike can enter the Fabric of the Week contest, which is voted on by Spoonflower users. Winning designs are offered for sale as limited-edition fabrics at Spoonflower's Etsy shop.

DIY Designs on Spoonflower Tutorial:

1) Create an account on Spoonflower.com.  This takes less than 5 minutes.

Create a pattern you would like to print. Designers often start with a scan of a painting or drawing or they might compose the image in Photoshop. Illustrator, or another graphic design application they are comfortable with.  Spoonflower shares several free graphic design applications here.

A firm believer in only learning what I need to accomplish my next project, I personally find that Photoshop Elements does everything I need so far.  For other complete novices at digital design there are a series of very useful tutorial on designing and color calibration on the blog Mama Made

3) Your design will need be a digital image that should have a resolution of 150dpi (dots per inch). Meaning a 10" x 10" pattern, the width and height of your image should be 1500 pixel by 1500 pixel (150 dots times 10 inch = 1500 dots).

4) Your pattern should be designed in a way that allows seamless repeating (also called “tiling”). For a guide to creating seamless tiled pattern in Illustrator click here, and for the same in Photoshop go here.  (I will share how I create a tiling image using a pattern from my paintings and Photoshop Elements at the end of essay.)

If you don't want your image to be tiled, set up your image to the size and exact dimensions you want it to appear on your fabric. For instance, if you'd just like to order an 8" x 8" swatch, your pattern size must be 8" x 8". Check out Spoonflower's fabric sizes and prices for more information.

Advanced users may find that colors (especially reds and yellows) may become inaccurate when transferring from screen to fabric. For best results, set the color space to 8-bit LAB color. More info can be found here.

5) Once you have it the way you want it save your design as a JPG or TIF (8-bit, uncompressed) format. I recommend TIF for its image quality, but Spoonflower does not accept files larger than 25MB, so you find using a JPG allows you to upload a larger images.

6) Upload you design to Spoonflower and see how it tiles. You can use the Spoonflower preview window to experiment with different layout options and fabric sizes.  You can also use some of the tools Spoonflower provides to tweak your design.

Start with one design and see how it goes.  If you are like me you will become immediately addicted.  I now have over one hundred designs and find myself appraising every new watercolor painting experiment for its potential as a fabric design.

7) Once you are happy with your design you can order a swatch as small as 8x8 inches, for $5.00, to test your design. Once you have proofed you fabric you have the option of making it available for sale on the Spoonflower website or keep it private for your own use or sell it separately.

If you are like me and tend to do a number of designs all at once there is a useful feature that allows you to proof a sampler of a  ‘collection’ of designs all at once with of 1-12 designs costing $20, and 13-24 designs costing $35.

If you sell it on Spoonflower you will get 10 % of the sale of any of your designs and the same discount in printing your own fabrics.  (If you are like me all your earnings will be spent ordering more fabric).

It generally takes 2 weeks for the fabric to be printed and shipped but it's more than worth the wait! If you have any questions or problems with your order, do not hesitate to email them. Stephen Fraser, one of the site founders, will respond quickly with a detailed and clear answer.

Spoonflower can also be used for more than just textile design. Some designers mass-produce patterns for dolls, stuffed toys, clothing, or DIY kits.  Other, like me, explore its potential as a tool in art making.  The service is still in beta and as the founders explore what is possible new material choices and fabric treatments are sure to continue to appear.

How I Design a Fabric From a Watercolor Painting Using Photoshop Elements

1) Chose a section of a painting and resize it to 150 dpi.  Go to the FILE pull down menu and select ‘Duplicate.’  This will give you a copy of this first image.


2) OFFSET the Image 2 using the FILTER menu. You will find the OFFSET in the OTHER category of the FILTER menu.  A box will appear where you can set the degree of offset you want. If your image is 2000 x 3000 dpi you would set the Offset to approximately 1000 x 1500 to quarter the image.  The center of the original image is now at the four corners.

3) Go to the SELECT pull down menu and select ALL.  Go to the EDIT pull down menu and COPY.  Then PASTE the offset Image 2 over the top of Image I.

It will layer to look like Image II.

Choose the eraser tool from the Photo Shop Elements toolbar and erase the center and the obvious seams, in an artful way revealing the image in the layer below.   Save the finished image with a new name and without layers.

Final Layered Image 3:

5) Upload to Spoonflower and see how it looks:

If you are happy with the outcome your next step is to order a proof or add it to a collection to proof later.

Check out my fabrics on Spoonflower.com and have fun designing your own fabrics!

Helen Klebesadel


Helen Klebesadel is a TAFA member.  Check out her profile here.   When she joined TAFA, I was intrigued by what she was doing with SpoonFlower, so I asked her if she would be willing to share the process.  She kindly agreed and came up with this wonderful tutorial!  Just think of all the doors that can open through having control over the design process!  Many thanks, Helen!

Helen also wrote a post as part of the series, "TAFA Members Talk".  See it here.

-Rachel Biel



  1. What a great tutorial Helen. Thanks for your generosity in sharing this information with you fellow fiber artists!!!

  2. I have a question, Helen. If you make your designs available to the public, do you make any money off of it? You mention that SpoonFlower gives you a 10% discount on your own fabric, but do you make a commission if your design sells on their site? And, at $18 a yard, it seems like it would be hard to sell the fabric yourself. Tell us a bit of how this works.

  3. Thanks . There are two ways to earn from your designer fabrics using Spoonflower.

    1)If you decide to list your fabrics for sale on the Spoonflower site you will earn 10% of any sale they make except the sale of the $5.00 swatches. Those you receive no compensation for because they are kept as modestly priced as possible to allow for purchases to test they fabric before they invest.

    2) Design your fabric but do not make them public on Spoonflower. Sell them yourself on some vehicle like ETSY with the markup you think the market will bear. (If you do a 'Spoonflower' search on Etsy a number of venders selling their fabrics or designs will show up. The discount becomes 20% if you order 20 yards or more of your own single design.

  4. Thanks, Helen. That makes sense. It's still a huge investment if one were to order 20 yards. $288! Still the potential is there to come up with some interesting products. I have to chew on this for myself, but really like the concept.

  5. You will notice that I decided it made more sense for me to just share my designs in Spoonflower and spend the time I would otherwise have to be marketing them in my studio painting.

    Your other option is to create fabric designs that only YOU have access to for your art by keeping them private on Spoonflower while never offering them for sale anywhere else.

  6. so very kind of you to share...your work is stunning...do you ever teach? i'm in the Mpls. area and would love to take a class from you...


“Sing like no one's listening, love like you've never been hurt, dance like nobody's watching, and live like it's heaven on earth.”

“Whatever you say, say it with conviction.”

(Both by the master, Mark Twain)

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