There are tons of ways to create swatches and print fabric, but this tutorial is going to use the super-easy online service Spoonflower in combination with Adobe Illustrator. Spoonflower is a great and simple way to create an easy test swatch.
Spoonflower is an online platform that makes it easy to upload a custom design, and create your own fabric to then be printed digitally onto yardage that you can use for prototypes or even small-batch manufacturing. They’ve even started offering custom wallpaper and gift wrap printing. I built my entire college thesis using their fabric printing, and it turned out amazing.
They have a really great selection of fabric offerings, which we will get into later, and the quality of the color is pretty great. On my StartupBus journey last year I even got to peek into their offices in Durham, North Carolina.
If anyone from Spoonflower is reading this, I swear I’m not stalking you! I’m just a huge fan! <3
STEP 1: Grab the artwork you created in the last tutorial. You can grab it as-is or if you’re like me and a fan of more structured hard-graphic lines, you’ll want to clean it up a bit and experiment with color.
I cleaned up the curves and lines here and added with some gradients.
STEP 2: Make that artwork into a perfect square.
I made my document 5.5″x 5.5″ for simplicity sake. It looks like this:
STEP 3: Choose file >> Export and choose .tif in the Format dropdown menu.
Make sure you have ‘Use Artboards’ checked and click Export. TIFF is a somewhat lossless file type, and Spoonflower allows you to upload this format, which is awesome. It’ll keep our artwork looking crisp and our colors clean.
On the next screen make sure you have these exact settings.
Spoonflower recommends uploading at 150dpi which is perfect as we’re printing onto fabric and the ink bleeds just a slight amount and masks any pixellation we may have.
STEP 4: Navigate yourself across the wide internet to Spoonflower.com. If you haven’t yet now would be a good time to create an account. To start the fabric creation process hover over ‘CREATE’.
And choose fabric:
STEP 5: Upload your file, confirm that Spoonflower is printing your artwork and not an illegal print of someone’s cool artwork you stole from DeviantArt.
Then click ‘Upload File’.
STEP 6: The next screen is the best screen. This is where you control what your artwork is going to look like in full-repeat on fabric. It’s pretty amazing that Spoonflower has figured out a way to do this in your browser.
This area is very essential and powerful, and controls how your artwork is being tiled. Play around and choose which works best. I’m liking the Half-Drop.
You can also scale and save a layout of your artwork in this section:
STEP 7: Once you’re done editing your artwork it’s time to choose your fabric.
Spoonflower has a lot of awesome fabrics to choose and they give out a sample pack for $1.
I’m a big fan of their silk crepe de chine, and use that as my go-to, unless I’m doing upholstery, and then their twill is my favorite. I eventually see this print going onto a pillow so I’m going to go with the twill. A test swatch is an 8″x8″ square and will be perfect for me to check color and see if I want to order a larger quantity eventually.
STEP 8: Click ‘Add to Cart’.
You’re done! You have created your first Spoonflower test swatch! You can now continue to browse Spoonflower or check out! Their turnaround time is pretty quick and I’ve gotten most of my test swatches in a week or a week and a half’s time. The color can be kind of hit-or-miss and luckily I am #blessed with access to Pantone books, which help nail color. If you’re super concerned with color they have a map available here to order so you can be more precise in your selections.
Hopefully this was helpful and that everyone can now become the fabric designer they always dreamed they could be! Printing a test swatch is always a great idea before printing off a huge run of fabric.
If you have any questions, give me a holler in the comments.