Over the last 2 years, I have been adapting some of my linocut artwork into fabric designs which I sell through my shop on Spoonflower. This blog post is about the learning I have gained about how to adapt a standalone piece of art - such as a linocut - into a fabric design. In my experience, this relates to 5 different aspects.
1. Insert a small repeat motif into the background
Initially, I tried to design fabrics with a plain background with my linocut motifs super-imposed on top. However, I soon learned that a design is much more successful if there is a background repeat in a muted colour in the background. This helps to fill the area and unify the design. Take a look at my blue tit fabric design below, and how much better it looks with the birch leaf design in the background.
2. Break up the location of key motifs
My linocuts tend to have a design which is centre stage - whereas a fabric design works much better with a motif dispersed across the area. Look at the difference here between my swallow linocut and swallow fabric.
3. Make sure the detail is printable
Linocuts, if printed up correctly in terms of the amount of ink and pressure used, are capable of reproducing very fine details. This may not be the case with fabrics, particularly those with a coarser texture. It may be necessary to make your design a larger scale or simpler so the detail can be reproduced successfully on fabric. Take a look at my Woodpecker with Orange Berries fabric design - for this to reproduce successfully on fabric, I had to increase the size of the birds. In the smaller sample, I felt the eye looked too fuzzy.
4. Be careful with large blocks of single colour
Some fabric designs may incorporate large blocks of a single colour. Different fabrics absorb colours better than others - synthetic fabrics, for example, can hold colour very well. When I am ordering my Train Tracks fabric, I like to get this in satin, as the black is so intense.
5. Order samples
When planning a fabric design, it can be helpful to order a colour chart so that you can predict how certain fixed colours appear on fabric. It may also be useful to order a sample pack of fabrics so that you can see and feel the fabric, and assess the level of detail which can be printed on the fabric. Finally, before you commit to a fabric design - and especially before you order large quantities of it - it's advisable to order a small sample. Most fabric digital printing companies offer these services. It can help you see how your design behaves on a certain fabric and whether you need to make any tweaks to your design.
Hope you find these fabric designing tips helpful!