Monday, June 1, 2009

Fabric Designing, What is the Process?

Well today was actually a pretty calm Monday at the studio. I finally had a chance to sit down and sketch out the new tools for my next fabric line. I am always excited and a little nervous every time I start a new set of paintings for a fabric line. Once I get going, the process is so fun. 
I have spoken to lots of fabric designers and each one approaches fabric designing differently. Actually no two designers have told me the same process. I guess each designer just figures out what works best for them and their technique is a unique as the designers. So here is a peek at how I approach designing fabric.
First I talk with the Diana at Blank and we decide together what the next line s
hould be. This helps me do a collection that will hopefully be a better seller and not repeat something another designer at Blank is doing. 
Once I have the theme of the collection settled, I start to think about all things that go with the theme. The line I am working on now is a follow-up collections to my successful Tooling Around group. This means it has to go along with the older collection while still
 having a fresh new feel to it. As with any collection, the objects in the artwork need to be easily r
ecognizable by the majo
rity. SO for this collection the tools need to be common and I try to stay away
 from obscure tools. I start getting ideas by doing a google image search of my topic. This helps me become
 familiar with my topic and what the objects I will be illustrating look like in reality. As with my Polar Opposites collectio
n (out this Summer) I actually found microscopic photos of real snowflakes. I used these as my reference when I painted the snowflakes for the fabric. 
Next I start sketching ideas usually right in front of the computer, going back an
d forth between sketching and referencing the objects I am drawing. These drawing are very rough and are more to help me decide what I am going to paint and how I want to lay out the background.
Once I have my ideas researched and sketched, I decide if I am going to hand draw the objects or if I am going to draw the objects on the computer. The computer sketches are cleaner I tend to use the computer for objects and I tend to hand draw characters. I like the rough feel to hand sketching when doing animals or  anything in nature. I draw each character or object I want to later position on my backgrounds. I like to do everything separately because it is 
easier to make changes or to adjust the scale. 
After I have everything sketched out, I am ready start adding color. I always hand pain
t or color my designs because it adds depth to the design and make each fabric feel like a hand painted piece of art. I paint the backgrounds separately and usual
ly will do several different color choices for e
ach background that I later send in to Blank.
Painting usually takes the longest time. I took five years of marker rendering classes in college and learned alot about drawing and shading an object so it looks 3-D. Hand marker rendering has been replaced by amazing computer programs. But I really think learning how to draw and shade an object by hand is extremely important to understanding how to create a great drawing. Because of my background I tend spend more time adding shadows and highlights to make the shape feel 3-D. Though
erience has taught me to consider how small the object will be scaled for the fabric. Sometimes less highlights 
are better if the object is going to be really small on the final piece. One of th
e most detailed objects I have painted for fabric is the hockey mask for My Love of the Game fabric I will add the photo here for you to see. My favorite mediums to use are acrylic paints and color pencils. My next line is baby fabric, for this collection I am planning on experimenting with pastels to create a softer look. I will let you know how that works out.
Now once everything is colored, I scan everything into the computer and use photoshop to scale and position the different objects onto the scanned hand-painted backgrounds. I usually do this step but on some collections I send everything to Blank and they arrange the pieces in the collection for me (usually if the collection is a rush) and send it back to me for my input. 
I tend to design the entire collection in one colorway (or color family) and I will send suggestions to Blank for other colorways if I have any. If I do not, they will come up with other colorways for me to look at. As you can see there is a lot of back and forth between the artist and the fabric company.So if you have the opportunity to design fabric, make sure you like the company you are going to work with and you both have similar tastes.
Once I have everything painted and laid out, I send all the original painting on to Blank. They take over the process from here and about six weeks after they receive the artwork, I get a set of strike-offs (small pieces of the artwork that is printed on cotton) back to review and make any changes to the colors. Once these are approved the fabric goes on to be printed. Next step is for me to design a project sheet using the collection for promotion. 
Now you know the secrets behind designing fabric. So until next time.....

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