Designing Fabric Prints with Photos – Part 1

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With the relatively new technology of direct-to-fabric printing, you can now design your own fabric prints and then really have them printed, a yard at a time. In this post I’m going to go through a few different ways you can create fabric prints from a single photo, using nothing but free software!


GIMP softwarethis is free, open source software that is similar to photoshop
– a photo – the higher the resolution the better!
– an account at Spoonflower or any other company that will print fabric on demand


I started with this photo that Carly took of a beautiful bed of yellow flowers:

Image resolution is a big part of getting this right. Spoonflower prints images at 150 dpi – that’s 150 pixels per inch. If you want your photo to be 1 inch wide on your fabric, you’ll need to make it 150 pixels wide. If you want 2 inches make it 300 pixels wide, if you want 10 inches make it 1500 pixels wide.


Also take into account what you’re making because you may want to rotate your image 90 degrees before uploading it. If you’re sewing a dress from a commercial pattern it will tell you how to orient your pieces on your fabric, be sure your printing won’t be sideways! If you want more information about how to orient pattern pieces on fabric, we have a post about that.


If you want your prints to look good never make a photo larger than the original, only smaller.


Spoonflower has a lot of information that is specific to their printing system that might be useful for you, too.


Basic Repeat


Spoonflower will do a lot of work for you. In this case, I just uploaded my photo at the size I wanted, then chose “basic repeat” in their side bar of options. Be sure you’re previewing at at least 1 yard of fabric.



Once again, this was really easy. I chose “mirror repeat” to get this effect. Be sure you’re previewing at at least 1 yard of fabric. The place you choose to crop your photo can have a huge impact on the effect, upload a variety to test them out! Center the front of a top, dress or skirt on the center line of a mirrored print for super drama!


Offset Repeats

Overall, these repeats are more useful for a repeated print without rectangular edges, but they’re still worth checking out. With your image uploaded to Spoonflower, choose half-drop or half-brick repeat to see some other variations on your repeat. Be sure you’re looking at at least 1 yard of fabric.


Basic Repeat with Color Variation

In Gimp make a new document (File>New) that is 4 times the height and width of your photo.


Layer>New Layer>Okay


Open your photo. Select>All then Edit>Copy


Go to your new document and Edit>Paste

Move the photo to the upper left hand corner of the image area. Using View>Snap to Canvas Edges will make this easier.

Then use Layer>Duplicate Layer to make another copy of the photo and move it next to the first. Zoom in to make sure the images are right next to each other but not overlapping. Keep doing this until the entire field is full.


There should be a window to the right called “Layers” by default, but if it’s not there go to Windows>Dockable Dialogs>Layers to open it. This window is an easy way to choose different layers to work with.


Choose a Layer in the window to the right. Go to Colors>Hue-Saturation, then drag the “Hue” slider back and forth. Choose a hue you like, then click okay. Repeat this with other Layers until you like it.


When saving this, be sure to save it as an .xcf (the native file format of Gimp.) When you’re ready to upload it to Spoonflower go to File>Save As and then delete the .xcf and type .jpg instead – you’ll be prompted to export it as a jpg. Do export it, and make sure to adjust it to 100% quality.

It really is as easy as editing/creating the .jpg you want, uploading it to Spoonflower, selecting how much you want, paying for it and then telling them where to send it. In a few weeks your one-of-a-kind fabric will be at your door, ready to sew into clothing, upholster a chair or do whatever you like with!


Making fabric prints is a HUGE topic, so this is a good start. The best part is probably finding out that you can have custom fabric printed, and from there it’s all about choosing the best ideas for your current project!