A Blueprint To Designing A Fabric Collection (for Surface Pattern Design) | Deane Christiansen | Skillshare

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A Blueprint To Designing A Fabric Collection (for Surface Pattern Design)

teacher avatar Deane Christiansen, Artist, Illustrator, Fabric Designer

Watch this class and thousands more

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Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

    • 1.



    • 2.

      Where to Start


    • 3.

      The Basics


    • 4.

      Artboards - Size Matters!


    • 5.

      The Hero


    • 6.

      The Secondary


    • 7.

      The Supporters


    • 8.

      The Others


    • 9.



    • 10.



    • 11.

      Thank You!


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About This Class

In this class I'll take you step by step through the basics (or Blueprint) of a fabric collection.  We'll talk about what each pattern is used for and how to create it.

 I'll explain the different artboard sizes and their correlation to scale and why this is important for fabric.  

And I'll also show you how I start a collection and my design tricks that I use when I'm creating!

This class is suitable for intermediate to advanced designers who know how to create repeating patterns and are wanting to design for the fabric industry!




Here are a few comments already from students...(a huge thank you!!)

This is a great class. The teacher gives a detailed, thorough class on how to design a fabric collection. You will definitely learn a lot.  Jade Michele G.

Thank you, Deane! You're explanation of how a quilter might use a pattern collection really tied the concept together for me and made it concrete. Great class. Clear and helpful!    Deb E.

Best class ever on pattern design   Erica Ilene

Meet Your Teacher

Teacher Profile Image

Deane Christiansen

Artist, Illustrator, Fabric Designer


Hi I'm Deane Christiansen! Born and raised in Alberta, Canada I grew up surrounded by creative and inspiring people. For over 25 years I have made my career in the Quilting Industry as a maker, teacher, and business owner.

Now, I own and design fabric  for Sweet Bee Designs, a textile manufacturing company for the Quilting and Sewing Industry worldwide.   

I also license my work under Deane Beesley Designs. 

If I had to describe my style I'd say modernized vintage with a whimsical twist. 

This creative space has taught me many different skills and I hope to in turn share my knowledge with all of you as well!

See full profile

Level: Intermediate

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1. Introduction: Hi, everyone. And welcome to class. I'm Dion Christiansen. I'm a licensed artist and fabric designer living in southern Alberta, Canada. In this class, I will guide you through the basic blueprint of a fabric collection, and I also want to show you my design process. When I start a new collection, we'll discuss what each pattern in a collection is used for and what art board sizes you should be creating them on. We'll talk about scale and color, and I also want to show you my design tricks I use when I'm building up my fabric collections. We've got a lot to cover, so let's get started. 2. Where to Start: Hey, everyone, welcome to class in this video. I want to give you a quick overview of the steps I take when I have an idea for a new fabric collection. So if you're like me, you probably want to go straight to number five and start sketching. But I really encourage you to start with number one and do your research. So that means going on Pinterest, looking in books, referencing real life for taking pictures, if you can, and the number two writing it down. Get all your ideas and thoughts surrounding your subject on paper, How does it make you feel? What kind of images do you want to sketch? Was it an experience that you have? You know, what was that experience? Get all that down on paper and then number three, decide who it's for. This is if you know, say, for instance, you're designing for Children's line. Is it just going to be four boys? Is it just for girls that kind of thing? And then number four create a mood board, and this can include your color palettes, images for inspiration, things like that and then number five sketch. So I like to sketch anywhere between 2025 different motifs. I find that that gives me generally Ah, lot too choose from when I goto create my patterns. So the reason I do all these steps is because it makes my collection more cohesive. I find that my theme flows through nicely all of my patterns. And generally, when I brainstorm like this, one idea leads to another. So then I have more inspiration for my sketches, and it keeps me on track. So these are the reasons I go through these particular steps, and I really encourage you to as well. In the next video, I'll go over the basics of a fabric collection. See you there. 3. The Basics: understanding the components of a fabric collection can help you create one. Typically, a fabric collection is made up of 8 to 12 different patterns, and this will vary from company to company. There are some that will ask for five patterns in three different color ways, and some that will ask for 12 different patterns in two color ways. So 8 to 12 is definitely not a rule, but it's a good guideline. A collection is made up of four categories, and each category plays a specific rule. So there's the main or the hero pattern, the secondary, the supporting and what I like to call the others. The hero is the star of the show. Typically, the motifs are on a larger scale. Most of your important elements that you've drawn are in this pattern, and the majority of your time will be spent designing this pattern. The secondary pattern is Justus important, but it doesn't outshine the hero. It has fewer elements and is slightly smaller in scale. Then we have the supporters, and they do what they're name suggests. They have simpler elements or motifs, and they complement the hero and secondary. They're usually on a much smaller scale and have fewer colors to them. And last but not least, we have the others. They're very simple designs. They are sometimes called filler patterns. They can include stripes, dots, geometrics. Their scale is quite small, and the colors are very limited. When you understand each category and the role that it plays, it becomes easier to design those patterns. And when you're patterns air doing their job correctly, your collection will be balanced and have a natural flow to it. Each pattern will be complementing the other, not fighting with the other. It's kind of like kids. You want them all to get along next up. We're going to talk about art boards and why size matters. See you there. 4. Artboards - Size Matters!: Okay, you guys, I think in general we all have a particular art board size that we like to start creating our patterns on. I know for me, I'm comfortable on an eight and chart board. Some people might be 10. Summit might be 16 who knows? But in the fabric industry, art board size matters. The fabric manufacturers require that your art board or repeating tile with be divisible into 24. And this is because their screens that they make for your designs are 24 inches wide, so it could be a square. It could be a rectangle, as long as that with is divisible into 24. So I used this guide. When I start my patterns for my hero, I will start on an eight inch or bump it up to a 12 and chart board. Then my secondary will either be a six or an eight and chart board. My supporters will be a three or a four inch, and the others will be anywhere from a one to a forage, usually around the 123 inch range. And I find that by sizing my artwork appropriately and according to these art board sizes. It helps with the overall scale of the collection. Just remember, this isn't a rule. This is just a guide. It's to help you a scale. And I've also included it in the downloads for you guys to print off to keep besides your computer. In the next video, we're going to dive into what makes a hero pattern. And I'm gonna show you how I start creating mine. I'll see you there. 5. The Hero: All right, let's get into this. Let's talk about the hero. The star of the show. Your main pattern in the quilting world. This pattern will have many different uses, but probably the number one use is going to be for borders and blocks. This means it's going to be cut into many different sizes, more on the larger scale. Therefore, your artwork needs to be on a larger scale, a swell. It's going to be used in tote bags, tunics, skirts, dresses, backpacks, anything that can cover a large surface area. That's what this pattern is going to be great for. So if you can think about the end use of this pattern, it's gonna help you build it. Now. I always like to start with an eight and chart board. Like I said before, it's my go to size, and I'm comfortable with it. So I decide on the look I'm trying to achieve with this main pattern, and by that I mean, do I want a dense, tossed pattern with hardly any background showing. Do I want a tossed organic look with more background showing? Is it going to be directional? Is it horizontal vertical? That kind of thing. So I trying to side on what it is I'm trying to achieve, and then I try multiple versions. I also find that if my pattern isn't working, I'll either scale my motifs up or down, or I'll jump up to a 12 inch art board. So by that I mean, if I'm trying to work this pattern and my motifs just don't seem to be filling it up or I'm filling up the background too much, then maybe my motifs need to be scaled down a little bit so that there's more background showing. Or maybe they're not filling it up as much as I would like. So then I'll scale it up. So you have to adjust your artwork proportionately to your art board size, and that's gonna help with your scale. The other thing I like to do with my main pattern is ah, half drop repeat, and I do this 99% of the time. I really like the visual effect that it creates. I like the fact that the repeat isn't as obvious, especially when you know that it's going to be used for a dress or a bag that kind of thing . You don't want the repeat to be as noticeable here. You can see I outlined and read the repeat, and you can see that it's balanced. It's not a noticeable repeat. The colors are all complementary. They're all evenly spaced throughout the tile itself. It's at this point in my process where I find it very crucial to ask these questions. Number one being obviously. Are there any noticeable flaws? Meaning is it repeating properly? Are there any visual lines that are being created by colors or motifs that shouldn't be there and then start asking things like, Do I like the colors? Do I like this pattern? Would I buy this pattern? If I did? What would I use it for? Sometimes my answers air? No. And then you really need to go back and rework this pattern until you get to a point where you really do like it and you would buy it and use it. Would it make a good border? Would it make a good tote bag or dress or apron? Are you on trend? Are the colors on trend? Is that unique? Is it your style? Does it have your signature style? Are there things you can do to improve this pattern. So these air really important questions. Toe. Ask yourself now and to implement into this pattern because it's the main hero and it's gonna be what draws people into by this fabric collection. This is the main piece that people are generally drawn to, and this is also the peace that will sell out the fastest in a fabric collection. So it needs to be strong. So when you're happy with your hero, it's time to move on to the secondary. 6. The Secondary: all right, we're moving on to the secondary now. Don't let the name fool you. This pattern has a big role of its own to play just like the hero. The secondary can be used for borders, blocks, dresses, skirts, pillows anywhere that the hero can be used. The secondary can be used as well. It has a slightly smaller scale, and it works alongside the hero. It can replace the hero and stand on its own as well, meaning. If a quote store runs out of the main pattern, they will choose the secondary pattern to replace it in whatever project they're doing. So it's really important that this secondary pattern be just a strong as the hero for the secondary. I start with a six and chart board, and what I do is I pull motifs from the hero and possibly add a few that maybe I hadn't used before. So this is where sketching all of those motifs comes in handy, not saying that you have to use all of them, but at least you have options, and then you're going to want to scale them down to the size of your art board. You want to keep everything proportionate. I find by using some of the same motifs that I've used in the hero. In the secondary, you create a cohesiveness in your collection. So the layout for the secondary is based on the hero, and what that means is the hero takes the lead. In this example, I used 95% of my motifs in this hero. There's little background showing it's a very dense tossed pattern, so the opposite is what I need to create for my secondary. We want more about ground showing we want fewer elements, and the scale is going to be a little bit smaller. In this example, I use just a few motifs. I have a lot of background showing large scale. It's an airy, tossed feeling. The secondary is a dense pattern. There's less background showing, and it's slightly smaller in scale so you can see how the two play off of each other. And in this example again, I've used a lot of my motifs in here. It's a tight, compact pattern. It's got a horizontal vertical feel to it. So in the secondary, I only used to motifs, and I added a bit of texture to the background to give it some dimension to kind of fill in that blank space. And by adding texture or small markings or elements to the background, you can create interest and subtle movement to your patterns. The key here is not to be too heavy handed. Keep the texture a shade or two off from the background color so that it stays subtle. So when you get to a place where you're happy with your secondary, place it next to your hero and you're gonna want to ask all the same questions that you did in the last video. Are there any noticeable flaws that you need to fix our The colors balance? Do you like the colors and so on? So all these questions need to be answered. And again, if any of these answers are no, it's important to go back now and fix them. It's going to save you a lot of time in the end, so go through all these questions and then you're also gonna want to ask yourself, Does it complement the hero? Does it look good beside the hero? Would it look good together in a block or a quilt or a bag, and then, as well, can it stand on its own as a main pattern? It's important that this secondary pattern be complimenting the hero and boosting it up, not competing with. And if you can answer yes to these questions, then it's time to move on to the supporting patterns. See you there. 7. The Supporters: supporting patterns are my favorite ones to create. They're fun, fast, easy and compared to the last ones we just did there a breeze. These patterns have few motifs, less colors and are smaller in scale for the quilter. They provide a relief to the eye as they're not so busy as the main and secondary pattern. So they work well in quilt blocks, bag linings, a trim on address, any smaller project. These are perfect for I start on a three or four inch art board and again scaled down my motifs. And what I'll do is all pull out a few simple elements from the main pattern, or I'll use a new one like I did with this boss. I try many different layouts, and I will experiment with texture, see what it looks like, with or without it, and I keep working it until I'm happy with it. These patterns don't need to be complicated. One motif in a tossed repeat looks amazing, but you can also take that same repeat and bury the sizes of the motif, and it gives you a totally different look. Here's another example of how one motif can have so many different looks. You can put it in a straight repeat, scale it down and toss it, or even take out all the color and make it a two tone shadow effect. I really like this effect. I think it's fun, and it gives the whole collection a different dimension. As you can see, our collection is starting to take shape. Some things I want you to keep in mind when you're making these patterns is to vary the layouts. You don't want them all to be the same tossed, repeat or if they are the same tossed. Repeat, make sure some of them are more dense or some have more background showing. Throw in a directional print here and there. It just adds a nice contrast to what you already have going on. Keep your motifs small and your color palettes limited. You also want to keep checking in with your mood board. What were the words and thoughts that you had written down? What was that overall feel that you wanted this collection to have and do those patterns that you're making reflect that feeling In the next video, I will guide you through the last category, which is the others will see you there 8. The Others: all right. You guys were on the last category. The others. Now this set of patterns is Justus important as the ones that we've created already. But they are very simple patterns. And like I said before, they include dots and stripes, geometrics. They're going to be used in quote blocks. They will be for trim details saying on a dress, small borders and, of course, bindings. Oh, my gosh, you guys, I love a stripe on a binding. It is so much fun. I think all quilters love this. So keep in mind that these patterns are smaller and scale and have limited colors. Start on a two or three in chart board and use some of your simpler elements. And mainly the reason for this is because they do get scaled down so much you will lose a lot of fine detail. If you're using a larger element that has, you know, lots of shading or lots of lying work and stuff in it, you'll lose that detail. So I like to choose ones that are quite simple. So, for instance, this pattern in the red it is just a dot pattern, but I used a flower and I scaled it down, and then I added some detail line work in the background, so it just adds a little bit extra to this pattern. Although it's very simple, it has interest and again with the geometric. It is a pattern that I drew that is scaled down, and I arranged, um in a geometric pattern so you could take any of your any one of your elements and rearrange it in different ways to form these types of patterns. And it will just be more interesting than just a straight geometric with triangles or dots . So I really want you to think outside the box with these patterns and be creative and have fun with them. Another fun thing I like to do with my patterns is to rotate them, and you contest this out just by so you. You would make your repeat and then go up into your object, transform, rotate and rotate it 45 degrees. Not the actual object, but just the pattern, and you can see what it's gonna look like. And if you love it, then that's when you need to go back and actually build this pattern. On a 45 degree angle, so you may have toe play with it a little bit to get it to work. But it just adds so much more dimension to this pattern and then as well. With a straight you can rotate it. It looks fabulous, but what about adding maybe a few details to that strike? A. Swell. Just raising the bar a little bit for your patterns can make all the difference. One more thing I want to show you about building out your collection is I know sometimes it's hard when you just have a few motifs that you've drawn and you need to you need a few more patterns to fill in your collection. So what I would do is I take one of my motifs and ah, copy and paste it. And then I used the Pathfinder unite, and what this is going to do is it's going to make this flower motif one solid shape, and then you may be able to skip this next step. But because my flower waas painted, I had so many anchor points in it, so you just want to simplify those. So if you go in tow object path, simplify it will smooth out your edges and lower your anchor points for you and then go in with your eraser and you're smooth, tool and just clean it up. And the reason why I like this, especially when I have a collection that has more of a painterly, hand drawn feel, is when I add these types of elements, they have more of a vector field, and I really like the way the patterns play off of each other. It just raises that whole collection to a different level and gives. It gives your eyes something different to look out rather than just all painted flowers or painted leaves. There's something there's something different about this pattern. There's something interesting about it, So that's one trick that I really like to dio. So now you can see how I built this out into a 10 piece pattern collection. I started with the hero, pulled elements out for the secondary and then continue to pull elements out for the supporters and for the others. It all has a very cohesive feel to it. The color is balanced and the scale is proportionate, and that is the basic blueprint for creating a successful fabric collection. But we're not done. Join me in the next video, where we talk about color 9. Colour: Hey, guys, welcome back. There are so many tools and techniques and ways to re color your artwork, and one thing I really want to stress is that there is no right or wrong way to do this. It's whatever works well for you and fits into your workflow. Personally. My favorite is the re color artwork tool and illustrator, and there are some really great classes here on skill share dedicated just to this tool. So I would highly recommend taking some of those. The color I'm talking about in this video is more on the technical side of fabric, the things that you really need to know for traditional screen printing. Your color palette is going to be limited to 18 to 24 colors. Depending on the mill. There cannot be any ingredient sees or a pass it ease, and any tints and shades of a color is counted as a separate color. If your workflow includes these shades and capacities, things like that, that's fine. But just know that if this collection does get picked up for fabric collection, then you may be asked to change that in the future. You'd have to go back in and fix those files. Pantone Fashion Home and Interiors is the universal color guide for fabric, so this found deck specifically is for the fabric industry. The mills refer to these Pantone's in this book for their color formula. Now, I just want you to know that it's definitely not necessary to purchase these fan index until you're signed on with a company. I strictly work in C M y que color mode until I am completely happy with my color palette. And then I will switch my my c m y que colors over to Pantone's, so you definitely do not have to have these right aways. But it's something you'll want to purchase in the future. If you do get signed on with a company, and what you would do is just go to the Pantone website and shoes the industry that you are wanting Teoh by the found X, For because every industry has a different set of found books and they're different colors , so one does not cover all areas, so you'll want the fashion home and interior, and you get both of these fan tax for the one price. Just in case you were wondering it comes with a registration code. So once you register your found decks, you have the You can download this software, and it downloads all the colors into your computer so that they are available in programs like photo shop or Illustrator. And just a quick note to your artwork does not need to be converted to Pantone's in order to submit your portfolio. And when you are ready to convert your colors, or if someone has asked you to convert your colors to Pantone's for some reason, there's a couple ways you can do it. You can do it through the re color artwork tool, so what you would do is select all of your patterns that you have created and click on the re color artwork tool and under your swatches that you see there underneath the word none. There's this little icon that you want to click on, and it's going to bring out um, where you can choose your color book and then that found out will go down and you will choose the fashion and home. And when you click on that, your colors will automatically be converted to Pantone's. And you'll know that because the swatch themselves has a little white triangle in the corner. So then you know that those air the Pantone's now one thing to keep in mind here, your computer is picking the Pantone that it thinks is the closest match. So it might not be exactly what you see on the screen to what it actually has picked for you. So at this point, you're going to want to look up all those Pantone's that it has chosen and see if those are the right ones that you want to use Now. The other way to convert your Pantone's is to go straight to the found deck and choose your Pantone's like that. So when you use the re color artwork tool, it kind of gets you halfway there. But you still have to go and look at all the colors and make sure they're the ones that you want or you choose them manually. So those are the two options that you have. So while we're on the subject of color, I just wanted to quickly give you a look at what one of my files looks like when I send it to the milk and the reason I'm doing this is because I think taking the mystery out of what's all involved in setting up your files for fabric can help you when you're creating it. So it's so your file is all going to be set up in layers. And just so that you know, I don't work in layers at all when I create my patterns, Um, I only separate them into layers when I'm at this stage, when I'm ready to send my file to the mill so you can see that everything is on its own layer. Um, and it's very well from labeled and detailed. All of the Pantone's that I've used are in this document, and they all have the corresponding Pantone number associated with it. And they're swatch, and they all are grouped together according to color. So if I were to turn on and off these, um, these layers so you can see the red Pantone swatch and the red outlines of the leaves are turned off now, so they're all on one layer, the pink stems and the Pantone all in one layer. The yellow leaves the teal in the dark green, the town, the white and even the Navy background. So when you turn them back on, think of these layers like pieces of paper stacked on top of one another so you'll start at your bottom layer, which is your background, and work your way up. So sometimes this can help you when you were going to color your motifs, think about the placement of where things are and how it relates to everything else. Um, sometimes even at this point, I've had to rearrange some of my color in a few of the motifs just so that it makes sense in in these layers. Next up, we're going to talk about scale. See there. 10. Scale: I think scale is one of those things that can really drive people crazy. And that's why I want to walk you through how I scale my patterns for fabric. So even though you have created your patterns on the appropriate art board sizes, there will still be some scaling to dio, and the best test to do this is to print out your patterns at 100% on 8.5 inch by 11 inch paper, and you want to make sure that the do not scale or do not resize box is checked on your printer. You want to make sure that they're all printing out at 100%. I print out my whole collection at 100% and lay them on the floor like you see here in this picture and then stand back and observe. I want to make sure that my hero pattern isn't too big. Remember, we're not designing for wallpaper or too small. I find that printing gives you the best visual because these patterns look so different on the computer screen than they do actually printed out. So try different scales. Just the most important thing to remember here is to write down the percentages on the paper when it comes out of the printer. This is really important because sometimes I have tried maybe four or five different scale numbers on a pattern. And if I forget to write down one of those, that's usually the one that is the one I'm gonna pick, and I won't know what scale it was out. So make sure you write that number down, and I just jot it down on the corner. And, um, it's just really handy right there. And yes, I go through a ton of ink. I really encourage you to play around with scale. And don't worry if some patterns that you plan to be a certain size like medium end up being super tiny or vice versa, you just won't know until you try it. So don't be afraid to scale them up or down. Just keep in mind what they will be used for by a quilter or a soloist. You'll want to get your hero pattern scale set first and then work your way through the rest of the collection. I also refer to these charts that I have set up and I've got them set up for a 12 inch art board and eight inch a six inch and a four inch, and I've included them in the downloads portion of this class for you guys to print off. So let me just go over this chart a little bit and explain to you how I use it. So this one is Foreign Aid and Chart Board, and obviously we know that at 100% the art board is eight inches. If I scale it down to 75% the art board becomes six inches. If I scale it up to 150% the art board becomes 12 inches. So this gives me a good idea of what my art board size is going to be at certain percentages. And I keep this in mind when I am printing out all my patterns and playing with scale. Once you've decided what scale you want to change your patterns, too, you can easily use thes charts that I provide it and I'll show you how I use thumb. So let's say, for instance, that this pattern we created here was on an eight and chart board, and I wanted to scale it up to 150%. So what you want to do is you want to make sure that you have your repeating tile selected . No. What? You were not scaling up the pattern, Phil. We actually want to scale the repeating tile itself. So you want to make sure that that is all selected and you will goto, object, transform and scale, and then you will type in 150% and hit, enter, and then that will scale everything up. And according to this chart, we know that the motifs have been scaled up 150% and the art board has been scaled up 150% and it will measure at 12 inches. So if you were to go and click on that yellow black background tile, you would see that the size of it is 12 inches and everything is repeating properly. We didn't have to move any of the motifs. We can leave this as is. So what happens though? If we decide that we want this pattern Teoh be scaled down to 70% Well, right aways we can see that the art board size is going to be 5.6, and that's not going to work very well for us. But I know that the closest one to it that will work is six inches. So what I do is I get access again to that repeating tile and select everything and then go to object, transform and scale and type in 70% and hit. Enter. Then what I did here is I unde grouped everything and Onley selected the repeating tiles so that yellow background square and I changed the dimensions of that to six inches. So what you're looking at here now is the background. Tile is six inches, and all of the motifs have been scaled to 70% so it's not repeating properly. You can see that on the top and bottom. Those motifs are not repeating and the edges they're not repeating. So there is a little bit of reworking that you will have to dio, but not a lot, because 5.6 inches to six inches wasn't a huge difference. You want to try and pick an art board that is close in size. If we were to have picked the Foreign Chart Board there would have been more work that we would have had to do. And I don't think that the motifs would have fit properly on a smaller art board than they do on the six Inch art board. So once you get the motifs rearranged and repeating properly, you might have to add in maybe a few leaves here and there and just move things around a little bit. Um, but what? Once that is done, you know that this pattern printed out is going to be perfect, and it will be the size that you wanted it to be, So I hope that helps you a little bit with scale. And again, I highly recommend printing out your patterns to get the best visual for your collection. 11. Thank You!: Hey, you guys, I really hope you've enjoyed this class. I know it's a lot of information that we covered, but I think this type of knowledge is so valuable when creating a fabric collection, and I'm so thrilled to be sharing it with you for your class project. I would love to see you create a 6 to 8 piece pattern collection for fabric upload your final collection in the project section. But I would also love to see your in progress work, too. So post it and let's cheer each other on, and I really just want to say a huge thank you to everyone who's taken this class. It means so much to me. I'll see you soon.