Stylizing Subjects for Rug Tufting | Charlie Proulx | Skillshare

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Stylizing Subjects for Rug Tufting

teacher avatar Charlie Proulx, Watercolour and Textile Artist

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.

      Your Project


    • 3.

      Design Shapes From a Reference


    • 4.



    • 5.

      Transferring Your Sketch


    • 6.



    • 7.

      Glue and Backing


    • 8.

      Cleaning and Trimming


    • 9.

      Wrapping Up


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About This Class

Unravel the art of turning intricate images into beautiful and unique rugs! This class focuses on breaking down a reference photo to build readability and a dedicated mood into your designs using shape language and colour.

You will learn:

  1. Using different shapes and lines to convey emotions.
  2. Breaking down complex shapes into simpler ones for easy tufting.
  3. Stylizing the subject.
  4. Use of colour for conveying emotions.

I'll also provide a basic run-down of how I make my rugs, and give you tips and tricks along the way!

During this class, I assume you already have a little tufting experience or that you've watched my Rug Tufting Gun for Beginners class. I will skim over the technical skills for actually creating the rug itself. You could very likely make a full rug from this class alone! But if you want a more in-depth discussion on each step in the rug-making process, please check out my other class.

Meet Your Teacher

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Charlie Proulx

Watercolour and Textile Artist


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Hi there!

I'm Charlie, a watercolour and rug artists who specializes in colourful animal portraits. I also go by SquidTarts on social media and around the web. I absolutely love animals and color!

I'm a self-taught artist and have been a professional artist since 2019. I've sold prints of my paintings all over the world, and I currently sell custom rug portraits as well.

In a previous life, I was a dog trainer, and I absolutely loved teaching both dogs and their families how to communicate with each other clearly. I hope to bring that level of two-way communication to my classes here on Skillshare. Please feel free to reach out if you ever have any questions about my lessons or work.

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1. Welcome: Are you new to rug tufting? Or maybe you've been tufting for a while using other people's designs. But you really want to get into designing your own rugs. If so, this is a class for you. Hi there, I'm Charlie and I'm the creator behind Sco Tarts Art. I'm an Atlantic Canada based textile and watercolor artist specializing in rainbow animal portraits. In this class, I'm going to walk you through how I designed and created this seal rug based on some very key reference photos. We're going to discuss a little bit about the elements of design, including shape and color. And we're going to discuss breaking down complex shapes into simple shapes that are much easier to tuft. At the end of this class, you'll have a better understanding on how to use shapes and color to convey your desired emotion. Also take you step by step through the rug creation process in case you need a quick refresher. Thank you very much for joining me and I hope you enjoy the class. 2. Your Project: Your project for this class is going to be to design your very own rug based on photo references. First step is to collect some photo references there. Take these photographs and break them down into simple shapes. And that'll allow you to tough the rug more easily, as well as convey emotion more strongly. Finally, you'll select some colors to compliment your rug design and the emotion that you're trying to create. Once you have your finished design, I'd love to see it all tufted out. But if you want feedback just on your design, then feel free to add that to the projects and specify that you'd like some feedback and I'd be happy to provide that for you. Please share whatever you create in the project section. I'm really excited to see what you guys make. 3. Design Shapes From a Reference: The first part of making your design is finding some good reference photos. There are a few websites that I'd like to use for these. There's there's Pexels, and then there's also Wikimedia Commons. An important consideration in using a reference photo is who owns the copyrights. These websites that I've listed, I'll have some copyright free photos that you can use when I'm looking for a reference photo. Mostly looking for some shapes that I find appealing and also some nice patterns that I might want to include in my finished piece. So for example, if I'm making a tiger rug, then I want to look for a photo of a tiger that shows where the stripes are really clearly. Once you have some reference photos put together, your next consideration should be on what sort of feeling you want to create with your rug design. Do you want it to look elegant? Do you want to look cute and friendly? Do you want to be a little bit edgy and cool depending on what feeling you're going for? You'll need to use different sort of shape language. If you want to create a very friendly shape, then using C's or circles really helps with that. If you're looking to create an elegant design, you want to use a lot of shapes and a lot of curves. If you want something that's maybe threatening or a little bit edgy, then you want to use sharper shapes like triangles. An example of a really well designed, friendly character is Kirby. You can see that not only is Kirby's body made of a circle, but also his arms and his legs are also made of circles. Even when he transforms into a geometric shape, you can see that those circle curving forms are carried through to all the corners and all the overall shape. Disney is really great at creating elegant female characters. This is Jasmine from Ladin. Not only does he or she have S curves in her clothing, like in her legs here and in her hair, but also the poses that she often takes are just exaggerated S curves as well. Finally, here's an example of a threatening character. This is a coup from Samurai Jack. And you can see that his torso is essentially just two triangles stuck together. Even if you look closely at his face, you can see that there are a lot of sharp shapes from where his neck connects to his body, where his horns connect to his head, and even his teeth and eyes are very sharp and threatening. Those are just a few shapes to take into consideration when designing your rug. The level of detail is also going to come into play relation to how realistic or what emotion your rug is going to convey. In general, the more detail you have, the more realistic something is going to look. Also, the more detail is, the more opportunity for something to look threatening. If you want something to look friendly or elegant, then in general, you want a lower level of detail. Usually very, very cute designs are extremely simple. When I'm using my reference photos, I want to look at the overall shape of the subject for this seal. I can see that there are a lot of ovals and squished ovals. And then I'm also looking at the details that really define the animal. In the seals case, the face is really important. So I'm looking at where the eyes and mouth sit and how they relate to each other. In my own design, I want to be very friendly. So I'm going to go for a very simple shape. I'm going to take the oval shape of the seal, and I'm going to simplify that into just a curve on the top and a curve on the bottom. And that's it, it's going to be an little sphere. And then I'm giving another half sphere for the head. And then I'm just adding some simple shapes for the flippers, using my reference photos to get the placement correct. I'm just adding in very simple ovals for the eyes and a very simple little smiling mouth. Once I have a sketch that I like, I'm just going to go over it with a pen tool to make sure that the lines are nice and clean and they're easy to transfer. Then I'm going to go through and I'm going to decide where I want the pattern to be. I like the pattern on the bottom right seal photo. That's the one I'm going to use where there's a gradient from the back of the seal down to the belly where it gets darker. I'm just going to define those areas in my sketch with a dark, a medium torso area and then a white belly. 4. Colour: The colors you choose to your design are another element that can really help reinforce the feeling that you're trying to get across with your rug. In general, really bright colors are going to be friendly and pastels, and neutral colors tend to be more elegant, more muted, or darker colors, especially when paired with a high contrast color, tend to be more threatening. And of course, this isn't a hard and fast rule. It's great to play around with your colors and see whatever appeals to you. In this piece I'm creating today, I'm going to be using bright, rainbow colors. Because I want to create a very friendly and engaging feel. I'm creating an ingredient. I like to break my design down into five areas. The middle area to be my primary color. Let's say I'm using oranges example. I'm going to have my middle section be a pure orange. And then on either side it's going to be two orange, half yellow, and then two orange half P. Then I'm going to have a pure pink on the pink orange side and then a pure yellow on the yellow orange side. You can break this up into as many steps as you like depending on how many steps there are in your gradient. Don't forget to add any special little details like highlights in the eyes or on the back of the seal to make it seem extra shiny. Once you've added those details, make sure that you're going back and you're adding them to your line art layers. So that way you have that on your template when you go to create your rug. I also like to be sure to mark out where I'm going to be transitioning my colors just to make sure that I get those transition areas nice and even. 5. Transferring Your Sketch: Today I'm using a projector. I'm just projecting the digital file onto my backing fabric. If you have a design that needs to go one way, make sure that you flip it so that way you're reading it backwards as you're tufting it is that way it reads correctly on the front side. You can also transfer the design by printing it out and taping it up together and then pinning it to the backside of your cloth and then just tracing the lines through. I have an example of how to do this. In my introduction to a tufting, I find it best to use two different colors when I'm transferring my lines. So I'll use a Sharpie for any area that I need to be a dark line, work color. And then I'll use a different color, usually a red or green, to indicate any markings. I also use the same color and a dash line to indicate where I'm going to be breaking up my color gradients. When in doubt, it's better to add more detail than less, and you can always just ignore the bits that you don't need. 6. Tufting: I'm just going to give a quick reminder of some tufting tips, but if you want a more in depth discussion on how to begin tufting and some best tufting practices, then definitely be sure to check out my class on introduction to rug tufting. First thing I do want to have a design is I tuft out the outline for this. Take as long as you need. If you need to go slower around curves, then tap the trigger on the gun to have it going a little bit slower. Makes it a lot easier to go around the turns. Make sure that you're turning the handle of the gun that's holding the trigger. The other hand with the front handle, is just there for support. Carefully go around the outline of your rug. I usually like to do about two or three layers for the outline just to make sure that there's plenty of room along the edge. Your design is not being cut off or lost anywhere. Once the outline is done and you're ready to start blocking colors, it's best to tuft around the area of the color first. So you're basically outlining that block and then fill it in with rows going all the same direction. The reason why you want your rows tall got the same direction is because you want the pile tall got the same direction. Think about when you walk across a carpet, how that pushes the pile in a separate direction and leave like a ghost of your foot. That's essentially what it will look like if you tuft your carpet going in a bunch of different directions. You'll get that ghosting effect a bunch of different angles. When you're tufting the edges of your color blocks, you want to make sure that you're leaving a little bit of a space between each color block. And also the outline usual say about one to two stitches width thick is good enough and that just prevents the yarn from relapping too much on the front and making it look a bit messy. It's also best practice tuft with two strands of yarn. This makes it really easy to do gradients for a mixed gradient. For example, if I'm going to mix yellow and orange, I want a mix in the center that is both yellow and orange. I'll just have one yaron that's yellow, one yarn that's orange, and tuft those both at the same time. For example, what I'm doing here is I'm going from a purple gradient to a blue gradient. First I'm using two strands of purple yarn for this first section, and then in the next color block, I'm using one strand of purple and one strand of blue. And the color block after that, I'll be using two strands of blue. And that'll give me that gradient from purple to purple, blue to blue. 7. Glue and Backing: Blowing up your rug is really important for longevity. If you'd like a more in depth discussion of a bunch of different ways to glue up your rug, again, check out my introductory rug tufting class, but for today I'm using an iron glue, I'm using heat and bond. And how this works basically is you remove your rug from the rug tufting frame glued, put it on an ironing board, and then put the glue side down and just iron it on using a iron set to dry. Should be no steam involved in this. There are a few advantages to this. One is that you don't have to wait overnight for your glute to dry. Two is that it doesn't produce any fumes. I wouldn't necessarily recommend this for a rug that's going on the ground. You want something that's a little bit stronger for that. But for a wall hanging piece, this works just fine. Once I have all the adhesive down, I'm going to trim out my rug. I'm using felt for my backing again, there are a lot of different ways to back a rug. And if you'd like more in depth discussion on this, you can check out my introductory rug tfting class. But for this I'm just using a raw edge. I've gone around as close to the yarn as I can and cut off the excess backing fabric. And then I'm just applying the backing directly onto the glue that's on the rug. To reactivate the glue, I'm using a heat gun, so that way it doesn't have to touch the glue. Then I'm just pressing the backing on firmly. Once the backing has been adhered to the heat glue, I wait for it to cool, then I trim the backing, leaving a little bit of an edge between the glue and where I'm cutting, so there's a little bit of excess fabric just to reinforce that edge and add some extra stability. I'm using a hot glue gun to go around and glue down that little bit of excess fabric to the yarn around the edge. That's just going to add a little bit of extra fidelity. 8. Cleaning and Trimming: The final step here rug is the trimming. The first thing I like to do is even the pile, I like to use an electric razor for this, but you can also use just scissors. If you're using an electric shaver. You can also purchase a shaver guard that'll make sure that your pile guard turns out even at the end. But for small rugs like this, I prefer to just do it by hand when I'm shaving down the rug pile. I like to work in color sections because I find that different colors of yarn by the same manufacturer in the same line, different densities that can make it a little bit tricky to get the pressure right if you're going over a bunch of different areas at the same time. The purpose of shaving over the entire face of the rug is just to get the pile nice and even you want to trim down any bits that were cut a little bit too long or any parts of the rug that are just thicker than others. We want to get it all nice and level once the rug is all nice and level to go back and trim the edges. First thing I do want, I'm trimming the edges. I flip the rug over to its back and shorten all the edges. This is going to allow me to follow the contour and really emphasize the contour of the shape of the rug. Once the very edge is finished, then I'm going to flip it over to the front side. I create a curve around where I've just cut. Initially, it was a boxy cut and I feel that stands out quite a lot. So I'm just going to use my scissors and gently create a bit of a curve with a few cuts, shortening the pile from the edge towards the face of the rug. The cleaning up of your rug is what gives it a really professional look. So be sure to take your time on this step and clean up any bits that look a little bit rough. And with that, your rug is complete. 9. Wrapping Up: Congratulations, reach to the end. But now, I hope you have a better understanding of how to break down complex subjects from a photo reference into simple shapes and how to select what shapes will convey the emotion that you're trying to capture with your rugs. In this class, we discussed breaking down complex subjects into simple shapes and selecting the appropriate shape for the emotion that you're trying to convey. We also discussed the use of color to complement your shape selection and reinforce the emotion that you're trying to create. We went over some basic tufting skills, including how to get a clean line and how to gradiate between colors. And I showed you my entire creation process, from sketching out the initial design, to tufting, gluing, backing, and cleaning up the final rug. Thank you for watching. I hope you enjoyed the class. Please be sure to leave any comments in the comment section and share anything. You're great in the project section. I'm really excited to see what you guys think of the class and what you guys create. Thanks very much and have a great day.