Something I learned while I was in fashion design school and loved was some surface deign techniques. I liked doing repeats by hand (like screen printing, block printing, etc) but I really got hooked with creating repeats via Photoshop.
And good thing, because now Spoonflower exists and you can get your fabric designs printed up!
Here, I will show you step by step of creating a seamless repeat for your sketches for fabric using Adobe Photoshop.
First, you will need something you’ve created. Above is a design I drew with watercolor pencils, Micron pens, and pencil. You can have multiple loose items (like flowers in different angles, or any other pieces you can move around) if you want, but I just did the repeat with this exact image.
I always personally scan in my image(s) at 600 dpi (below). This may sound excessive, but it really helps get your image high quality for printing your fabric.
Next, you want to set up your canvas for a seamless repeat. (File > new.)
At this point, I change my dpi on the new canvas to 150 dpi as last I checked, that’s the size that Spoonflower prints at/prefers your file size at. You don’t want bigger or smaller because then this affects the size of your print on your fabric!
This is also a good time to decide how big or small you want the repeat to be. I made my repeat fairly large at 8″ by 8″ but you can make your repeat any size or length.
Above, you can see I took my image and overlapped/reflected it already. I find that for the first iteration, you don’t want your image falling off the side of the canvas, so keep it within that size.
From here, you will do a series of offsets. (Filter > other > offset.) IMPORTANT: Before you do your first offset, your image must be flattened. No layers! You will also check “wrap around” on the box. I’ll usually offset horizontal first by +300 then do second offset at +300 vertical. (See below.)
The other important thing is to save in between each offset. This is so you can go back after you have flattened the image if you make a mistake somehow in one of the steps of your repeat. Trust me, I didn’t think this was that important, but I didn’t once and had to re-tool another print for another hour one time. Not fun!
From here, it’s really a game of filling in white space…. or not. It’s up to you what you want your print to look like! This is what mine ended up looking like.
You will want to save your most basic repeat. I’ll call this one a “seed swatch” (I’m totally making up that phrase for explanation purposes!) From there, you will use this seed swatch to create the rest of your seamless repeat print.
This is what mine looked like.
You will also want to test your print in various forms. Make a bigger canvas in Photoshop and test what it will look like large-scale like I did (below)!
My favorite part of all this is finally getting it into a garment shape and seeing what it will look like. You will want to “select all” on your seed swatch, then go to “edit > define pattern”. Save your pattern.
Here I made a flat sketch in Illustrator of my loose-fit t-shirt to mock up what this print might look like on a garment. I selected all of my garment and clicked “fill > fill with pattern” on my top and the print automatically seamlessly populated.
I love it!
I also like to test my repeat by printing out a swatch on my printer at around 8.5″ by 11″ just to get a feel for size in general and see if I messed up anywhere.
Next, you would go ahead and upload that “seed swatch” into Spoonflower and click the option of a “basic” repeat to get what you just did in Photoshop.
That’s really it! You can send it off to print and receive your fabric in the mail in a few weeks.
Check out the Victrola print I did a while back and then made a romper out of it using a vintage sewing pattern!
The options are really endless. Have fun and try it yourself!