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How to Make Digital Fabric Prints

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The one thing I’ve been asked time and again since showing off my pictures is how I do the vintage fabric illustrations like these:

They’re super-easy to do, so I thought I’d show you all how.

We’ll start with a distinctly tatty 70s T-shirt with an amazing nautical print:

I love this T-shirt which was a hand-me-down from my then-flatmate in 1999. It’s mis-shapen now and has teeny little holes dotted all over it… it’s about time it got recycled into something else. But the good thing about this project is that it doesn’t have to be. All you have to do with your T-shirt (or curtain or pillow case or whatever) is stick it in your scanner.

So, one scanned bit of fabric:

Now all you have to do is draw on it. This can be done is MS Paint or any other basic drawing package, but I use Photoshop; unless you’re absolutely confident of your ability to draw well first time, the layers in Photoshop are invaluable.

Create a new layer and draw your image on it. I actually prefer to draw my image on several layers, one piled on top of the other, as it allows me to move different bits of the image around and delete or filter just one part at a time. For this image, I used one layer for the boat, one for the body and one for the head.

You could also draw a stick figure on a separate layer to use as a guide, then delete it when you’re done. I don’t often do this because my illustrations are scrappy, but it can be useful if you want nice, tidy lines!

Happy with your drawing now? Good.

In the layers palette, hold down CTRL and select all the different parts of your drawing (not the fabric background), then right click and select “Merge Layers”. This will leave you with one solid line drawing.

Colour your drawing in using the Paint Bucket tool.

I still wasn’t completely happy with this one; the background was a little too sharp for the dreamy effect I was trying to create. I selected the fabric background layer and applied a radial blur filter at a very low setting:

Still on the fabric background layer, I then used the gradient tool set at 20% opacity to add a sky blue corner. And that’s it – from tatty old T-shirt to illustrated print:

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3 responses »

  1. Wow, neat! You make it seem effortless 🙂 Just curious,w as the first image a lace type background? Pretty.

    Reply
  2. Aha…exotic! hope the exhibition is going well 🙂

    Reply

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