Fabric designing with Photoshop Elements

I’ve written about designing and creating my own fabric before, when I used a very simple text-based design to create bespoke fabric to use in my own sewing patterns. It’s such a fun process, and I love having my own unique fabric to use, so I have been looking out for more opportunities to make some more, and use different techniques.

Recently I have been teaching myself how to use Photoshop Elements so I can help our kids with photo editing and digital art projects. Because I’m not great at learning when I haven’t got an end in mind, I decided to try and use the programme to filter and fiddle with some photos of my collection of vintage haberdashery and then use the altered images to create a different kind of fabric design. What do you think? I used it to make my favourite easy zippered pouch pattern:
A zippy pouch made with self-designed fabric featuring a vintage haberdashery design.

A zippy pouch made with self-designed fabric featuring a vintage haberdashery design.

These are the photos of vintage haberdashery that I used – they aren’t terribly inspiring are they? I was delighted by the way that I was able to manipulate and improve them so easily. My first step was to remove all the background using the Magic Wand tool. I also had to use the Magnetic Select tool to outline the edges too, where they weren’t very clear and the Magic Wand struggled. It didn’t help that I took my photographs on a textured background!

Images of vintage haberdashery for use with Photoshop Elements for fabric design

Once I selected the background sections I hit the delete key on the keyboard to get rid of it and replace it with white. I then used the Paintbrush tool to remove any bits that were missed – although I didn’t want incredibly clean images because I was aiming for a fuzzy vintage look.

Then I experimented for a while with the different effects that I was able to apply to the photos. This bit really got the creative ideas rolling, it was great fun. In the end I settled on the Photocopy option in the Filter/Sketch menu. The Photocopy tool converts the image to two colours, so my next step was to choose a two colours to use. I toyed with different options:

Test ideas for creating fabric designs using Photoshop elements

But in the end decided that I wanted to go with something very simple and something I knew would work. So I selected blue and white as my colour options and then chose Filter… Sketch…Photocopy from the menu. And ta-da:

Photos of vintage haberdashery digitally altered using Photoshop Elements

I then put some of the images together to create a design and used this fabulous tutorial by the people at Prinfab (my sponsors) over on The Sewing Directory website on how to create a repeat pattern. The final step was to upload it on the Prinfab page and order a Fat Quarter – by the way, Prinfab are my blog sponsors, but I paid for the fabric myself!

As soon as the fabric came I decided to make a sewing project pouch, it seemed only right! I was delighted with the look and the quality of the fabric. The blue does look different to the way it appeared on my monitor, but my recent experience of using monitor photos to create my colour curated collections of fabric and haberdashery, means that I know how different they can be.

A zippy pouch made with self-designed fabric featuring a vintage haberdashery design.

Have you tried creating your own fabric? What techniques did you use? How were the results? I’d love to hear about your experience.


8 thoughts on “Fabric designing with Photoshop Elements

  1. Love your fabric and the use of the sewing related imagery. I have never printed my own fabric but have got close – I bought some fabric paints and intended to bundle a celery stick with tape to hold it together and cut a slice near the root and dip in dye and use to make a flower print on calico, something that I saw in a sewing magazine that looked fun, but haven’t got round to it yet, typical me!! As a dressmaker (mainly) I like prints that can be used upside down without them looking upside down, then it doesn’t show if I get confused cutting out, and because it generally is more cost effective. So to randomise the layout of your images and to put some upside down would further enhance it and create a perfect dressmaking fabric. I loved the first colourway too as it had a vintage feel and enjoyed reading your designing process.

    1. Thanks so much for this really useful comment Julie. After I got the fabric printed I realised that it was very ‘uniform’ with all the writing the same way… Sometimes it’s not until you see these things in reality that you realise!

  2. I’ve never made my own fabric, but I did print on fabric for the first time a few days ago, using my printer – I just ironed some Heat n’ Bond to the back of the fabric, cut it down to A4 size, removed the paper backing, then off to my inkjet printer and voila, home fabric printing!

    Do you use Microsoft or Apple? If you use the latter, I found a software that’s much better than Photoshop, called Affinity Photo. It’s wonderful, doesn’t slow down my iMac and does pretty much everything PS does 🙂

    1. Thanks for your comment Leonor (and terribly sorry for the slow reply!). I’ve done the similar using fabric through my printer, but I used freezer printer as the backing. Great fun to do. Wish I did have an iMac! 😀

  3. Hi Ali a great post and so interesting as always. I use Prinfab all the time after your recommendation using personal photos to make up articles for the family. However I do feel that I have come to the end of this type of project so I am having a go at designing fabric with textile paints and stencils/stamps. It is early days and I can’t wait to see my first piece of fabric. I loved your finished bag Ali it looks wonderful.
    Have a great weekend
    Dorothy xxxxxx🙋🏻

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