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Design your own fabric using Inkscape

17 April 2014 09:00

If you’ve been having a go at designing your own fabric using some of the ways I’ve mentioned previously, you may be ready to try something which may produce better results, but which will be a bit more challenging.

In my first post about designing your own fabric, I mentioned professional software such as Illustrator and also various cheaper (or even free) options which head in that direction.  I’ve since discovered a couple more, so we’ll have a quick look at these now.  All three are free to download.

I’ve been told that Gimp is very good for creating designs.  It calls itself an image manipulation program, which sounds as though it is similar to Photoshop.   I haven’t had chance to try this program yet.  Have you?  If you have, tell us about your experience below.  

My daughter used Serif DrawPlus starter edition to create a banner and found it not too difficult.  It looks similar to Inkscape, which is the program I’ve had a chance to play with, so that’s the one I’m going to use today.  Serif DrawPlus starter edition is free to download.  There are also various options to buy, which presumably give you more capabilities.

Inkscape is a vector drawing program, which means that it is easier to create original designs with this software than with the ones we’ve used before.  It is a powerful program, which also means that it is quite complex.  However, you can make a start without knowing everything about it – fortunately!

You can download Inkscape from   Once you've opened up Inkscape, you'll find the manual under Help.  It starts with a series of projects for you to work through, gradually introducing new information and techniques and, compared with some software manuals, is reasonably easy to follow, as you work through the examples, gradually creating more and more complex designs.

I started with a fairly simple pattern, using shapes from the program, and with a straightforward repeat.  It’s always best to start with something simple!  From here, it will be easier to follow if you download and open up Inkscape and go through everything as you read it.

When you open up Inkscape, you will be greeted by this:

Don’t be scared!

First, go to File (top left) and click on Document Properties.  You will get this dialogue box:

My design is only small, so a canvas of 4cms square is probably going to be big enough.  Remember that you only need to create one tile (one copy of your design.)  You can create the repeats on the web site.

Change Units to cms and then the width and height to 4.  Still in Document properties, click on the Grids tab and, next to Rectangular Grid, click on New.  (You don't have to put the grid in place, but it makes it easier to place the elements of your design accurately.)  Close the box.  If you click on 5, the canvas will be enlarged.


I’m going to create a design using stars, so click on the star.

Then click in the top left-hand corner of your canvas and drag till the star is the size you want.  The centre of your star will be where you click.

If there is a colour already loaded, your star will be this colour, in which case you can leave adjusting colours till you’ve finished your design.  However, if your star isn’t coloured, it’s probably best to add some colour at this stage.  Click on the Fill and Stroke icon on the right.  On the Fill tab, click on Wheel.  (If you know about RGB colour, you can use that, but the wheel is simpler for a first design.)  Click on the colour of your choice.  Your star should now be that colour.

Repeat the click and drag routine to put more stars on your design, till you are happy.  Don't forget that you have enlarged the view of your canvas.  It's worth looking at it at actual size before you finish, otherwise it's easy to make the elements of your design too small or too crowded.

Next, click on the arrow (top left) and then a star:

Then go to Fill and Stroke and click on the colour you want that star to be.  Repeat till all your stars are the colour you want.

When you are happy with your design, save it.  Unfortunately, Inkscape doesn’t seem to save in a format which our printer will accept, so save it as a PNG file.  Then open the file in Paint, or Photoshop and re-save it as a TIFF file.  Before you re-save it, you can alter the size of the canvas to give more or less white around the stars.  This will affect the look of the design when it is repeated.

Then go to our web site and upload your design.  Experiment with the different types of repeat, to see which you like best.  I’ve chosen a half-drop for this version, where there is not much space around the stars.

This is also a half-drop repeat, but there is more space around the stars.

You can do this without logging in, but you will need to have an account and be logged in if you want to save your design or order some fabric.

And here are the two versions printed:

What's your design like?