Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Using Photoshop Elements to Create a Repeat Pattern for Spoonflower fabric (or any other purpose)

I have been busily creating soft felt sculptures of insects and I decided that the finished insects would be great subjects turned into a fabric design. This post is about my steps into turning my photos of the spider sculptures into continuous repeat pattern fabrics using Photoshop Elements 13, which is the simplified version of Photoshop but still really powerful. The same steps can be used to get you started in any photo manipulation.

I use the the "Expert" tab in the Photoshop Elements, not because I am expert but because you can do lots with it.
Start by opening the original photo you wish to use for the fabric in Photoshop.

Now I only want the spider rather than everything from this photo, so I want to collect the spider out of the background and put it into a new document sized just right for Spoonflower fabric. I will create this new document in a moment, but first I need to chop out the spider.

To select the spider from the background, I use the Magic Wand tool.  Its in the left hand sidebar in the top group of 4 symbols and is a Magic Wand.


To use the magic wand use the '"Add" choice which is the second of the four choices in the bottom toolbar. Because the spider is very contrasted against the photo background, I selected a tolerance of about 100 (that's the slider in the bottom toolbar).  Tolerance is just how much of the image is picked up by the magic wand. Don't worry if its too little or too much with your first choice because you can add and use by changing the "Add" or "Subtract" buttons and the tolerance bar up or down.  Lower tolerance picks up less information or takes away less information. So using the add  with a higher tolerance and then the subtract with a lower tolerance I got all the spider bits. I want to copy these into a new document.  This is easy using "Ctl C" (thanks Windows shortcut).

I now need to create a new document as my fabric.  Because Spoonflower likes to work in Fat Quarter size (which is the same as 1/4 of a yard of fabric) I am going to create a new canvas measuring 6300 pixels by 5400 pixels.  I do this by choosing the "File" and "Blank Canvas" buttons in the top toolbar. I also set my resolution to 600 DPI (pixels per inch) because I like lots of detail. Spoonflower's minimum size is 150DPI, but there is also a maximum upload file size of 40MB so your final project needs to fall between these sizes. 

6300 pixels * 5400 pixels @ 600DPI saved as a PNG file works well for me.

After the file is created I need to add a new layer.  Layers are basically different "pieces of tracing paper" you stack up with each element of a picture on it. That way you can play with each element separately - moving, distorting, colouring, etc. For me I want each spider in my picture to be able to be manipulated separately so each spider is put on a different layer.  
To open a new layer select "Layer" and then "New Layer". This gives me a spot to put all the bits of my spider I gathered up earlier.  To get them on the layer simply press "Ctl V". 


 After putting the image on the canvas I can clean up the image by using the "Magic Eraser" option again from the left side bar and using the tolerance to choose more or less to rub out of the layer.
After cleaning up the image, I want to resize it for my canvas and that's where the "edit" and then "free transform" options let you change the spiders size, position on the page and shape.

You can play with this as much as you like and then select the green tick to confirm the moves made.

After I am happy with that spider I want to copy it a couple of times to get a repeat going.  To do this I choose "Duplicate Layer" from the "Layer" drop down menu.  I have copied it three times in the example below.  Then in the right hand side tool bar you can see all the different layers. Just highlight which layer to play with and select file Free Transform to manipulate each.

I now have 3 spiders set out how I like them. I copy the spider once more (as a 4th layer) and then hide this new layer.  This sounds scary but all you do is click on the "eye" beside the new extra layer and it gets a line through it to hide it. Making a copy is important because I am going the wrap the rest of the spiders around the page to allow a repeat to form and I will need a spare spider afterwards to put in the hole I make in the middle of the page.
After hiding the new spider layer copy and the bottom empty layer (which I can colour later), I select the "merge visible layers" option from the "Layer" drop down menu. Now all my spiders live on the same layer except my hidden spider. 

I want these 3 spiders to be wrapped around the page so I select "Filter" then "Other" and then "Offset".  For the fat quarter canvas I am using I need to cut the image in half both vertically and horizontally, so I put in an offset of 3150 pixels by 2700 pixels.
The spiders now look all mixed up.  I make my spare spider layer visible again (by clicking the eye) and move this layer around using "free transform" to fill the hole between the other spiders.

 I can play round with the positions, add a background colour to layer 1 and make a mock up test using the "fill layer" option (I will go through this another time). This final file I save as a PNG.  When its uploaded to Spoonflower the spiders now look like this:

Its a nice way to get a continuous image.  I am no expert but this does make my fabric designs look more professional.

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