I recently entered one of my designs in a Spoonflower contest for the first time. Though I read the FAQs, and re-read the FAQs, I was a bit confused. Funnily enough, I blame this on my training as a Textile and Surface Pattern Designer. I know how to do a repeat for printing on commercial machinery, like rotary screen printers and flat bed printers. So I was looking for information that I simply wasn't going to find in Spoonflower's FAQs, like what repeat sizes they might recommend/prefer/require.
What's so cool about Spoonflower is that they've done an awesome job of making a rather technical thing very accessible to anyone who has a love of pattern, and wants to see their own designs on fabric. And it's all possible because of digital printing! Which means no need to discuss bothersome things like 12 5/8" half-drop repeats, and rotary screen printers, and a lot of other specifics. Spoonflower has made all that irrelevant to, and thus friendlier for, hobbyist fabric designers!
So here's a little tutorial. If you're new to using Spoonflower, I hope this will help you visualize how their Spoonflowery-magic happens. If you've been Spoonflower-ing for a bit, but would like your repeats to look more sophisticated, this might help you too.
Let's just assume that you've begun with a set of motifs, you know how large or small you want them to appear on your fabric, and you think they're in a pretty good arrangement. This is not yet a pattern, because pattern depends upon repition, or what textile designers call repeats. For the sake of discussion, let's just call this a thing we've made a "tile."A let's assume it's 4" x 4".
We're going to put in a background color and play with Spoonflower's repeat options. Spoonflower allows you to put your artwork into repeat in a several different ways.
So let's fiddle a bit.
This is a square repeat (Spoonflower calls this a basic repeat):
A half-drop repeat looks like this:
Since our tile is 4" x 4", the half-drop is 2".
Spoonflower also offers a half-brick repeat, but it's essentially a half-drop repeat turned at 90 degrees.
There are a couple of other repeat options on Spoonflower too. For the moment we're just going to ignore the center option, because we want a repeating pattern.
You could use the mirror option in Spoonflower, and get this:
The mirror layout can create some really fun kaliedoscopic effects with photo images of flowers (for example), or hand-painted images. But I don't really think it's doing anything for our simple single-color motifs.
I like the half-drop repeat best, so let's keep playing with that one. Pop our tile into Spoonflower, selecting the half-drop option.
Eek! Where did those white lines come from? That's what happens when the background color is handled as part of the tile, and it shifts somehow. So here's another trick. Always put your background color in a seperate layer below your motifs, and make sure your color fills the entire artboard, or canvas. There are other ways that this pesky white line will shows up, and sometimes you'll see it in designs on Spoonflower. It's easily avoided with a little forethought. Moving along...Hmmm. Not bad. But look at this:
Those are some less than aesthetically pleasing gaps! Let's fix them to improve our design, and to make you the designer look all the more designer-y!
Let's go back to our original tile, and move some things just a bit.... So you can see what's happening here, we're still in half drop repeat, and the red outlines show how we're moving three keys to make a better design....
Let's see what our new tile, without repeats, looks like.
See those places I've circled where the motif runs off the edge of the tile? We've got to fix that on our tile, before it goes into Spoonflower. So here's what our new tile looks like, with the repeated bits shown in orange, and circled in green. Those little run-off areas are where the Spoonflower magic happens!
And, here's our newer, better, shinier, more improved-ier layout!
OK, it might still want a bit of fiddling about. But if you scroll up you can see that we've disguised the edges of our repeat. It's harder to see where the original "tile" is, and that's good!
Any questions? Please ask away in the comments, and I'll do my best to anwer!