Create Your Own ‘Hand-Dyed’ Fabric with Digital Surface Design

Over the years I’ve learned several surface design techniques for creating unique fabrics. Dyeing, fabric painting, discharge dyeing, stamping, and screen printing–they all make me feel like a kid again, getting creatively messy with color and pattern.

Fabrics with printed surface design
by Diane Rusin Doran.

I enjoy creating unique fabrics and have often thought about printing some of my designs digitally onto plain fabric via a service like Spoonflower.

But I had no idea you could actually create a hand-dyed or hand-painted look on the computer until I spent time with Diane Rusin Doran earlier this year.

Diane has a technique for using digital technology to create the effects of hand dyeing and painting on the computer. Then she adds imagery that mimics stamping or screen printing, also digitally produced.

When printed onto fabric (Diane uses a service or her own printer), the fabrics actually look the dyeing and printing was done by hand.

Top, an image Diane scanned into the computer. Above, the same image manipulated to look like drip dyeing.

But why use the computer when handmade surface design is so much fun. Diane says there are several reasons:

  • Surface designers sometimes develop sensitivities to the chemicals used in dyes and paints. Digital design is a way to get similar effects without coming in contact with those substances.
  • On the computer, you have unlimited colors to choose from, instead of having to purchase and stock every color you might need in your studio.
  • Commercial or handmade stencils, stamps, and screens come in limited sizes. When you use a motif on the computer, you can change the size and shape at will.
  • It’s portable. With a laptop, you can design anywhere.
  • And, perhaps best of all, there’s no clean-up!

Diane walks you step by step through the process of designing your own surface designed fabric using image software on her new Quilting Arts WorkshopTM video, Digital Surface Design: Simple Techniques for Hand-dyed Fabric Effects and More. You’ll be amazed at what you can create.

P.S. What do you think of creating surface design effects on the computer? Would you try it? Have you? Leave your response below.


Other topics you may enjoy:


Fabric Painting & Dyeing, Quilting Daily Blog

6 thoughts on “Create Your Own ‘Hand-Dyed’ Fabric with Digital Surface Design

  1. Great idea. I use the computer for designing digital embroideries using my own photos or clip art (no copywrite) and also quilting designs for my long arm. This is just an extension. Must give it a try.

  2. I am very interested in trying this out. Sometimes I get a certain color combo in my head and then get frustrated when I cannot find it. I love to play with color and design but I am not blessed with an artistic hand. This could be the answer for me.

  3. My wife has tried printing on fabric for quite a few years using every technique she can find. However, she still hasn’t found one in which the inked material can be washed without fading. It also smears. The wash-ability is important since she would like to make pillows etc. out of the fabric.
    Have you found a process that works?

  4. I downloaded the digital version of the book and I love it. If nothing else, it has taught me things I hadn’t figured out in Photoshop Elements. So far, I’m only only one-third through the book and have created a really nice background. Printing photographs from the computer to fabric, as well as creating my own hand-dyed to painted fabric is not new to me, but this is taking me in a direction I think I am going to enjoy.