Easy Digital Surface Design Ideas from Jane Dunnewold

fibers on scanner for fabric printing surface design
Jane Dunnewold begins a digital fabric design by laying fibers on a scanner bed.

What do you do if you want to design your own fabric but can’t draw or paint? According to fiber artist and surface design expert Jane Dunnewold, you can scan, cut, or snap your way to fabric design.

“Almost anything you can take a picture of or scan can be used for raw design,” says Jane.

Jane, who is known worldwide for her approaches to surface design using wet media, has recently been using her computer and digital on-demand services for printing on fabric. Using photo-editing software like PicMonkey or Photoshop®, Jane-and anyone-can create fabric that look as though she had used dyeing and printmaking techniques.

But first you have to come up with the basic design.

Jane is a big fan of using a scanner to create improvisational design. You can use anything relatively flat that you can lay on the scanner and cover, such as:

  • Flat buttons
  • Fibers
  • Cut-outs
  • An old crazy quilt
  • Metal hardware
  • Decorative (copyright-free) papers
  • Natural objects like feathers
sprayed pasta digital surface design
Jane Dunnewold created this design with spray-painted pasta.

If you don’t have a scanner or would like to use items for design that aren’t flat, Jane suggests you use a camera and shoot the items from above.

Note: Make sure the scanner is set to the highest dpi (dots per inch) setting and the camera you use has a high megapixel count (the average cell phone probably isn’t high enough). That way your image won’t get pixelated (blurry) when you enlarge it for printing.

One of Jane’s favorite images resulted from scattering pasta pieces on white paper and spraying paint over them. The pasta acted as a resist, creating an interesting pattern. From there, Jane uploaded the image and selected one section of it to use to make a pattern.

But what if you want to use an image that looks like it has been drawn or created via relief printing? If you can’t draw or stamp, you can cut, says Jane. Cut out copyright-free images and place them on your scanner (or photograph them). Many websites also have copyright-free images you can use.

Once you have your basic designs, you can manipulate them with software, changing the shapes, creating repeats, and altering the patterns. From there, you can even create an assortment of color ways from one initial design. Pretty soon, you’ll have a portfolio of fabric designs like Jane does.

Jane shows you how easy it is to create your designs, edit them, upload them to an on-demand printing service like Spoonflower, and try out color ways in her Quilting Arts WorkshopTM video, Design & Print Your Own Fabric: Tips & Techniques for Successful Online Fabric Design.

P.S. Have you tried a print-on-demand site? Any advice you’d like to share? Leave a comment below.

Other topics you may enjoy:


Easy Quilting, Quilting Daily Blog