Thursday, June 4, 2009

Spoonflower Lessons

I would love to hear from anyone else out there that creates fabric via Spoonflower. I got back some of my fabric swatches and I'm so amazed at the color differences from my original file. Luckily, I knew this could be an issue and I had read Rachel Galloway's tutorials ahead of time on this very subject. She recommends getting a printout of all of the possible color combinations on a one yard swatch. I did just that. See how each color corresponds to a 6-digit code? Those are universal color codes that you use when designing your image. What I think is so interesting is that the colors you are imagining when you are designing look nothing like the file that you ultimately want to send to Spoonflower to print. You really have to buy a color swatch so that you aren't disappointed with your finished fabric.

I ordered some Spoonflower samples based on some of my designs. Mostly, I wanted to compare the color I see on my screen with what it actually prints out to be. The difference is quite amazing and I don't think my computer is going to capture the difference at the level you could see in person. See the polkadot image below? That is the image file I sent to Spoonflower to print. I had used my color codes and was not happy with the image file but had to trust the actual fabric swatch would print out with the colors as I wanted them to look. I would not ever think to combine purple with mustard yellow and a very deep red.

I had specifically chose those purple dots to be brown but they don't appear that way on my screen. When I punch in the correct color code, the image changes to to purple. But my fabric swatches printed out brown as I specified. The reds aren't so deep as in the image file and the yellows aren't as mustardy either. And my pink background color isn't so vibrant as the image file.

Then there are these stripes.

And the fabric swatch of that same file. See how the greens are pretty different? And the thickness of the stripes are much thicker than I thought they'd be. I've got to keep thinking about size when creating my file.

Then there are these flower circles. Here is my image file with my color selections as they look on screen:

And here is the fabric swatch of that same file. I like the image file much better. The flowers get lost in this drab swatch. Not sure what I can do here.

Do you ever hit the Explore button in Spoonflower? I love to see all the designs. There are some lovely designs and some very talented and artistic people out there! Their color choices are so great. But I wonder if they are finding that their fabric prints out to look like their color choices? When I save my files with the "correct" colors, my image files aren't so pleasing though they print out to what I want them to be. In order to have a pleasing image file, I'd have to not really care about the fabric result. I prefer the other way around. All this is just to say that I don't know how you can have a lovely image file with pleasing colors for people to explore and also have the fabric print out as the colors you choose in your software. I don't think it is possible. So are you Spoonies out there creating two files? One that you post for aesthetic-sake and one that is what you want your end result to really be?

I am glad I printed a swatch. I'm not sure I'd do that every time. I actually don't think I'll be purchasing this fabric in greater quantity. But I'll take from this the knowledge that 1. Color on the image file is going to look weird. I've got to trust the swatch with the color codes. 2. I have to really think about size. My stripes that look thin on screen translate differently when I save the image file using dpi conversions.

If you have other lessons or anectodotes, please share!

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1 comment:

Kim said...

Hi, Carolyn! Kim from Spoonflower here. Thanks for discussing the importance of ordering a test swatch of any design. There really is no substitute for determining how a design will print up than seeing it printed up!

Color is definitely the trickiest issue in digital printing, and we're still learning about it ourselves. It's true that very saturated colors generally don't print up with digital printers as well as we might hope. But you might be interested to know that many Spoonflower designers increase the saturation levels of colors in their designs in order to overcome this limitation. Printed color in real life is never going to look as saturated as it does on your computer monitor, but that does seem to help.

By the way, since computer monitors display color so differently, you may be comforted to know that someone else's monitor may be displaying your chosen design colors more along the lines of how they're supposed to look. It's too bad color calibration is such an expensive prospect!