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Saturday, 16 May 2015

Sharing Some "Techspertise" — Fabric Design with PSP

Today I'm going to talk about designing fabric using a version of a photo and graphics editing program that came out in 2003. That's right, it's not a typo: 2003.

It's Paint Shop Pro version 8.10, back when it was put out by Jasc Software. Corel Corporation ate up Jasc in an acquisition that took place in 2004 and continues to this day to release new versions of PaintShop Pro.

Some background... last October, I noticed that the most recent version of PaintShop Pro was on sale for $49. Given that I had been toiling away with this old version of PSP for over ten years (and had been a user of PSP since 1998), I thought it was time to upgrade. I had read about some of the "new features" and was quite interested in one improvement in particular: the ability to select and remove backgrounds [more] easily. It's one of the functions that I use most often to enhance my marketing photos.

As in, to go from this... to this:

Hot Hues Convertible Crossbody Fooler Bag by eSheep Designs
This process is a painstaking task sometimes...

The new version promised a selection tool that would be more intuitive in terms of correctly guessing what was background and what wasn't. While I waited for delivery of my copy of PSP X7, I downloaded the free trial copy online and was ultimately disappointed. It was still a pain in the butt to select the background in a lot of cases and for some reason, the program did not respond to certain key presses (the Delete key most significantly), which I found extremely aggravating. And then it simply just died on me and refused to run. Long story short, I returned the new copy and stayed with my old standby from 2003.

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I then found out that this old version of PSP is available for free, on a site called OldVersion.com. (As are a bunch of newer old versions.) I downloaded and installed a "Try and Buy" version 9 as a test of the site. Everything went smoothly and I was able to remove it without issues. From what I've researched, OldVersion.com is a safe place. However, it will always be the case that you need to be vigilant about using security and virus detecting programs whenever you download anything.

I called upon my Kaspersky to give me this summary as a check... here is the history on the PSP version 8 file (which I didn't install because that's the version I have):

Kaspersky Application Advisor gives a green light to the PSP installation file...

If you're looking for an image editing program that'll do more than the basics — but not so much that you'll be overwhelmed by the very thought of it  — I highly recommend PSP. That I've been using it for this long says something.

What do I use it for the most? Re-sizing photos. Adjusting brightness and contrast, especially before printing. (My experience with digital cameras is that they take photos that are too dark; they look fine on screen, but not as a physical print.) Using layers to add text without affecting the original shot. And of course, replacing backgrounds. (I've gotten quite proficient at using my mouse to draw outlines around things!)

In comes in handy for other unexpected things, too. In an early blog post, I showed how I used PSP to mock up the fabric allocation for my Professional Tote...

CG image of what my bag might look like, front and back...

And of course, my most recent experience with PSP was when I was designing my Spoonflower fabric. (Whew! It's taken me the better part of this blog post to ramble back to the topic at hand!)

Here is a screen by screen summary of how I came to put together my coral, mint, black and white fabric entry for one of Spoonflower's weekly contests. (We were given the RGB codes for the colours; generally, all graphics programs will allow you to enter those codes directly.) I started with a blank 4" x 4" square — set up at the minimum resolution required by Spoonflower: 150 dpi — and then used the bucket tool to douse it with the mint colour. Mint was an arbitrary choice for the background; I could have gone with any of the four colours.

Coral/Mint/B&W Chevron by eSheep Designs
Using the bucket to "dump" the mint colour onto the background...

Since I'm going backwards to share this with you, ignore the fact that you already see other layers besides this Background layer in the above picture. The next step would be to create (each) subsequent layer(s) and then add individual elements to them.

Coral/Mint/B&W Chevron by eSheep Designs
Adding a layer on top of the background...

My idea was to create a series of chevron stripes in the required colours and then shuffle them up and down until I found something that appealed to me. So my first layer — called Chevron 1 — was a couple of stripes in coral. I used the pen tool to draw the outlines for the stripes and then filled them in with colour. The grid that you see (which I don't normally turn on) ensures that my lines are even.

Coral/Mint/B&W Chevron by eSheep Designs
Adding the coral chevrons on the first layer...

The second layer — Chevron 2 — would contain yet another series of stripes in another colour: black.

Coral/Mint/B&W Chevron by eSheep Designs
Adding black chevrons on the second layer...

So of course, all that's left is to put some white chevrons on the third layer.

Coral/Mint/B&W Chevron by eSheep Designs
White chevrons on the third layer...

In the above picture, the second layer has been turned off so you can better appreciate what exactly I was doing at the time. Do you see that the top coral chevron has been sandwiched — and subsequently made thinner — by two white chevrons?

Coral/Mint/B&W Chevron by eSheep Designs
All layers displayed in original order of creation...

Here I've turned the second layer back on so that you can see the black chevrons. This is now one variation of the design that I could have gone with. But I moved the third layer down and preferred this version...

Coral/Mint/B&W Chevron by eSheep Designs
Change up the positioning of the layers to get different design variations...

I know, there's hardly any difference; I actually don't remember why I ended up going with this version over the other!

But there you have it: the idea of "designing" fabric can be as simple as that. This was done strictly for Spoonflower's contest, so I did not spend a lot of time at it. I didn't go in having much of a plan other than the idea of chevrons, which is why I put each colour on its own layer. I figured that by shifting the layers up and down, I would quickly find an arrangement that was pleasing.

The final step is/was to save the file as a JPG, which can then be uploaded to Spoonflower, at which time I could choose how I wanted the basic pattern to repeat. (There are three different ways for a tile like this to be repeated.)

Unfortunately, I discovered that the two sides were not quite even. It was out by just a tiny, small amount, so I went with a "cheat" to fix it: I added a mint border around the whole JPG so that my chevrons would end up as disconnected pieces.

Coral/Mint/B&W Chevron by eSheep Designs
Adding a small border around the design to "fix" my problem...

And here is the actual fabric... it's fairly representative of the screen colour, don't you think?

Mint, Coral, B&W Chevron fabric by eSheep Designs
Like it? It's for sale in my Spoonflower fabric shop...

For my sunshine floral fabric, I started with a drawing on paper, scanned it as a JPG and then opened it up with PSP. I then used the pen tool to trace elements of the original drawing onto different layers. (Where elements overlap, it's important to put them on separate layers so you can experiment with shuffling them up and down.)

Creating fabric using Paint Shop Pro (eSheep Designs)
Three of the layers that I used to create my Sunshine Floral fabric design...

And then, of course, there is the option to design from a photograph. My lighthouse fabric is from a photo. (And you'll never guess what my winter webs fabric is actually a picture of... maybe I'll blog about it some day.)

For a detailed discussion of how to use Spoonflower itself after you have created your design, click here for links to a couple of PDFs that you can download.


  1. Thanks for this post about PSP and also for how you use it to design fabric. I love the idea of designing my own fabric!!

    1. It can be so easy with extremely satisfying results. Wishing you much success in your design efforts and thanks for commenting!


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