Thursday, October 11, 2012

Spoonflower branches out into wallpaper!

Wow! Spoonflower has branched out into print-on-demand wallpaper.  I am busy updating some of my patterns which I would find appropriate for wallpaper and adding that option.  They have a nice feature which shows the design mocked up with a chair for scale:

I never cease having fun with Spoonflower.  What a great resource!

Vector conversion with Adobe Illustrator for dummies

When I decided to upload my designs to, I found to my dismay that the patterns all were required to be vector patterns.  I had been struggling in my hard-headed self-taught way to figure out the vector method in Adobe Illustrator (I always design in Adobe Photoshop and feel comfortable and reasonably fluent in that).  It is a whole different way of thinking and working and makes a great deal of sense, but I couldn't get to square one on Illustrator.  Take a class? well, I just have not yet done so....

Several years ago my son Will, who of course absorbs all of this techno information with the ease of a sponge, told me that there is a simple tool called "Live Trace", and gave me a little demo.  I thought I had it down until the next time I tried it on my own and got big traced pixels.

I should explain to those of you, who like me, have a hard time understanding this stuff.  Adobe Photoshop builds your images out of little building blocks called pixels.  Think of graph paper designs you may have done as a child.  The smaller the grid, the more refined your detail could get (a lot like what I deal with in weaving).  So you need to work in a high level of ppi (pixels per inch) to get crisp detail.  But when you blow your design up, or reduce it, your pixels can suddenly become a design element you had not counted on.  Zigzag steps,  smeary outlines.

Vector is more like a rubber band.  You have an infinitely flexible, smooth outline to each shape (object) you are making, and if you enlarge or reduce it in scale, the outline remains smooth.  Elastic, that is how I think of it.  No unsightly zigzags.

You would think that working back & forth on 2 different Adobe platforms would be effortless, that each tool symbol behaved the same way in either program, but you would be wrong.  So again, the middle aged autodidact has a problem here with translation!

So I took the radical step of reading carefully through the excellent tutorial provided by, and suddenly it all clicked!

I went back to the Auto Trace tool and followed their instructions:

1. select "all" of the image.
2. go to Object (why do they call it "object"? I want to know)  menu, and scroll down to Live Trace.
3. Choose "tracing options"
4. in that menu, choose color, and then enter the number of colors in your design (which you have assigned under "indexed color in Photoshop).  Hopefully it is under 10, or the next step might take a long time.
5. the design will now trace, but you are not finished! Open the Swatches palette under Window, and use the select tool to drag a copy of the image onto the palette.
6. take the eyedropper tool and click on the first color in the design.  I try to work in groups to keep them straight, so I usually begin by sampling the background color.
7. Go to the swatch palette and click the New Swatch symbol at the bottom. (if you hover over the symbols you will be told what they are).  Click on it, and your color will be traced and then its swatch will appear.  When the New Swatch dialog box opens, click "global" and whether you want the color to be CMYK or RGB.
8. continue with every color in the design until it is complete, then go to the file folder icon at the bottom of the swatch palette, click it, and save your color palette.
9. Finally, save your file in the required format (.ai or .svg, etc)

Now, I will admit that I am a slow learner, and that I have been doing this in Illustrator CS3!  Things may well have evolved since then.  But mainly, I am thrilled that I now can make real vectorized designs from my raster images, and the next time a manufacturer asks for vector based designs, I won't have to admit my ignorance.  I am sure all of you younger designers reading this are rolling your eyes, but it was a great week for me!

PS, I will bet many of you know this inside & out and can share tips.  Please do!

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

LFN Designs online at

Breakfast, copyright Laura Foster Nicholson
I have just joined an online pattern design site, where a select collection of my pattern designs will be for sale. The difference between this and my custom work for clients (like Crate & Barrel), is that these designs will be sold, not licensed, and they can be sold multiple times to any number of clients.  There is no crossover between my custom design work (ribbons and housewares) and these designs: these are a different lot.

I design hundreds of patterns a year, and relatively few are scooped up by my clients, so this is a way to keep all that work productive.  And my clients still get first pick.

You need to join the site to be able to look through designs, I believe, but if you are in the market for good quality design and you don't need it on an exclusive basis, this is a great way to work.

Here is the link to my profile page:

I am proud, too, that I had to jump ahead light years in some design software applications in order to participate, so I have gotten a lot of knowledge under my belt in the last couple of days and a whole new world has opened up!  previously I only designed in Adobe Photoshop, which is a great tool, but I have had a lot of pressure to learn to use Adobe Illustrator for scaleable vector designs.  So that learning curve has been tackled, and though I have a long way to go before I am as fluent in Illustrator as  I am in Photoshop, I feel great!