Rework your Fine Art Prints into Patterns for Fabric, Clothing, and Home Furnishings

Are you a fine artist who is always looking for new and creative ways to sell your artwork? If so, you’ve probably noticed that several of the print-on-demand companies give you the opportunity to print your artwork on textiles such as fabric, all-over-print clothing, bedding, towels, furniture, and more.

This is great, but once you start uploading your work to these sites, you quickly notice that your beautiful 1:1 or 3:4 artwork can look rather awkward on a 9:16 bench, or a 4:3 blanket. What to do? You can crop your artwork, but you still may not be happy with the outcome.

This is very similar to the dilemma we discussed last year in Reworking your Fine Art Prints for T-Shirts: beyond cropping and re-sizing. In that blog post, I discussed overlaying your square or rectangular .jpegs onto organically-shaped .pngs with transparent backgrounds which look great on T-Shirts. This makes the shirt look less like a billboard for your art business, and more like a piece of art itself.

Well, if we take that one step further, we can turn those modified .png files into tiled patterns.

Here’s an example. I’ve used one of my 2014 artworks entitled “Regret” (if you are a child at heart, you’ll be able to see a pirate face in this one), and turned it into a surface pattern for textiles. I used Gimp, but these basic steps are very general and can be accomplished in any graphic arts app.

So I had this artwork, but I wanted to tile it to create curtains and a bedspread for a child’s room. Here are three examples of repeating patterns that did NOT work.

Nope, nope, and nope. The first is a regular tile pattern, that has too many hard edges. The second is an offset pattern that still has to many hard edgees, and just looks crazy. The third is created using the “seamless tile” feature in Gimp. This distorts the image so much it’s hardly recognizable.

So I started over. I used a .png file, but if you’re starting with a .jpg be sure to add a transparency layer. I used a fuzzy brush, and erased the edges of the piece (Note: DON’T leave any straight lines around the edge, but DO leave all important parts of the image in-tact).

Next I duplicated that layer, and added a background that coordinated with the piece. In this case, I took a color swap right out of the center of the artwork for the background,and it worked well.

Next I made the bottom two layers invisible, and used the “Offset Layer” feature in Gimp to begin creating a seamless tiled pattern (I used the ‘by width/2, height/2″ option here).

Now, I made all three layers visible, and as you see, it looks like a hot mess.

But here’s where the “artistry” comes in. I carefully took that same fuzzy eraser brush to the top layer, and made the center portion of my second layer visible again. During this step, it’s important not to touch the edges of the piece, but just to reveal the best parts of layers one and two, and make sure they blend well together. Here’s what I ended up with.

This might not look very different from the original, but see what happens now, when I apply a regular tile. Voila!

Not so Regretful: From Fine Art to Surface Pattern
Not so Regretful: From Fine Art to Surface Pattern

This is just a way to get started. You’ll want to play around with the patterns features available in your favorite software program. There are hundreds of tutorials on YouTube showing how to use both basic and advanced features in all of them.

After experimenting a bit with different types of repeats (regular, offset, mirrored), I produced a pattern collection I’m quite proud of, and that I think would look great on textiles in a kid’s room. As a bonus, I threw in a coordinating striped pattern using color swipes from these pieces.

Here are a couple more mini-collections I created using my older artwork. I’m hoping they’ll give you some ideas on what you can do with your artwork.

I would love to hear from you. Be sure to share in the comments what your experience has been with creating patterns from your artwork!

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