Grow Your Textile Design Business

Join the thousands of artists who are sharpening their skills using our informative articles, workshops and our private design community, The Textile Design Lab

The Textile Design Lab

Members of this tight-knit community are continually improving their craft, learning new techniques, staying informed with the most up-to-date styles, and making their artwork more profitable.

Free E-Course

Tips to Working In the Fashion Industry

2014 was a fun year in the Pattern Observer studio. We added a few new clients, including our first celebrity client, which I can’t wait to tell you about, and continued to work with our core customer base: the outdoor and activewear apparel markets. We do have a few clients who fall outside of this domain, but our business is very tight and focused, which is helpful when it comes to researching trends and getting into the mindset of the end use consumer. Our work was also featured twice in WGSN/Stylesight. This is always fun to see, and it definitely has a tremendous impact on our clients’ businesses.

We have BIG plans for our design business in 2015, which I’ll be sharing with you over the next few weeks. For today, I want to highlight some of our favorite pieces to hit the sales floor in 2014, and give you some tips to help you when you are working with clients in the fashion industry. Out of respect for our clients’ privacy, I am not able to share what we created this year, so these are all prints and patterns that were created in 2013 and prior.

If you are interested in learning the techniques that we use to create the patterns that you see below, then please join us for Mastering Your Market, which begins on January 12th. This workshop shares what buyers are looking for in each of the popular textile markets, AND the artistic techniques that will help you to develop these prints and patterns. For now, here are some helpful tips to help you start 2015 with a plan.

Tips to Working In the Fashion Industry-Moving Comfort

Tip #1: Learn how to index your artwork files, or find a freelancer to help you do this!

Complex, textural prints and patterns are extremely popular in the fashion industry. Don’t get me wrong; clean, simple patterns are used, but I would say that the overwhelming majority of prints that we create, and our clients purchase, are more complicated and require working with indexing, layering, and textural brushes. The tricky part is that most clients want patterns that are more complex, but can’t afford the digital printing process. This is where Photoshop’s indexing tool is handy. We used no more than six colors to achieve all the patterns that you see above, and we couldn’t have done it without the indexing tool. Being able to beautifully index patterns is a marketable skill to have, and allows you to offer more complicated concepts to your clients.

My indexing skills were born out of necessity. I wanted my employers and clients to have the rad prints that they desired, but they were working with a limited amount of colors and it was my job to find a solution. This is what I found: the best way to improve your indexing skills is practice, practice, practice. We also have two indexing tutorials in The Textile Design Lab to help speed up the learning process.


Tips to Working In the Fashion Industry-RYU

Tip #2: Create patterns that flatter and inspire

When designing for the fashion industry, the pattern has to flatter the end user. If it doesn’t look good on the consumer they are never going to purchase the piece. It’s as simple as that. This is why patterns with movement, flow, and a diagonal layout are all popular in the fashion industry. They look amazing on the body!  Scale is also so important to this industry. When double checking the scale of your pattern, print it out and hold it up to yourself in the mirror. Does it flatter and compliment your body, or look distracting and incomplete? Is the repeat obvious? Do the motifs fall on unflattering areas of the body? These are important questions to consider!

As designers, we have to take into account how the end user wants to feel when they are wearing the garment. Do they want to feel feminine or fierce? In the patterns that you see above, we wanted the end user to feel sexy, athletic, and frankly, bad-ass. To achieve this we used patterns with a textural feel, strong sense of diagonal movement, a simplified color palette, and flattering placements.


Tips to Working In the Fashion Industry-Turbine Boardwear

Tip #3: Offer customer appropriate interpretations of the latest trends

Trends are so, so, so important in the fashion industry. If you can’t stand following trends then this is probably not the industry for you. Thankfully, most buyers are looking for a unique spin on trends and not just runway knock-offs. These interpretation should incorporate your own artistic style, but also speak to the end use consumer. Many of my clients want to include patterns that incorporate the latest trends, but because their customer is not as forward as those customers shopping the runway, we have to tone down these trends and make them more appropriate for the average consumer. Over the years, I have found that this is most easily done by using a less bold color palette, often with less colors and more tones, and including motifs that the customer is already used to buying, such as plaids or flowers. The patterns that you see above might seem a little wild, but they are actually much more conservative than what many snowboarders are wearing on the slopes!

Do you have any tips to working in the fashion industry? Any questions? Was one of your designs seen on the sales floor this year? Feel free to post links below.


Create the artwork that buyers are looking for

Homestead Collection by Nicky Ovitt

NickyOvitt2Nicky Ovitt is an illustrator (and Sellable Sketch alumna!) living in Petaluma, California who recently signed as a licensed artist for Seattle-based Clothworks Textiles. This is a “huge milestone” in Nicky’s art career and we are so excited to share that her first fabric collection, Homestead, will be available in stores by the end of December!
Homestead was originally conceived for The Printed Bolt‘s international fabric design competition, Repeat(ed), and Nicky describes it as “a narrative line that pays tribute to the hard-working pioneer women of an early, hopeful America. A myriad of tools used in a frontier woman’s workday are reflected in the contemporary aesthetic and colors that lend a retro feel to the collection. The coordinating prints evoke the textures of handmade basketry and darning, as well as one design obviously informed by vintage kitchen wallpaper and another that is a collage of iron trivets. There are 6 designs in a total of 17 colors; mint greens, tomato reds, lemon yellow and aqua— all ready for a new project, or one made specifically for the collection. The line is beautifully manufactured on high-quality 100% cotton shirting with a luxurious finish.”
You can read more about Nicky’s inspiration, research, and process in creating the collection here, and see more of her work at, visit her blog, or follow her on Instagram. Have a great weekend! -Chelsea

Textile Printmaker and Artist Vivien Haley

Seven Fishes Silk Crepe de Chine scarf detail

Today we are thrilled to share the work of Vivien Haley, an Australian Textile Printmaker and Artist who designed these wonderful nature-inspired motifs and subtle organic textures for her line of silk scarves. Vivien has a fine art background in sculpture and printmaking from the National Art School in Sydney and writes, ”I feel this contributed to developing a very different approach to printing and designing textiles, enabling me to create a distinctive visual language as a Textile Printmaker and Artist.”

Pods Silk Crepe de Chine Scarf detail“In the early 1990’s I developed a block printmaking technique as the basis of my textiles. A love of landscape and the subtlety of colour and patterns in nature led to experimentation. The shapes, brushstrokes, sgraffito and a particular way of spray dying onto silk became a distinctive component of my work, not achievable with screen printing. Hand printing individual motifs in a variety of configurations created a different design for each scarf. I was not locked into yardage and repeat patterns. This contributed to the individuality and success of the textiles. I had a reasonably high profile as textile printmaker selling to leading Craft Galleries and exhibiting both in Australia and internationally.

I removed myself from the hand printing in 2004. Designing my own home wares and a small clothing range for a wholesale clientele and also re-established myself as an exhibiting artist in Sydney. During this time digital printing was becoming more widespread. I eventually realised the technology could re produce my designs and art work onto silk in a commercial quantity without the compromise of screen printing. For me it was important to develop this in Australia, preferably Sydney and have control over all aspects of design, colour, print production and sewing. The textile printing company I am working with (Think Positive Designer Prints) has allowed the original art work to remain true, in particular the complex details and refined colour palette. The exciting part of the technology has meant I can enlarge, manipulate and layer the designs in such a way that would not be achievable by hand. I am able to produce the scarves in a bespoke manner and on a commercial basis.

Fan Coral Silk Crepe de Chine detail copyThe Natura Collection was launched in March 2014 and consists of ten square Crepe de Chine Scarves and six long Georgette. You can find these on our website with the relevant details. My aim was to produce a Collection that is of a timeless quality and reflects the beauty of nature, a range that transcends the seasonal fashion cycle…

After a trip to Europe, I have also been reaching out to new stockists and pleased to say we have the scarf collection in some really great stores. The Opera house in Sydney is also featuring them in a new concept store, which we hope does well for us.

I am also working on a new small collection of 3 scarves. These will be out in March next year for our Autumn. I am continuing to use Silk Crepe de Chine as it is beautiful to wear next to the skin.”


You can see the rest of Vivien’s stunning scarf collection as well as find a list of stockists who carry her line at

Should I work in CMYK or RGB?

*December Tech Talk by Sherry London. Each month Sherry London brings The Textile Design Lab an in-depth post on how to improve our design process by using technology to its fullest capacity. This is an excerpt of a longer post available to members of The Textile Design Lab. Join us to access the full post!*


“Which color mode should I use when designing?” is a question I have seen over and over recently. I thought that this month, I would try to tackle the issue—and hopefully not make your eyes glaze over in the process!

I love Photoshop and Illustrator and I love designing; but, talking about color modes and how colors are computed is a bit like taking a course on car repair when all you want to do is drive the car! I don’t promise to be able to make this a fascinating blog post, but the information really is important. So, please stick with me.

The two color modes in question are always RGB and CMYK, even though Photoshop can also create grayscale, Lab Color, Indexed, and bitmap images.


The Executive Summary  

If all you really want from me is an answer, I can give you a short general rule (but ‘general rules’ always have loopholes, so you still might want to read the article!)

If you will only be using the image for the Web, work in RGB. If you are going to print the image, work in CMYK in Illustrator and RGB in Photoshop.


CMYK and RGB: An Introduction

RGB is the color of physics and of your computer monitors. It is additive color. In this system, red plus green plus blue give you white. This is how your monitor works. If all three elements of a pixel are at their maximum value, you see white. Black is the total absence of color.

CMYK is the color of traditional 4-color process printing. It is, in modified form, the color wheel you learned about in primary school where red plus blue equals purple and you need to mix yellow and blue to get green. This also works in pigments.

If you paint, you will know that if you mix together the closest-to-primary red, blue, and green you can find, will you get black? Not really; you get a dark muddy brown mess.

In printing inks, the blue primary of paint is cyan, the red component is magenta, and the yellow is, well, yellow! Where does the K in the CMYK come from? This is black—a real pigment that is needed to get a true black when you print and to add depth to your colors. Without the black, muddy brown is the best you can do.

CMYK is a subtractive color mode, because white is absence of color—not the sum of all the colors.



Why Does Color Mode Matter?

Color mode matters because another term: gamut. Gamut refers to the number of visible or possible colors in an image. The actual colors in the universe is probably infinite, but your computer can’t produce an infinite number of colors; neither can a printing press.

The computer can produce any color that is a combination of red, blue, and green pixels at an intensity of 0-255 (about 16 million). If you have a better graphics card that can get more intensities of RGB, you can get about 2 billion colors. With today’s technology, that is about the upper limit—and your monitor might not be able to accurately display all the colors that the graphics card can compute.

There are about 220 colors that every monitor with any graphics card today display so that the colors look pretty much the same on anyone’s monitor using any browser on Mac or Windows. This is the Web-safe palette popularized by Lynda Weinman (founder of When the palette was first proposed, it consisted of the common colors that would not dither (that display as a solid color) any of the popular browsers for the graphics cards that could only display 256 colors. We have advanced beyond that today, but if you look in Photoshop’s Color Picker, you will still see an icon if you haven’t used a web-safe color.

image2Notice that “out-of-gamut” means that color isn’t possible in that color display. Changing the not web-safe watermelon to a web-safe color produces a more orange salmon color. It is easy to see that the gamut for RGB is much larger than the 256-color web safe list. In fact, you can see this even more graphically if you were to tick the Only Web Colors checkbox on the ColorPicker. In addition, you can see a whole area of color that would map to that one web safe color.


How does this apply to all of RGB or CMYK gamut? It shows you how you can have a smaller gamut from a larger range of color.

If standard “view on all standard monitor” sRGB can display a fixed set of about 16 million colors, what you can get from CMYK?

CMYK is a four-color channel mode with values of 0-100 per channel. In theory that would give you a maximum of 100,000,000 colors but it won’t. You can’t print more than an ink limit of 300 (not 400) or the paper would not dry and the print house would be really upset with you. So, a more accurate number would be 100 cubed (10,000,000). So, even at this starting point, you can only get fewer colors in CMYK than you can in RGB.

The color warning example above also shows you another feature of gamut. My original watermelon color was printable in CMYK but was out-of-gamut for Web-Safe. However, the web safe color was then out-of-gamut in CMYK. So, just because the web safe palette has fewer colors than does CMYK and CMYK is smaller than RGB, it doesn’t follow that all of the colors in the smallest color gamut also are in the larger one.

Some colors can’t appear on the screen or in CMYK print—all of your metallic silvers and golds are a good example of this. They can be approximated, but because these are reflective colors, you can’t get a single solid color that is exact.

However, a huge number of lovely, bright, vibrant colors that you see on screen (in fact, most of them) are impossible to reproduce in CMYK.

In the image that follows, you can see what happens to two bright images when converted to CMYK mode.

image4Now you can really see bright go to dull! Purples, blues, greens, strong orange and red colors—anything that is saturated—changes when converted to CMYK.

What happens if you convert to CMYK and then convert back to RGB? The vibrant color you lost is lost. The color numbers will change slightly as you convert back and forth, but the color never comes back to the original.


You should be able to see a huge color difference between the top sample and the middle one. However, there is another factor that enters into viewing colors—the monitor you are using. I won’t get into color calibration now but on my second monitor, which is not calibrated, the three image swatches are so dark that they almost look black—and they are too dark to see a color difference.

If you want accurate color, you must calibrate your monitor! (That will be another post!)


Tip: One practical thing that you do need to know: if you want to convert an RGB document to CMYKyou get a more accurate conversion from the Edit>Convert to Profile command in Photoshop than you do from the Image> Mode>CYMK command. Please do remember that tip! 

In the full post in The Textile Design Lab Sherry goes into detail on color profiles, the specifics of working with CMYK and RGB in Illustrator and Photoshop, how to preview or “soft-proof” your work, and also provides some web references for further learning on this topic.

Follow Us

About Us

At Pattern Observer we strive to help you grow your textile design business through our informative articles, interviews, tutorials, workshops and private design community, The Textile Design Lab.