Creating Art for Digitally Printed Quilting Fabric with Kim Gann

Each month in the Textile Design Lab we welcome an industry expert who offers training in their area of expertise, and for the month of November we have been delighted to have Kim Gann as our guest expert. Kim is a licensed artist with wall art, needlepoint, flags and fabric under her belt, including two collections with quilting fabric manufacturer P&B Textiles, “Fancy Feathers” and “Flying Sweetly.” You can read more about her in our interview here. Below you will learn a bit about Kim’s process in creating art to be used on digitally printed fabric for the quilting market. Join us in the Textile Design Lab to access the full post!


Let’s create a digital fabric design.

I create everything by hand, using Photoshop to create repeat patterns and color ways.

This is the way I created the base of Fancy Feathers with P&B Textiles (images shown are to demonstrate Kim’s process but do not specifically show the Fancy Feathers collection.)

Kim Gann, guest expert on Pattern Observer

  • I begin with a blank sheet of watercolor paper and scribble a continuous line all over.

Kim Gann, guest expert on Pattern Observer

  • Then I fill in the areas with bright colors.

Kim Gann, guest expert on Pattern Observer

  • The next step is to paint shapes and designs into each shape. I like to use high contrast colors for this step.

Kim Gann, guest expert on Pattern Observer

  • The next step takes time, but is the most gratifying. Take your piece and look for recognizable objects. I have found birds, bunnies, angels, just to name a few. Lightly trace around the object with a color that can be blended into the background if you choose not to develop it.


Kim Gann, guest expert on Pattern Observer

Defining the main subject:

With the Fancy Feathers Collection I knew I was going to paint chickens. I followed all the steps, but before I looked for objects I drew the rooster. I brought him to life by lightly adding color to the outline of him. I use Golden Liquid acrylics for these paintings. When you outline or add shadows you want a transparent layer of color. After I had the rooster lightly shadowed around the outline I began looking for other things I could develop in the piece. I found an Easter Egg, an umbrella, a balloon, and even a planet. I added fencing and grassy fields. I leave the true background colors alone in the center of the main object, which are the chickens in this collection.

Kim Gann, guest expert on Pattern Observer

Adding fine detail:

This is when the pens come out. The white and colored gel pens work very nicely for this step. Just be careful, they may smear. I used a white gel pen to add delicate little flower outlines to the grassy fields, some stars in the sky and x’s in the background. I usually paint the designs in the background. The pens are quicker and thinner. If you aren’t comfortable using a brush to create small detail, pick up some pens. They work great!


Become a member of the Textile Design Lab to access the rest of this tutorial, which includes Kim’s thoughts on artwork revisions, working with another designer, and more. TDL membership is just $42/month and in addition to our monthly guest expert tutorials you also will receive access to our private forum, nine different e-courses, weekly live artwork critiques, fun design challenges and lots more exciting and helpful content to get your textile design career off the ground. Visit to learn more! 


Featured Designer: April Mawhinney

Blackberry-And-Longtailed-Tit-April-Mawhinney Blackberry-Ditsy-April-Mawhinney

Aren’t these nature-inspired patterns by April Mawhinney just the prettiest? You can plainly see the care and attention to detail that goes into her design process yet there is also a playfulness and her work never feels too precious…not an easy balance to achieve! April is based in the U.K. and currently works as a freelance Textile and Surface Pattern Designer for the interiors and fashion industries. She works with a range of clients, but currently her main focus is on kitchen textiles and patterns for the home décor market.

April writes, “I am a graduate of Winchester School of Art, U.K and after graduating with a degree in Textiles, I was lucky enough to work for a period as an in-house designer designing patterns for home furnishings market.

In 2013, I won a Talent Development Bursary (co-funded by the Arts Council England and Aspace Arts, UK) which gave me access to funding and professional development allowing me to launch my own design studio. Part of this development programme, I was able to build upon my in-house experience by completing the ‘Sellable Sketch’ and ‘Ultimate Guide to Repeats’ courses in Pattern Observer’s Textile Design Lab.

Since launching April Mawhinney Design Studio, I have been working freelance, focusing on creating beautiful designs for the kitchen textiles and home décor market. My patterns are all created from hand painted and hand drawn elements; I use CAD techniques to create the final designs, either as placement prints or repeat patterns suitable for sale or as freelance projects for my clients.


My aesthetic and signature style is illustrative, floral and feminine – it is really important to me (and my clients) that the designs start as hand painted and hand drawn images. My clients come to me because they want to see the human touch in a beautiful design.  Due to the interest in my work, I have just recently launched an online pattern library in order to enable me to sell my designs to a bigger audience. Customers can login to view these designs at

Originally from Northern Ireland, I am inspired by the flora and fauna of my native landscapes – Overcast skies, rugged mountains, wild seas and lush green landscapes.  These landscapes inspired me to launch my own range of products in 2014 – including wallpaper, lampshades, bone china mugs and cushion covers. I pride myself in using UK manufacturers to produce my products – there is a wealth of artisan manufactures within the UK who need to be supported and treasured by the design industry.

I am currently available for freelance work and love to work with a range of clients, big or small. My experience of launching my own product range, has helped to give me knowledge in dealing with manufacturers and creating designs suitable for a range of applications – so I’m always happy to help and advise my clients where possible.  Should you wish to know more information about what I can offer and how you may work with me, you can find more information at:

My website:




Instagram: @aprilmawhinney


Interested in textile design but not sure how to start? We’ve created a FREE video training just for you! LEARN MORE

Customized Garments from 3rd Rail

Over the years we’ve heard from many up-and-coming designers who want to start their own clothing line featuring their pattern designs but don’t know where to turn for production. Well London-based 3rd Rail is one company that can help…read on to learn about the customization service they provide and how their services are a great resource for surface and fashion designers looking to start their own line.

3rd Rail on Pattern Observer3rd Rail on Pattern Observer
examples of custom sleeves and pockets


“3rd Rail is a company formed around a collection of illustrators, designers, printmakers and seamsters providing high quality screen printing and garment customisation from our fully self-sufficient studio in London. From epic all over t-shirt prints and laser sharp custom pockets to stunning art editions and bespoke packaging solutions, our services are available to anyone with the vision to exploit them. We pride ourselves on creating solutions for our clients’ ambitions and will go that little bit further to produce the best possible product.

One thing that makes us unique from other garment screen printing services is our in house tailoring department. Though most of our printing is done on ready mades we also offer a customisation and newly launched full cut and sew service.

PO 1Screen printing jersey fabric panels and a close up of the finished t-shirt made in collaboration with The Pattern Guild.


3rd Rail on Pattern ObserverRibbing being added and t-shirt patterns being marked up on the screen printed fabric panels.


Customisation basically means altering an existing garment. Usually when custom tailoring t-shirts people will opt for printed pockets or bespoke sleeves but we’re open to anything.

Our cut and sew service on the other hand allows you to essentially build a t-shirt from scratch. By printing on sheets of fabric from which a t-shirt pattern is then cut and assembled our customers benefit from complete creative freedom as well as perfectly registered multiple colours. Perhaps you want your finished garment to have a different printed panel for the front, back and sleeves – this service makes all that possible and gives the finished item a unique and high quality feel.

3rd Rail on Pattern ObserverA bodysuit screen printed on pre cut fabric pieces for Claire Barrow’s SS16 Collection.


The cut and sew service is great because it allows the designers to incorporate perhaps one of the most universal garments of recent decades, the t-shirt, into their range whilst giving them the freedom to interpret it in their own unique way.

The customisation service is an excellent option as it is far cheaper to modify a ready made sweatshirt for example than it is to have one made from scratch.

We’ve been screen printing for many years now so we know how to get your designs/prints to look exactly how you want them to on fabric.”


Visit 3rd Rail around the web at:
Instagram: @3rdrailclothing


Our FREE video training helps you turn your artwork into TEXTILE DESIGNS that sell. You’ll learn industry basics and how to make it easy to sell your work. LEARN MORE…

Elizabeth McGarrigle and The Sellable Sketch


In celebration of our Sellable Sketch Group Study that starts Monday, November 16th, we are proud to share another fabulous collection created by a recent graduate of the course. Elizabeth McGarrigle, a.k.a. Liz Mac Designs, created this lovely women’s activewear collection in response to a market that “seems to be flooded with black and neon designs.” I loved Liz’s approach in perceiving a hole in the market and creating her collection to fill that need. That is the mark of an innovator and something we should all aspire to, don’t you think?


About the Collection

I used trends as a guide and a focus customer who was a personal trainer fed up of wearing the same style of workout gear everyday. My hand drawn florals gave a feminine touch to my main print and geometrics with feminine colours was the focus of my coordinates. Through my market research I discovered that activewear collections tend to have only one print and block colours to coordinate, I feel that my collection offers a multitude of uses from accessories like bags, to pants, t-shirts and even sneakers. It has been great to get to know more about my possible customers and how to provide them with an irresistible design collection.


My Sellable Sketch Story

The Sellable Sketch course has really helped me progress as a designer, it has taught me to refine my style through a process of combining what I love to look at with what I love to do.  Before I started the course I had never considered the possibility of selling my designs, the course really assisted me in focusing on which market my designs would fit.  It also gave me the tools to make designs more sellable by analysing trends, brands and connecting it with my style.

The support network of the course facilitators and students has been invaluable, the facilitators are always quick to reply providing suggestions on how to make my work more sellable.  At the beginning I was constantly second guessing myself and unsure about what I had produced but through my interactions with people within the course I have gained so much more confidence as I have now realised that my gut feeling about my designs is generally correct.

When I first started I was terrified about producing a collection of designs but I am so happy with what I have produced I feel that each piece can stand alone by itself while coordinating with the other designs.  This is a smart way to sell more design work and within The Sellable Sketch we were given a comprehensive guide about how to do this.


Links to my work can be found at (my website is a work in progress) but I post daily to Instagram @lizmacdesigns.


Join us for The Sellable Sketch Group Study starting Monday, November 16th. This group study is exclusively for members of the Textile Design Lab. There’s no additional cost to the study…you just need to join us in the Lab to participate.

As a Lab member you’ll have access to this group study as well as immediate access to our courses, content archives, and community forum. Connect with other designers, watch a webinar or explore a guest expert training. Membership is just $42/month. Learn more here…

Featured Designer: Jane Cooke

1. FeaturedDesigner-Folk Garden 2. FeaturedDesigner -Peony Party

How stunning are these detailed florals by Jane Cooke?! Jane is one of just eleven designers to have received the Pattern Observer Award of Excellence, for designers who have proven themselves to be talented artists, trustworthy partners and emerging leaders in our industry, and we are delighted to share her story with you today.

“I found Pattern Observer a year ago and have been working my way through the courses and sharpening my Photoshop and Illustrator skills with guidance from the PO team. It’s been fantastic and has really given me the framework and motivation to get my business off the ground. The designs featured here are part of my “Floral Fiesta” and “Hummingbird” collections, and were created during the Mastering Your Market course.

5. FeaturedDesigner -Hummingbird Damask6. FeaturedDesigner -Hummingbird Liberty

I recently moved from England to British Columbia, Canada, and I’m excited about drawing inspiration from the landscape and nature here. My art and design background is in teaching both painting and printmaking. I love traditional printmaking and textural prints created from collagraphs and I’ve recently invested in a printing press. I’m looking forward to experimenting with a combination of traditional printing and digital design while expanding my collections for the home décor, apparel and stationary industries.”

You can see more of Jane’s work at


Is your eye drawn to the colors and patterns you see on clothing or in home decor? Do patterns fill your doodles, drawings and artwork? You could make money in the textile design industry. Get our FREE video training today!

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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.