Tech Talk: Web File Formats

June 2015 Tech Talk by Sherry London. Sherry London is our resident Adobe expert who brings Textile Design Lab students in-depth posts on how to improve their 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!


As working designers, you not only need to know how to save your work for print, but you need to know how to display your work on the Web as well. This month, I want to talk about the Web formats: GIF, JPG and PNG (JPG and PNG are discussed in the full Textile Design Lab post.)

I want to give you an idea of when to use each one and the trade-offs involved. The trade-offs are usually size vs quality. The hallmark of any web format is how much it compresses the image into a tiny file size. Tiny files load faster. Faster loading images = happy viewers! However, the various formats also affect the quality of the image. The smaller the image, typically the worse it looks when compared to the original.

When people speak of “Saving for the Web” they usually mean artwork that is saved at a lower resolution to be displayed online. Historically, that “web” resolution has been pegged at 72 ppi even though today’s monitors almost all have a true resolution that can be a lot higher than that. However, you won’t go wrong for now just taking the 72 ppi as the web standard, even though the actual display size will be smaller than the “inch” dimensions of 72 ppi you would expect.

When images are displayed on the Web, the actual resolution is not considered. If a browser sees 500 pixels, it will display the 500 pixels AS 500 pixels—regardless of whether you have your file set to 72 ppi or 800 ppi.

In the image below, I saved the top part as a 72 ppi PNG and the bottom part as a 500 ppi JPG. I then opened each file in my browser window and did a screen capture of the display of the image. You can see that the display size is identical even though the resolutions are quite different. The only thing your browser cares about is number of pixels.


That, at least, frees you about worrying if you should use 72 ppi or 96 or whatever resolution if you want to display on the Web.

So, let’s look now at the actual file formats.


GIFGraphics Interchange File is the easiest of the web formats to understand. It is an indexed color file and can only contain 256 colors maximum. Any one of those colors can be transparent. However, since only one color can be transparent, you can’t get a smooth foreground to background transparency. Anything that is partially transparent is rendered as 100% opaque.

That is the factor responsible for some of a GIF file’s ugliest moments. The conversion to indexed color from Save for Web or Export (in Photoshop CC2015) and the Image > Mode > Indexed Color command is different. Here is a comparison of the edges of the image using all three conversion methods on an image imported from Illustrator that has anti-aliased (soft) edges.


The unlovely white edges are immediately apparent.

I am writing this blog post at an interesting time in Photoshop’s development. The Adobe Creative Cloud suite was updated to the 2015 version yesterday and there are some significant changes for web graphics embedded in this new release.


The Save for Web command that we have used since Photoshop 5.5 (before Creative Suite), is now a legacy option and it has moved to File > Export > Save for Web (Legacy). When Adobe makes something “Legacy” it is being phased out. In this case, the Export As command is taking its place. Let’s spend a few moments looking at each of these options.

Here is the old Save for Web dialog box (the same basic dialog that is in all working copies of Photoshop and Illustrator)


I like this dialog box as there is a lot of power there. The GIF features give you the ability to reduce your palette to fewer than 256 colors and to choose the specific colors to which to reduce the image if you want to delve that far. It also lets you see the palette sorted by Hue, Luminance, or Popularity. That can be useful in helping you to see which colors to pick.


In comparison, the new Export As options for GIF are quite limited.


You can control the image size and the canvas size. A GIF is always transparent and you can’t alter that. There is no Color Table visible nor do you have control over the Color table or the number of colors in the table. You can’t specify dither. However, it is a much simpler dialog box and easier to get through.

The Save for Web manipulations of a Color Table are really not needed for something you want to put up on the web. I always found them much more useful for indexing designs for wet printing. They were sometimes more flexible and useful than the Image > Mode > Indexed Color command.

Let’s leave the indexing for printing issue for the moment and look at when you might want to save a GIF for the Web.

  • You want transparency.
  • The image has hard edges or few colors in it anyway. It is a “graphic” rather than a photo.
  • There is type in the image.

The other issue is size. You want images designed for the web to be as small as possible in terms of file size—not dimensions. The fewer bytes the browser needs to load, the faster it can display the image.


Join us in the Textile Design Lab to continue reading this in-depth post, where Sherry discusses additional things to be aware of when saving files as GIF, dives deep into JPG and PNG, touches on what size web images should be for various applications, and her recommendation for the best file format to use when saving to the Web. Textile Design Lab members also have access to our archive of fourteen other Tech Talks on a wide range of subjects from Indexing and Color Simplification to Using Illustrator’s Image Trace Command, to Working with Spoonflower. 

Note: Sherry will be teaching her wonderful Photoshop for Designers class starting July 6th and there is still time to register! Read what some alumni have to say about the course on our PFD Pinterest board.


From the Textile Design Lab: Complex Geometrics Design Tutorial

As part of our online learning community, the Textile Design Lab, we share pattern design tutorials to introduce new techniques and concepts and help give our students an edge in this industryPlease enjoy this free excerpt of our Complex Geometrics design tutorial and join us to access the full post-Chelsea

Screen Shot 2015-06-28 at 8.16.20 AM Screen Shot 2015-06-28 at 8.16.46 AM Screen Shot 2015-06-28 at 9.51.34 AM Screen Shot 2015-06-28 at 9.48.44 AM

Join us in the Textile Design Lab to access the rest of this tutorial, in which I share my inspiration for this design from WGSN’s “Ceremonial Geometrics” trend, tips for organizing your layers, how to bring a sense of movement and flow to a geometric print, my thoughts on the marketability of simple geometrics and more.


***Check out our new Pinterest board “Complex Geos” where I’ve shared some great geometric designs for inspiration.*** 

Featured Designer: Carolina Abarca

Ethnic Rhombus copyCarolina’s “Ethnic Spring” collection 


Carolina Abarca is a former research scientist, originally from Chile and now leaving near Barcelona with her husband and two children. She describes her style as “simple, graphic, full of colour and joyful” and we couldn’t agree more–those bright geos can’t help but incite cheer!

Carolina’s inspiration comes from “a variety of places, from anything and everywhere. But I have to say that a great source of ideas comes from my children; the places we visit together and our bike rides on weekends to a forest close to where we live.

I mostly draw using Illustrator or Corel Draw (which I have taught myself), using a digital drawing tablet (which I love!) More recently I am building up my confidence and hand drawing sketches which then I scan into the computer and continue developing with Illustrator.”


Damask-coral copy


“When creating my patterns I spend time searching for the right colours and build up palettes of my favourites. I think that the right colour palette can make a big difference to a design.

My journey into the creative world has been long and full of detours but I am so pleased to feel like I am finally on the right track and wake up every day looking forward to continuing the adventure!”


Visit Carolina at: and find her on social media here:   

Quilt Market Interview: Marcia Derse

Post by Jamie Kalvestran, part of a series of interviews from the 2015 International Quilt Market. (Previous interviews found herehere, here and here.)


IMG_2571I remember the exact moment I met Marcia Derse. No, actually I remember the exact moment I saw the work of Marcia Derse. I had been roaming the aisles at Quilt Market and was a bit zoned out by all of the booths of fabric and patterns and quilting goodies. As I passed by her booth I literally stopped in my tracks! I stood there in this yummy trance of wonder. The collection was called, Gerta (named after her mother.) Never before had anyone approached designing fabric for quilting in quite this way. It was a delight. And I was not the only one that thought so, her booth was buzzing with activity which overflowed into the aisle. I had to wait my turn to introduce myself and get to know this lovely creative authentic designer. She is one of a kind and a true delight!

Marcia Derse currently designs for Windham Fabrics, featuring her latest collections called Bookends and Palette. These collections will be in independent quilt and fabric shops this August.



Marcia’s mother, who inspired her “Gerta” collection

Marcia please tell us about the inspiration for your latest collection?

I recently moved to Whidbey Island in the Pacific Northwest. I spent my whole childhood and adult life living in the Midwest and bookends ended up being my fabric farewell to my longtime home in Ohio. I don’t really plan my collections in a rigorous way, I start with an idea or small inspiration and I let the colors and patterns direct me. In this case I saw snowstorms, screen doors, lightning bugs, museum trips, frog ponds, and endless corn fields in the patterns and colors that I was making.


What advice would you give a designer about putting a portfolio together for this industry?

Know your voice and edit your work.  It helps to have an unambiguous, strong point of view when you are presenting your work to others, versatility is definitely a good thing but I feel that a designer who can present one idea clearly has a better chance of being understood in this industry. My work has changed and evolved over the years but I am always very mindful about what I want to say with each collection. I am a brutal editor of my own work. Even if I love a certain piece, if it doesn’t read as harmonious within the collection, I cut it. Sometimes that means it gets stashed away for later but sometimes it means that it will only be seen by me in my studio and I’m happy with that.


Please talk about the business side of this type of business.

Behind the creativity of designing fabric and the fun of playing with color is the marketing, research, calendar juggling, bill paying, and order filling work that fills the days. Every licensing agreement is unique and limited in duration. My advice, if you are interested in getting into the business, is to research contracts, ask questions and be prepared to talk business when entering into an agreement with a company. Above all don’t lose sight of what you are doing artistically. I sometimes have to force myself to step away from the business and give myself space to work. It can feel like a guilty pleasure working on anything that isn’t directly related to painting and dying fabric but this is where some of my best ideas come from.


Can you make a living from licensing?

There are some ‘fabric rock stars’ that manage to do so but they don’t rely on one licensing agreement. Other ways of marketing your work in this and related industries would help to make this into a profitable career including teaching, writing books, creating patterns, etc.




How did you get into designing fabric?

Alongside my career as an artist, for 24 years I owned a children’s bookstore. I raised a family, sold my favorite books, and worked in my studio in my spare time. Slowly but surely as the bookstore became more independent I transitioned towards spending more of my time on my art, adapting my techniques and refining my aesthetic. When I sold the store 10 years ago, I knew it was time to push myself in a different direction. I had a vision of seeing my hand dyed fabrics on bolts. Even though I loved that my fabrics were all one-of-a-kind, it was this thought that drove me to take my hand dyed fabrics and get them ‘published’ as it were.

When I started, I didn’t even know what a colorway was. Now after putting together a handful of collections I would consider myself a fabric designer. I still paint fabric for myself but I also think about a wider audience. I am able to take what I have done with each previous line and bring something different yet complimentary to the fabric world.


Any parting words of wisdom for our readers?

Do what you love and trust your voice. Go to Quilt Market, walk around the show, talk to people, look at work and take in the big picture. Spring Quilt Market felt very different to me than the last market I attended a year ago. The creativity is always overwhelming and inspiring to me.


Please visit Marcia’s lovely website to learn more!


Sign up to receive Part I and II of our free Quilt Market Guide HERE.

Quilt Market Interviews: Cyndi Hershey and Sarah Watts

Post by Jamie Kalvestran, part of a series of interviews from the 2015 International Quilt Market. (Previous interviews found herehere, and here.)


11x 17 City Life POSTER Presentation_ LO RES

Cyndi Hershey – Director of Marketing, Quilting Treasures

I first met Cyndi Hershey about eight or nine years ago at International Quilt Market. Over the years she and I have collaborated on a number of projects. Currently, I have a licensing agreement with Quilting Treasures and my first collection with them, Native Pine will make its debut in July, 2015. But, enough about me . . .


Cyndi can you tell us a little about yourself and Quilting Treasures? 

Quilting Treasures is the only employee owner fabric company in the home-sewing industry.  Our company’s history dates back to 1807.  We sell 100% woven cotton prints to Independent Fabric Retailers.

I am currently the Director of Marketing at Quilting Treasures.  I have spent 15 years in the wholesale side of the fabric industry.  Prior to that, I owned a quilt shop for 12 years.


What are the new collections that you are really excited about?  

We are excited to introduce our new brand, Ink & Arrow.  Our tag line…..Because fabric should be fun!….says it all!  This brand is not a traditional fabric collection designed for quilters but rather a fun, quirky contemporary fabric brand.  Our launch contains five edgy, contemporary mini collections.  The prints in each collection are connected by theme and the collection names are a reflection of the themes such as City Life, A Cat’s Meow, Talk to Me….

11x17 Cat's Meow lo res poster Presentation

It’s important to note that Quilting Treasures has brands for everyone!  Studio 8 features prints that are modern and contemporary that are combined as a more defined collection that includes a greater range of scale, value and color.  This brand includes graphic prints, watercolor styles and prints that reflect a batik style.  Ivy Lane is an upscale, traditional brand…..think Ethan Allen.  And, of course, the Quilting Treasures brand itself includes prints based on brand licensing, novelty and children’s prints.


When will the new collections be available in retailers?  

The first two groups will ship in December.


Who designed the collections?  

We are using both our own studio artists as well as freelance artists to create the art for these groups.  We are looking forward to expanding the brand with designers whose artwork fits the brand.  We license with artists directly or through their agents and we also purchase prints outright.


Can you tell us the inspiration behind the new brand?  

Yes, we wanted to focus on young sewists and fabric lovers who are creating all things with fabric!  Apparel, home décor, crafts and of course, quilts!



Talk to Me Presentation_lo resIs it OK for designers to submit work to your company?  

Yes, you may contact me directly via email.


Is it important to already be in the quilt/home sewing industry or to know how to quilt or sew?  

No but designers should do research into these fields prior to submitting designs.  They should look to see what types of fabrics are currently being offered and think about if they can do anything differently that will set their designs apart.


What advice would you give designers about putting a portfolio together for this industry?  

We are looking for designs that can apply to any of our brands.  We like prints with a lot of detail and since we screen print, we’re limited to 18 colors or less.  Layered looks are very in right now so that’s a good example of detail.  We look for great layouts and artists who can create successful repeats.  A variety of scale and color value is important in a great collection.  We also offer panel designs based on 24″ or 36″ repeats so that’s something for a designer to keep in mind.  In addition, we offer other engineered prints such as repetitive blocks or complex, vertical stripes.  A designer should think about how a proposed print would look in a finished item.  Sending product mock ups along with proposed prints helps to explain how those prints can translate to a final project.  A mock up of simple apparel, bag, home dec item or quilt goes a long way in helping us to evaluate the potential of a proposal.


Visit Quilting Treasures online at



IMG_2506Sarah Watts – Designer & Co-Founder, Cotton & Steel

Sarah Watts is a designer and co-founder of Cotton & Steel. We met for the first time while I was walking the show. She has been designing fabric for 4 years and has been licensing her art since 2009. I am truly inspired by this young lady and hope her answers to my questions will inspire you too.


Sarah can you tell us the inspiration behind your latest collection? 

Yes! Honeymoon is a recollection of my Honeymoon trip to Costa Rica in 2011.  It had such a lush landscape and was a very playful place to visit. I remember hummingbirds feeding in the early morning flowers, sloths, iguanas, and toucans in the jungle, and bats flying in the trees above hot springs at dusk.  We did horseback rides in the mountains and it even rained on one of the rides leaving us cooled off instead of worried about getting wet.  The toucans kept flying into our window because they were chasing their reflection.  The iguanas were as common as squirrels, and they loved sun bathing on tree branches.  The sloths were hard to spot so it became a fun game to search for them in the tree tops.


IMG_2515When is this collection available in quilt shops? 

July, 2015


As a designer where you you spend most of your time? 

In a typical week, I probably spend two full days creating art and the rest is business and marketing.  It is crazy how much time is spent on the business stuff vs. making art.  For that reason I like to travel so I can immerse myself in the art making part and then I come back with ideas that are hard to catch while at my office desk.


Are you active with Social Media? 

I publish to Instagram which is pushed to Facebook and Twitter.  Instagram is such an amazing platform.  It allows direct conversation with the people who enjoy my artwork.  It sort of takes down a lot of barriers and you get to really feel the effects of what your doing.  I like that, because it makes a one man job of designing more social.



Can you make a living from licensing?  

Yes, I believe any work is possible with enough effort put into it.  I think it starts with honing in on your

creative voice and doing what you’re good at instead of what you think your supposed to do.  Then multiple streams of income is most important. I have additional income from book publishing, and licensing in other categories such as stationery and home goods.


What advice would you give designer who would like to enter the quilting industry? 

An artist needs to find their niche crowd and stand out as much as possible in that market.  It is one thing to have a creative vision, but another to know how to market it to the right people. I also find it very important to create from your own life and spirit. It really allows people to see who you are in your work and that makes for the richest kind of imagery.  Authenticity goes a long way when making a living in the creative field.  Once that is achieved, then learn to be kick ass at marketing.  A lot of it is simply putting good work out consistently.


IMG_2455Any advice on finding and maintaining your voice as a designer?  

I think a lot of designers graduate and start making things that they see selling without figuring out what it is about themselves that will make the art special.  That is the right thinking in some ways but the most important is to do it from your own voice and memories.  Self awareness is a big player in creating artwork that is authentic and long lasting.  If you just go with the trends only, you will find that your art will become dated.  You have to channel everything you do through your personal look, and allow that look to evolve with the times.  Something that I learned in college was to be a student of life.  Getting better at art is a lifelong adventure. It involves constantly making, constantly learning. An artist should always take in their surroundings and let the outside world effect their work along with what is in their thoughts.  This keeps them relevant and interesting.


Find out more about Sarah Watts and Cotton & Steel:


Sign up to receive Part I and II of our free Quilt Market Guide HERE.

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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.