Apr 22 2014

Tech Tuesday: Fun with Color


You just never know where you’re going to learn something new. I’ve been frantically working on the printed program for the Studio Art Quilt Associates (SAQA) conference. I’m almost finished. The last part is placing the ads in the program. Since I’m known to procrastinate before deadlines (it might be the only time I clean my house!), I decided to visit the websites of some of the advertisers. That’s how I got to Jinny Beyer’s blog.

Jinny Beyer:  Blog and Book

Jinny Beyer: Blog and Book

Jinny is a long-time quilter. In fact one of the first quilting books I bought back in the 1980’s was Jenny Beyer’s Quillter’s Album of Block and Borders. I think this book may have been written pre-rotary cutter. Do you remember cutting out fabric with templates? I loved to use X-rays as templates, they lasted longer than cardboard. But I digress (I told you I’m good at procrastinating).

Back to Jinny Beyer’s blog. Her most recent post was about wildflowers in Virginia—not really a topic for a Tech Tuesday post. But there in the middle of all of the natural beauty was a Photoshop tip. A really great one. And easy, too. It was how to make a set of color swatches from a photo. I’ve done this many ways, from using stand-alone programs, to uploading photos to a website. But this is so easy I just had to share it with you. So here it is, simple and sweet:

1. Open the image in Photoshop.
2. Go to the top menu bar to Image/Mode/Indexed Color. Select the number of colors you want to see from the pop-up menu. You can go up to 250.
3. Next go to Image/Mode/Color table. The chart with all the colors will come up.
From http://www.jinnybeyer.com/blog/spring-is-here-with-design-inspiration/

Begonias in Hong Kong Park

Begonias in Hong Kong Park

Here’s my photo of a cool begonia in Hong Kong Park. (That swirly-leafed begonia would be a great present, now wouldn’t it?) I followed Jinny’s steps, but decided to select only 50 colors.

Color Table from Photo

Color Table from Photo

So what do you do with these pretty squares? How about replacing the default swatches in Photoshop with the Begonia colors so you could design some fabric using this color palette?

Replace Swatches

Replace Swatches

Here’s how:
1. First you have to save your Color Table. With the Color Table open, click on Save. Save the file somewhere you’ll remember; you’ll need to find it in the next steps.
2. Open your Swatches panel: Click on Window > Swatches from the menu bar. If there’s a check next to Swatches, it’s already open.
3. Click the menu icon in the Swatches panel. A drop-down menu will appear. Choose “Replace Swatches.”
4. Choose “Color Table *.ACT” as the file type. Navigate to the file you saved in Step 1. Click on the file, then press Load. (You can always change back to the default colors by choosing “Reset swatches from the drop-down menu.)
5. Now it’s easy to change your foreground color to one of the begonia colors by just clicking on one of the squares in the Swatches panel.
From: BegoniasCoolColors

If you should be doing something else, but want to have a little fun, give this a try. But I warn you, it’s quite addictive.

Apr 1 2014

Tech Tuesday: Fabric Printing Services Review


As many of you know, we print our own fabric for our projects. People often ask us if we will print for them (we don’t), but up until now we haven’t recommended any company because we hadn’t ordered fabric ourselves. Now we have, so we’d like to share our results with you. We focused on the following three companies because they will print small amounts of fabric (under a yard).

The Three Companies

Website – Ease of use
Both Fabric on Demand and Spoonflower’s websites are easy to use. Fabric choices are clearly marked, and you can order “fat quarters.” Fabric on Demand’s homepage provided answers to most of our questions. You know they are happy to answer your questions since their 800 number is so prominently displayed on the homepage. We had to dig a bit deeper into Spoonflower’s website to have some of our questions answered. It takes even more work to navigate Dpi’s website as they offer such a variety of printing (banners, silk scarves, etc). While ordering and payment went smoothly with Fabric on Demand and Spoonflower, ordering with Dpi was more complicated. We ordered first and then had to wait for an email to submit payment. The added step resulted in them not emailing us the payment request until we called to find out what had happened. Our order had somehow fallen through the cracks.
Best Bet → Fabric on Demand

Let’s face it, we would send our file in a handwritten letter to the company and have it delivered by Pony Express if they could print a decent black. Black makes all other colors pop, so if the company doesn’t print a good black, then it seems like everything else looks muddy. This is Spoonflower’s great failing, but at least they tell us on their website that they don’t get a deep black. Both Fabric on Demand and Dpi get good blacks, so we would be splitting hairs to pick. Kris deferred to Deb, and Deb says it’s a tie.
Best Bet → Fabric on Demand or Dpi

Comparison of grayscale from Fabric on Demand, Spoonflower, and Dpi

Comparison of grayscale from Fabric on Demand, Spoonflower, and Dpi

We didn’t want to get bogged down with color calibration and profiling, so we just uploaded the photo of the two of us without any adjustments. This is where Spoonflower gets high marks. Dpi and Fabric on demand both print with fiber-reactive dye on cotton. You hand-dyers out there know what that means. You’ve got to set the dye, usually with steam, and the colors change during this process. This is a pain in the patooty if you’re trying to match color. Since we also print with fiber-reactive dye, we know your pain, Dpi and Fabric on Demand.
Best Bet → Spoonflower

Test prints from Fabric on Demand, Spoonflower, and Dpi

Test prints from Fabric on Demand, Spoonflower, and Dpi

We admit it – this was the part of our analysis we could not control. We were not able to order the same fabric from all three companies (one company had Kona cotton, the other listed the fabric by weight, etc.), so our comparisons of the finished product included this unexpected variable. We can say that the thread count on the Fabric on Demand 6 oz. cotton was lower than we like, so try the 4 oz. instead. We could have sworn we had ordered a Kona cotton from Dpi, but what arrived was an incredibly sumptuous cotton sateen. We’d order it again. All three companies offer fabric swatches for sale, so it would be worth your while to order them before submitting a larger order.
Best Bet → Depends on what kind of fabric you want

We didn’t have any problems ordering from Spoonflower, so we can’t speak to their service except to say if ordering is easy, you don’t have to call for service. We didn’t have to contact Spoonflower, but we needed to call both Dpi and Fabric on Demand (for different reasons). They both came through for us. We found Fabric on Demand particularly great to work with, but it’s hard not to like Dpi for coming through in a pinch for us the other day. We had to have a rush order since our printer is on the fritz, and Dpi just said, “No problem!” We sent an email with our file attached, thereby bypassing their online ordering system, and were sent the payment link in their reply. Easy, peasy!
Best Bet → Take your pick

Our Overall Recommendation
Maybe it seems like we’re not willing to make a single recommendation, but there are so many variables with printing on fabric that maybe one company can’t provide what any one person needs for a particular project. One thing is clear, though. Until Spoonflower can produce a good black (and we’ve heard rumors that they’re working on that), we can’t recommend them despite all the other good things about their services. Dpi and Fabric on Demand are both good, but being able to order a fat quarter from Fabric on Demand just makes ordering from them one teeny bit better.
Best Overall Bet → Fabric on Demand

Do It Yourself Fabric Printing
Being the control freaks that we are, we actually prefer to print our own fabric at the studio, but that comes with its own issues. Sometime soon we’ll do an analysis of printing on your own. We’ll talk about our process (Epson 9600 printer using Novacron fiber-reactive dyes and fabric prepared for printing, both supplied by Jaquard Inkjet Fabric Systems) well as the closed-loop system by www.fabricmaker.com (printer, inks, fabric). Fabricmaker has just asked us to test their system so that they can add improvements (like offering different fabrics), so stay tuned for some more fabric testing!