My Take on Digital Design

I do not want to create realistic works of art. My goal is to take realistic works and modify until they are something different—such as combining with other photos and/or images so they become something totally new.

In my world of editing, verbs provide the action in a sentence. And in creating interesting pieces of art, “layers” provide the real action and offer the greatest opportunity for variety and dimension for a design.

Just as thinking in terms of layers on fabrics using surface design techniques such as stamps, thermofax, screens, stencils, or marks, those techniques can be artfully replicated and perhaps even more interestingly achieved by way of the digital process.

Books can merely provide “samples” of what might happen when you apply a filter, but the best way to decide what works for you and your personal aesthetic is experimenting. Some books contain examples of “what happens if” you apply artistic filters, but I’ve found there is more variety using other techniques. Simply applying one filter is not enough for me. It is, however, useful if you want to merely create a different look, but not for digital surface design. Digital surface design involves much more—and the rewards—I believe—are much greater.

Why design on the computer?

In a word: “originality.” Using a computer for design means the opportunities for creativity and originality are endless. Creating your own stylized photos for your artwork or quilts can give your work a unique look and feel. Those photos can be printed on home printers in small 8” x 11” pieces of fabric or melded into larger pieces and printed for yardage at places such as Spoonflower. I do not have experience with Spoonflower because I like to keep the sheets small, and I’m not much for repeat patterns.

Fabric prints I have created have totally exceeded my expectations. I started out simply thinking about the things I already had digitized that I thought would be interesting on fabric. But the more I worked with them, the more ideas I got.

My first real experiment was taking a watercolor piece I painted and trying to digitize it in Adobe Illustrator, then color it, and print to fabric. Once I had done that, however, it seemed kind of “blah.” My initial idea was to print the digitized piece onto fabric and then quilt—I ended up printing in segments but wasn’t that thrilled with the results.

I then moved into experimenting with ideas that basically amounted to creating a simple image in Photoshop Elements, applying a few effects, and then printing. Again, I felt the results were just “so-so.” It wasn’t until I took a few watercolor journaling workshops that I got the idea to digitize and start combining with miscellaneous backgrounds—creating layered effects.

From there I have ramped up my “productivity” of surface design work—branching out into numerous areas—with anything and everything being fair game. From using simple photos to deconstructing and reassembling parts of photos to complex layering—nothing is off limits. I especially like creating original pieces from a variety of sources.

Photos I “rework” in Photoshop Elements I’m calling reimagined photos because I am applying to them my own view or vision for that photo. It could be something as simple as a filter or change in saturation or as complex as several layers melded together so I can no longer easily discern the original.

Here are a few examples of how just the smallest of changes I made to a simple photo changed the whole look of an image.   For an enlargement of the images, click on the individual photo.  Cut up or printed out as small, medium, or large prints, these images can be used in a variety of ways in your quilts.

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In my next post, I will discuss the types and variety of images that can be used.

Next:  Creating a Digital Notebook


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