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How to design fabric using free online software

Free software for fabric design

This tutorial was written by Woven Monkey, UK based fabric printers. Find out how to print your own fabric by visiting their site http://www.wovenmonkey.com/

This tutorial will show you how to design fabric using GIMP.  GIMP is a free program which you can download from http://www.gimp.org/

For this tutorial we are going to create a Polka Dot pattern with a green background and white dots as shown in the picture above. You can see this guide as a demonstration of making a simple design.

Once you have installed GIMP on your computer you need to decide on the size of your design. For the purposes of this tutorial we’ll assume you want it to cover 1 metre of our plain cotton.

To do this you will need to create a new canvas by clicking on File > New. As the printable area of our plain cotton is 146cm x 100 cm you will need to click on the dropdown box and select cms, then enter the measurements (you will notice they will appear as 146.016 x 100.008 which is fine).

Then you need to click on Advanced Options and enter 150 pixels for both the X and Y resolution. It is important to keep it on the default setting of landscape and RGB colour space.

How to use GIMP

As you are creating a large file GIMP will ask you to confirm by clicking OK.

First we need to add a green colour to our canvas. To do this use the Bucket Fill on the tools option and then click on the foreground colour. Change this to green and then click OK. You can then click on the canvas which will turn green.

Textile design tools

Next we need to create a polka dot pattern. Make a new file by clicking on File> New

This time change the size to 3.5cm 3.5cm (again the measurements will be slightly out) but still keeping it at 150DPI and RGB colour space.

Now we need to make a transparent layer. To do this go to Layer > New Layer > Transparency > OK

Design tools for fabric design

To make positioning the dots easier we’ll create guides. Go to Image > Guides > New Guide (by percentage). Then make sure it states 50%, and Horizontal before clicking OK.

How to design your fabric using GIMP

Repeat the process but this time select Vertical rather than Horizontal.

To help postition the dots you need to look at your settings. Make sure both Snap to Guide and Snap to Canvas Edge are active.

To do this go to view and tick these if they are not already active.

On the tools option select paint brush, and alter the brush to 100% Hardness with a size of 30 pixels.

How can I design my own fabric?

Change the foreground colour to white, and make the background layer invisible by clicking on the eye icon next to it.

You’re now ready to place your dots on the canvas. Due to the settings you have chosen the brush will feel drawn to the guides and edgess, making positioning the dots easier.

Best free textile design software

With the polka dot pattern made, you need to save it. Go to File > Export and then change the extension to pat. Now locate the patterns folder in GIMP, then name your file before clicking export. If you are struggling to find the patterns folder you can go to Edit > Preferences. From here click on the + next to folders and then click patterns. You can now see where the directory is.

Close the window down, which should return you to your green canvas. From here click the refresh patterns button. You will now notice your polka dot pattern will appear as an option. Use the paint bucket and select your patten and then change your fill type to ‘pattern fill’. Then click on the canvas. Your polka dot pattern will now appear.

Creating a repeating textile design in GIMP

Go to File >  Export. Select the folder you wish to save it in, and choose the file type (we accept most file formats) then click export.

You are now ready to upload your design to our website.

If you want to know more about GIMP and how to create other patterns why not visit their official tutorials at http://www.gimp.org/tutorials/


Once you fabric design is ready why not visit Woven Monkey or visit our list of fabric printers to get it printed onto fabric ready to sew with!

Custom design fabric