20 Ideas for Digital Fabric Printing

Historically, the introduction of new technology does not usually result in an immediate change in design styles. Initially, design for any industrial application continues to follow the style associated with the preceding technology; the first motorcars, for example, were designed to resemble horse-drawn carriages. Change only begins to occur once practitioners coe to understand the potential of the new technology and they are comfortable with it.

– Melanie Bowles and Ceri Isaac, Digital Textile Design

Here we brainstormed everything we could think of to take advantage of the unique possibilities afforded by digital fabric printing. So go forth and get a jumpstart on those holiday gifts!


image used with permission by Amy Karol

Combine patterns to make your own cheater cloth for a wholecloth quilt, like Amy Karol’s above. (She covers desktop digital fabric printing in her new book, Bend the Rules with Fabric, incidentally.)

Combine children’s drawings to make an end-of-the-year teacher gift, or a keepsake quilt for your own family.

Print old embroidery patterns onto fabric to embroider over, or just for their own sake.

Print outlines of motifs and color them in yourself with fabric dyes and paints, for a touch of non-computer-generated artistry. (idea from Digital Textile Printing)

Print your wedding program onto fabric and make it into hankies, which the guests can use to dry their tears of joy.

These folks made custom tablecloths for their wedding. You could also turn the wedding dinner napkins (or any dinner/party napkins) into party favors by printing names, dates, whatever.

Reproduce your public-domain vintage fabrics. That way, you don’t have to be so scared to cut into them! (Use this chart to make an educated guess about a pattern’s copyright status.)

Make a design from your company logo to upholster chairs, make or line custom bags à la Gucci.

Design your own family crest, tartan, or personal logo to wear or sew into accessories — see how Tula Pink did it.

Print your child’s silhouette to make pillows, blankets etc. (great grandma gift!)

Make your own wholecloth stuffed toy — inspiration Clothkits, Egg Press, and The Small Object.


Take advantage of the virtually unlimited number of colors — make a photorealistic collage. See Hannah and Bonjour Mon Coussin (Spring cushion, above) for inspiration.

Print your personal photos (which may take some special care with colors, check with your favorite service to get their recommendations) — the possibilities are endless here: personalized photo quilts, drapes, pillows, bags, voodoo dolls …

Don’t have confidence in your own pattern designs? Use ones from pattern source books like the Petite Pattern Series, the upcoming Reprodepot Pattern Books — check each book, but usually buying a copy of the book licenses you to use the patterns for personal projects.

Use patterns created with free online pattern generators: see Colourlovers, the Tartan Maker.

Remember that digital printing allows you to forego all repeating pattern concerns. Go big! Print curtains with a floor-to-ceiling tree or giraffe. Make a growth chart for really tall families. Print the shower scene from Psycho onto shower curtains. (OK, that’d be a copyright violation, but I’m just brainstorming here.)

Try “engineered prints”: scan a sewing pattern in and fill the shapes with imagery so that it will wrap around the sewn product, uninterrupted by seams. (idea from Digital Textile Printing)

Print labels or patches to sew or fuse onto bags, crates, clothing — great for organizing kids’ stuff.

Print your artwork onto canvas to stretch onto a frame and display on the wall.

Print family recipes and turn them into tea towels. (Mary Beth‘s genius idea!)

What designs and projects have you dreamt up? We’d love to hear your ideas in the comments.


  1. La La Llama says:

    I’d also to say that we’ve collected an extensive library of fabrics that can be used for inspiration and trend research. We also have tools that allow you to create combos of patterns that you can share. These be can used as inspiration or color boards. Check out our site at http://www.lalallama.com!

  2. Becky says:

    I have to go lay down now!! So many ideas! I’m quite dizzy. Thanks for sharing.

  3. devon says:

    It’s just AMAZING what you can do with digital printing – thanks for the fabulous post!! It was only a few years ago that I studied textiles at risd, but it seems like light years ago. Everything is so different, while of course many things stay the same (use of color, composition, scale, imagery, etc.). The new frontier for textile design is so very exciting to say the least.

  4. Carmen says:

    Oh my gosh, I agree with @Becky….ugh!!! LOL

  5. [...] True Up » Archive » 20 Ideas for Digital Fabric Printing (tags: tips fabric digital.printing sewing crafty) [...]

  6. chris says:

    We did these fabrics with Spoonflower. They were very helpful!

  7. Sandeep says:

    Hi all,

    Very nice image and description. Please look for http://www.digitexindia.net for information about digital textile printing, machine , process, services and customized design and printing solutions more…………

  8. Yup! The trends the Digital Textile Printing have been started will rock the textile world i think. We, the directly related with textiles will have something to do over it. Great, well-arranged this i have found on net.

  9. Shawn says:

    I too am amazed at the limitless possibilities of digital printing and have been experimenting with a variety of motifs, alot of them quite intricate and detailed because,well, I can.So glad this option is available now.

  10. There are so many possibilities with digital printing. Thank you for this enlightening post!