Book Review: Digital Textile Design

This is the first in a mini-series of posts about digital fabric printing that we’ll be posting over the remainder of this week. Check back tomorrow for a digital printing service roundup, and on Friday for a big list of ideas and inspiration.


Digital Textile Design by Melanie Bowles and Ceri Isaac
Lawrence King Publishing, London, U.K., 2009

Thanks to the emergence of digital textile printing (DTP), we’ve all been granted access to world that was previously accessible to a few. Some people have opened the door and peeked in, but are too scared to jump in and explore. Some have jumped in, but failed to negotiate the new language and technology, and have left disappointed. Some are fully in, but are sticking to old-world customs and not exploring what the new world has to offer.

The new book Digital Textile Design by Melanie Bowles and Ceri Isaac is your road map — your Rick Steves, perhaps?! — to this world. For our timid first-timer, it offers basic tutorials for creating motifs, color palettes, and repeats in both Photoshop and Illustrator. Our disappointed experimenter might be encouraged to try again after reading about the more technical aspects of the process (like color management), which are presented in a manner accessible to the layperson. And our enthusastic adopter (along with everyone else) will be inspired by the multitude of images from fashion and interior designers who are fully embracing the endless color and scale possibilities that digital printing has to offer.


In fact, anyone interested in textiles, whether or not they plan on ever using DTP themselves, will find this book valuable. Most of the 23 tutorials (listed in detail after the jump) are applicable to pattern design in general, not matter your end use. Experienced textile designers may find the tutorials too basic, but there is still plenty to learn from the artist profiles and overview of the state of the art and technology of DTP. There is even a section about how artists and crafters are combining DTP with traditional surface design methods (handpainting, screenprinting, resist dyeing, burnout, flocking, embellishment) to bring hand-rendered touches to this mechanical process. The only thing I was hoping for that I didn’t find was specifics on how to ensure your fabrics turn out with the colors you’re expecting, but that makes sense since each printing service has different methods and requirements. (More on color management in tomorrow’s post.)

You can preview several sample pages on the Laurence King website, and even more on co-author Melanie Bowles’ site. While you’re there, check out her beautiful digital shibori work — she also recently launched a blog, Make It Digital.

List of Tutorials

Using Filters (tastefully)
Engineered Prints (filling sewing pattern pieces with designs)
Sequin Effects
Building a Brush Palette
Textured Effects (mending seams in an allover photographic print with good balance)
Creating a Colour Palette
Basic Block Repeat
Basic Block Repeat with Offset Filter
Simple Half-Drop Repeat
Allover Half-Drop Repeat
Texture-Mapping (how to map patterns onto photos of 3-D shapes)
Texture-Map and Line Drawing (mapping patterns into fashion line drawings)
Creating Graphic Silhouettes (mapping patterns onto a photograph of a model)

Creating Complex Colour Blends
Building Floral Motifs
Cross-Stitch Effects
Basic Pattern Swatch (and creating a cheater print)
Simple Half-Drop Repeat


  1. Melanie says:

    Thanks for this review! Since reading about this book on your blog a little while ago, it has been sitting in a shopping cart while I’ve tried to decide if I should buy it or not… looks like I’ll be going through checkout very soon :)

  2. Kim F. says:

    I’m glad to see this review too. I’ve been meaning to pick up a copy to see if it might also cover Gimp, Inkscape, and some of the free design programs available, too. Sounds like maybe not, though….

    • Kim says:

      Yeah, no, the book doesn’t touch on the open-source design programs. But I bet the tutorials would still help you figure out how to do pattern repeats with them.

  3. Kylie says:

    I recently purchased this book as I am looking into doing up some fabric designs for digital printing. I find it a good book for the explanation of textile design and printing as well as a good resource for what you can do with the medium. I have done two of the tutorials in it and even though I am not a novice at Illustrator or Photoshop I found some of the instructions to be slightly confusing. They tell you to do something but not the reason why and sometimes the steps seemed to be a bit all over the place almost like a step had been skipped. Overall I have found it to be a useful resource.

    • Kim says:

      @Kylie — Thanks so much for that input — I have to admit I didn’t try any of the tutorials myself — I know my way around Photoshop and Illustrator enough so just looking at the pictures helped me figure out things that I was wanting to learn, like the half-drop allover repeats.