S1. EP6. Creating textile prints for fashion design

S1. EP6. Creating textile prints for fashion design

S1. EP6. Creating textile prints for fashion design

In this tutorial we use the source imagery (lilies and palm fronds) created in the last episode (S1. EP5), to design and build a series of professional, full-repeat, digital prints in Adobe Photoshop. First, we’ll import our source imagery into Adobe Photoshop and add it to a new print document. We’ll then scale, arrange and transform the flowers (source imagery) into an aesthetically pleasing print layout. Next, we slice the print layout up to create a full repeat print and then explore the use of filters, hue, saturation and colour layers to create the finished textile print. Finally, we’ll show you how to resize the finished print and save it ready to be digitally printed onto a textile that suits the project and Francesca’s robe.

To follow this tutorial you will need Adobe Photoshop CC and you must download our “Selected source images” pack. You can also visit our previous tutorial to get your hands on even more source imagery!

Creating your own textile prints

Creating your own textile prints can seem pretty daunting. It’s a job or skill in itself and people are paid a lot of money to create textile prints for commercial projects. I was a print designer for many years before we launched PatternLab and created 900+ prints for both individual clients and high street retailers. It’s a wonderfully creative job that can be very rewarding, especially when you see your textile print used to make a gorgeous garment. Creating your own textile prints might seem unattainable at first glance, but the process is actually quite simple.

This tutorial aims to give you an insight into how textile prints are created in Adobe Photoshop so you can then develop your own. It focuses on the key tools, processes and creative concepts behind print design. Once you have insight into these tools and processes, the only limitation is your own imagination or creativity.

We’ve broken the tutorial up into several key steps or stages. This would be a very long blog post if it went into detail for each step, so instead we have provided a little excerpt of what you can expect to learn in each step.

1. Selecting your source imagery.

In S1. EP5. we created over 200 source images of our lilies and palm fronds. This is quite a lot and we can’t use every single image in our textile print. We need to whittle it down to around 20 – 25 images and select only the most aesthetically pleasing ones. Once we have selected our final source images, they are added to a folder on our desktop so that they are easy to find and use.

You can download our final selection of source imagery by either clicking one of the images below or using the download button. The pack contains all 23 source images used in this tutorial.

2. Creating an initial print layout

Once we have selected our source images, we open up Photoshop and create a new document roughly 60 x 60cm and with a resolution of 360dpi (dots per inch). Next, we open our source images in Photoshop and cut (using the magic wand tool) and paste each flower into the new document. Finally, we start to scale, rotate and arrange them (using the free transform tool) into an aesthetically pleasing print layout.

3. Creating a full repeat print.

Once we have a beautiful print layout, we need to transform it into a full repeat print. We do this by cutting the print layout into two pieces, an upper piece and a lower piece. We then swap these pieces so that the existing lower piece now sits at the top of the print and the existing upper piece now sits at the bottom of the print. This rearranging of the upper and lower pieces creates a vertical repeat. To create a horizontal repeat, we use the same technique but this time swapping the right piece with the left piece. We then add or reposition the flowers in the middle of the print to close up any large gaps that might have appeared after rearranging the pieces.

4. Using colour layers and hue & saturation

Once the full repeat print is created, we can start to get creative. We enhance, or mute, the natural colours of the flowers using the Hue & Saturation tool to create a more classic style. We then add some additional colour layers and paint effects to create hyper-real or dramatic colour effects over the underlying flowers.

5. Using filters to dramatically change the original print.

Adobe Photoshop comes with an extensive range of filters (found in the filter gallery) that, when applied dramatically, change the aesthetics of the original print. Filters include: watercolour, glowing edges, poster edges, grain and much more. These filters can be used individually for subtle changes or in combination to create greater changes to the print. The effects of each filter vary and hundreds of different prints can be created using these filters alone. It is possibly the most interesting and creative part of the print design process. We also discuss what effect image size and resolution has on these filters.

6. Adding a palm layer

We’ve focused on creating a repeat print using just the lilies or flowers, but how do we add a new palm frond layer beneath the lily layer? Using the same technique as in steps 2 and 3, we create a fully repeating palm frond print in a separate document. We then cut and paste it into our lily print, resizing it to fit the existing lily repeat using the free transform tool. Once the palm layer is in place we can then enhance it by changing the hue and saturation and adding yet more colour layers (step 4). This creates a more dynamic print and gives us more to experiment with. Once the colour layers have been added we can then apply a range of filters to further develop the entire print.


7. Scale, sizing, and correction using your home printer

Once we have created our finished print, we need to check the scale of the print. We do this, by printing a section of the print on our home printer at 100% scale (not scale to fit). This will give us the exact size of our print and the size of the elements within it. We can then reduce or increase the image size of the print, in Adobe Photoshop, to get the correct scale or size.

We also need to check the colour and brightness of our print, since a computer screen is not always accurate. To do this, we use the same technique. We print, check and, if necessary, adjust the exposure or brightness of the print in Adobe Photoshop.

When it comes to the colour and brightness of your print, your computer screen and printer might not always be correct. It’s essential to send a test strip containing your print, in a range of different brightness/ colours, to the textile printers. When the strip comes back, you can then select the specific print with the brightness/ colour that works best and use that print when requesting the full material order.


8. File type, size and resolution of your finished print.

Saving your print as a file seems pretty straightforward but we need to consider the file type, size and resolution. Each textile print company will have their own specifications. We have chosen to use Spoon Flower as we’ve heard great things! They specifically ask that you save your print in one of the following formats: png, jpeg, giff or tiff. They also ask that the file be less than 40MB and has a resolution of 150dpi max.


Creating prints can be a time consuming process, especially when you are new to Adobe Photoshop. To help speed things up, we have created a few important artworks for you to use when following this tutorial. Each print artwork was created at important key stages in the design process. Downloading and using these artworks will enable you to practise or experiment with each stage of the tutorial.

Lily repeat

Lilies on black background in full repeat with no layers or filters.

Palm repeat

Palm fronds on black background in full repeat with no layers or filters.

Lily & palm repeat

Lilies and palm fronds on black background in full repeat with no layers or filters.

Lily & palm repeat

Lilies and palm fronds on black background in full repeat with multiple layers but no filters.

Finished prints

After an hour or two of experimenting with various layers and filters, here are a few of the textile prints that we came up with. We’ll add them to our mood boards and fashion illustrations of Francesca’s robe and present them to her for review. Once she’s picked her favourites we’ll use PatternLab’s made to measure basic blocks and patterns to pattern-make the finished garment!

Textile print template pack

Want to print your digital prints in full scale and full repeat on your home printer? Use our Textile Print Templates to create multi-page PDFs which can be stuck together after printing.

S1. EP5. Creating source imagery for floral print design

S1. EP5. Creating source imagery for floral print design

S1. EP5. Creating source imagery for floral print design

In this episode, we show you how to create your very own source imagery or stock imagery, allowing you to design and create fashion or textile prints. We show you how to set up your workspace, what lighting to use, which camera does the job and how to get the best shots of your flowers or subject matter. We also show you how to colour-correct your source imagery in Adobe Lightroom, ready to create your gorgeous textile prints in Adobe Photoshop.

Designing your own textile prints & creating source imagery

In the previous two episodes (EP3 and EP4), we designed a range of garments based on Francesca’s initial brief and inspirational imagery. Now that we have a collection of designs that suits the brief, we need to think about the material used to make the garment. From the very beginning of this project, we decided to create some gorgeous custom prints to match Francesca’s personality and compliment her skin tone. We even created a set of mood boards to inspire us as to what her prints might eventually look like. With these inspirational images in mind, we now start the process of designing and creating our own print. To do this, we first need to find or create the source imagery used to create our print.

What is source imagery?

Source imagery or stock imagery can be anything from graphics, illustrations, paintings, images, motifs – you name it! Essentially, they are the individual elements that go into building your finished print. You can either find this stock imagery online or create it yourself. 

Finding stock images online

There are a number of stock image sites online, such as iStock photo, Pexels, Shutterstock, Getty images, Adobe stock, Pixabay and Negative space.  Using stock imagery can be quite expensive, since most sites use licensing and charge a premium for each image. This is used to fund their services and the artists that provide the images. Finding the right stock imagery or elements to create your print can be time consuming and you’ll never get exactly what you are looking for. It’s often quicker to create your own!

Creating your own stock images

We highly recommend creating your own stock imagery. It’s a fun process that doesn’t break the bank or take too long and it provides hundreds of images that you can share and use for other print projects. We know some print designers that have vast personal libraries of their own stock imagery that they use time and time again when creating new prints for clients. Also, it’s completely free!

Creating source imagery for Francesca’s print 

For this particular print project, we’ve decided to go for a gorgeous dark background with tropical palm fronds as a base and then feature a top layer of stunning pink oriental lilies. To create this effect we need to create source imagery for both the palm fronds and the lilies. We’re using a dark background, so it makes sense to also take photos of our lilies and palm fronds on a dark background. Using a dark background will give us images that are as close to the finished print aesthetics as possible. The dark background will also change the lighting that we apply to the photo shoot. If we used a white background, we would have to cut the flowers out in Photoshop and then place them on a new digital background. This is time consuming and will give bad results. We’ve gone for a matt-black cotton rather than satin to limit the amount of shine reflecting off the material from either the camera’s flash or the natural light in the room. The matt-black cotton absorbs the light rather than reflecting it, which creates a great background for our source imagery.

Lights. Camera. Action!

When taking any photo, it’s really important to have a lot of natural light. The more natural light you have the sharper and brighter you images will be. Photos taken in low-light environments will have a lot of shadow and cause grain to appear on them. Too little light and your images might be unusable.

You might prefer to use a DSLR camera when taking your photos. That’s fine and you’ll probably get better results. However, not everyone has a DSLR so we’ve chosen to take our pictures using an iPad or iPhone. Camera phones these days take pretty amazing photos, so you should be fine!

We bought one bunch of lilies, which was more than enough to create hundreds of images. Lilies take days to bloom, so use this life cycle for your photos. Take images when the lilies are closed, partially open and then fully open. This will give you tons of imagery of your one bunch, making it seem as though you raided a florist’s shop. Just remember to use the same lighting, camera and setup each time you take your photos!

Positioning your flowers or lilies is key. Think about the angle from which you take your photo. Which angle shows off your lily to its fullest? If necessary, you can ask someone to wear a black glove (matching your background) and rotate the lilies as you take your photos. Don’t just take them from the side view, look into the flower itself. Also, think about the positioning in the frame or viewfinder of your camera. Ideally, you want your lilies to be dead centre, fully in shot and have plenty of black background around them. Petals and leaves that fall outside of the photo will make your source imagery unusable.

Define what you want your source imagery to look like! The lilies are beautiful as they come but sometimes we want a specific look or shape. Manipulate the aesthetics of the lilies by cutting off bits and combining pieces together to create new shapes and floral silhouettes. Possibly there are too many leaves, or not enough. Add bits and remove bits to get a beautiful shot.

It’s completely up to you how you go about creating your source imagery, but think about all the different aspects or images you can create using different angles of each individual flower. Really think about it and experiment. We’re going to take about 100-200 images of our lilies so we have a huge amount to choose from when it comes to building our print.

When you’re done, you should have heaps of images to choose from! Below are some of the images that we took. These have been retouched and cleaned up but we won’t discuss that here. Watch the video tutorial to find out more.

Source Imagery

Want to download and use all of our source imagery for your own print projects? Great! click the buttons below to download all the source imagery. The whole archive is around 300MB of data so we’ve split it up into easy to manage packs. Feel free to use our source imagery royalty free for both personal and commercial projects. All we ask is that you link back to this blog post and spread the word about PatternLab. 

What’s next?

In the next episode, we’ll start building our gorgeous tropical lily print using our source imagery. We’ll also explain placement prints, full repeat prints, filters, colours and scaling to give you a full understanding of print design techniques that you can apply to your own projects.

S1. EP4. Digital fashion illustration in Adobe Illustrator

S1. EP4. Digital fashion illustration in Adobe Illustrator

S1. EP4. Digital fashion illustration in Adobe Illustrator

In this episode, we demonstrate how to transform our hand-drawn fashion illustrations and sketches from S1. EP3 into gorgeous precision digital artworks or digital fashion illustrations, using Adobe Illustrator CC. It’s a comprehensive tutorial that goes into a lot of detail about professional fashion drawing in Adobe Illustrator. It is supplementary to S1. EP3’s process of hand drawn fashion Illustration.

Fashion Illustration & Layers

Digital fashion illustration in Adobe Illustrator can be a tricky process especially if your illustrations are quite complex. It can be hard to get right without following some basic methodology. I know this because I’ve spent years playing with it. As with most digital artworks, layers are incredibly important and useful. Separating complex parts of your illustrations into layers, allows you to turn a very complicated illustration, with many elements, into manageable bite size pieces. Not only that, but it allows you to place collections of elements on top of others. This is very handy when you want trims or design elements to sit on top of the colour layer. If your elements are all combined on one layer you will have a very messy illustration that is hard to work with and change at a later date.

In this tutorial we show you how to create these layers and what parts of your illustration are kept on each layer. This will keep you fashion illustrations neat and easy to use. Think of it like a filing system. If all your important docs are in one big folder it becomes hard to find them quickly. If you categorise them into subfolders (layers) you will have a better chance of finding them and keeping track of them. We use four key layers when creating fashion illustrations. They’ve been listed below in order of appearance from top to bottom, with details about what they might contain.

The outline layer (Top layer):
The outline layer is the outline or silhouette or your garment. It is usually a thick outline that shows where parts of the garment start and finish. This layer is important and the line width must be quite thick to give your illustration some depth or dimension. This layer might also detail openings or finished edges within your garment. A pocket opening would have a think outline to demonstrate that it is not a seam or part of the garments construction. It is essentially a finished edge. 

The details layer (Middle layer):
This layer contains all of your trimmings, buttons, pocket flaps, cuffs… you name it! Anything that might be used to make up the details of your garment. Think of it as the “design details” part of your garment mentioned in S1 EP1 – The key concepts of fashion design. These can either be darts, seams or even trims. The trims are often self contained elements that might hold yet more details or can be filled with colour independent from the “body layer”.

The body layer (Middle layer):
The body layer is simply the outline of your garment, without a thick line. This layer could contain a flat-colour, print, fabric scan or texture. It is separated from the other layers to make it easy changing colours, prints and textures quickly without having to edit the whole illustration. It’s a simple layer with few details but a very important part of your fashion illustration all the same!

The model layer (Bottom layer):
The model layer is pretty self explanatory. In S1. EP3. we downloaded some fashion templates or fashion models from Pret-a-template and used them as a template to design on top of. Because we used this fashion template, it is important to also use it for the digital version of our fashion illustration. Luckily Pret-a-template provide digital copies of their fashion templates, so it’s a simple case of copying this model template and dropping it into the model layer of our illustration. The model layer sits at the very bottom so that our garment and all its various layers and components sit on top. 

More complicated fashion illustrations might need more layers but this is a really good starting point when it comes to the basics of fashion illustration in Adobe Illustrator. 

Line weight

As we mentioned above, line weight is important when it comes to creating illustrations with depth. Generally we use a thick outline for the finished edges and silhouette of our garment.  We use thinner lines for seams, stitch lines, creases, pleats and other design elements. We could even use a dotted or dashed line to highlight stitch lines. It’s completely up to you! Using a combination of line thickness, creates an almost 3D effect and goes a long way when beautifying our fashion illustrations. Bellow are some values that I use when creating our illustrations:

Outlines: 1.5px (Thickest)
Seams: 0.75px
Creases, folds, pleats: 0.35px

The thickness of these lines depends on the size of your fashion illustrations. For example, if you are working on an illustration that is on A3 these lines might appear quite thin. Similarly, if you used the same line thickness on an A4 page they would seem thicker. You can come up with your own line thicknesses but it is completely up to you and your illustration style!


Colour, print using clipping masks

In this tutorial we also show you how to add flat colour and a basic print to the “body layer” of your illustrations using clipping masks. This is a really important part of the tutorial. Adding colour, print or fabric texture will bring your illustrations to life! You can add pretty much anything you wish, whether it’s a simple colour fill, a print that you’ve made or even an image that you’ve created or downloaded. Adding a colour is the simplest way of bringing your designs to life, but it can look a bit basic – Flat colour has no depth or detail. Adding a print, texture or image to your illustration (using a clipping mask) gives the best results although slightly harder to pull off. Luckily the process or technique is exactly the same each time. once you have mastered it, you’ll be adding all kinds of things to the “body layer” of your illustration!



Below you will find some examples of my own digital fashion illustrations, created in Adobe Illustrator, using the Pret-a-template fashion templates. These artworks are free to download and use. Each illustration includes all the various layers, line widths, colours and prints. They should help you better understand the video tutorial and processes we use when creating fashion illustrations. 

Click image below to download fully editable fashion illustration pack.

The benefits of digital fashion illustration

Digitising your fashion illustrations or fashion drawings is not required. A lot of designers or illustrators are happy to present their hand-drawn fashion illustrations as is. It all really depends on your own personal taste and ability when illustrating by hand. To be honest, i’m (Ralph) not particularly talented at adding colour using traditional means, such as watercolour or coloured pencil – I rely heavily on the digital approach. I find the precision lines, depth of detail and ease and speed of changing colours, print and texture incredibly helpful when both conveying my ideas to the client and then adapting them to my clients needs after the initial brief. 

Although this tutorial is around 50 minutes long, it really doesn’t take that long to create each illustration. I’ve broken down the process and explained it in detail, which obviously takes longer than normal. It takes me around 10 minutes to create each individual fashion illustration in Adobe Illustrator, which is not long at all. If you are new to Illustrator it might take you considerably longer. The more time you dedicate to it the faster you will become. You can even copy and paste design elements such as: sleeves, necklines, outlines or even pockets to a new design, speeding up your design process even further. Either way, it’s a lot of fun to add colour and prints to your finished illustrations.


What’s next?

In the next episode we’ll show you how to create stunning fashion prints that can be printed on to a range of different fabrics, using digital fabric printing companies such as Spoonflower. We’ll buy a collection of flowers, take high definition imagery on a dark background and import them into Adobe photoshop. We’ll then cut them up, position them, change their colours, combine them with tropical leaves, and output them as full-size full-repeat digital artworks. It’ll be a lot of fun and should shed some light on professional digital printing techniques.

S1. EP3. Fashion design process using fashion templates from Pret-a-Template

S1. EP3. Fashion design process using fashion templates from Pret-a-Template

S1. EP3. Fashion design process using fashion templates from Pret-a-Template

In this episode, we start to sketch out a range of garment designs based on our clients brief and our mood boards. We also talk about fashion templates: Where to find them and how to use them to quickly create fashion illustrations of our garment. We then discuss how to develop our designs further, by combining elements of our existing designs into hybrids that eventually lead to our finished design.

Getting started

Fashion design and illustration can be a lot of fun, it can also be a time consuming and frustrating process especially if you are not familiar with it. There are a number of tools and processes that we use to ease this process. This post aims to help shed some light on those tools and how we use them to speed up our design process.  

Fashion templates & proportions

Fashion templates are a fantastic resource and will help you design quickly and effortlessly. They are essentially illustrations or outlines of the human form and come in a range of different shapes and sizes. Some are proportionate and others are stylised or exaggerated. Completing a simple image search for fashion templates or model templates  on Google will give you hundreds of results that you can download and use (license permitting).

Back in 2003, we didn’t have fashion templates and had to create our own. We had to painstakingly draw both model and garment for each design – It’s amazing we ever got any work done. On the plus side, It honed our illustration skills and pushed us to come up with our own unique illustration style.

Luckily, there are now hundreds of templates available that will speed up the design process. allowing you to focus on the important job of actually designing!


Pret-a-template is a company that specialises in digital fashion illustration. They also have an App that allows you to create fashion illustrations directly on your phone or tablet. They provide some free fashion templates that come in a range of different styles and genders. Their fashion and model templates give you a good starting point to work from and are for free! We have used their least stylised female templates as a base when designing Francesca’s robe, simply because they are free and editable within Adobe Illustrator.

My Body Model

My Body Model is a hot topic in the sewing community and features fashion templates that are automatically custom drawn based on you or your clients measurements. The product is fab but it comes at a cost. Each template retails at around £22. You can view their site and templates here.

Proportionate templates (templates that match you or your client) are incredibly useful, since the proportions of the body do affect the garment you are designing. Using model templates that do not accurately represent your clients measurements could cause the beautiful proportions of your dress  to look odd, or out of proportion, when toiling up your garment. Your garment might not look how you imagined it on paper! This is also true for pattern makers. If you want to employ someone to create your patterns for you, they need accurate drawings to work from. I know plenty of pattern makers that get frustrated with inaccurate or over stylised fashion illustrations. It’s harder to interpret the designer’s vision and they have more meetings than necessary!


The design process

Once we have chosen our model templates, we can now start the design process. We use our mood boards and the four key concepts of fashion design (mood, silhouette, design details and  colour/ print) to start things off.

Essentially, we are combining our inspiration and ideas to create new hybrids of those existing ideas. Think of it like cross pollinating two plants or flowers. How would you combine a tulip and a rose? What elements are the most beautiful from each? Would you use the stem of a rose and the petal of a tulip? Possibly you might combine the shape of a rose petal with the colour of a tulip petal. What would be the outcome? Similarly, take a silhouette from your mood boards, add a sleeve, a neckline, a pocket, change it up, use a different silhouette but this time with the same sleeve or neckline. This is the essence of designing. Your first attempts might look awful! If so, how would you adapt your first design to create something better than the last design?

Click image above to download fully editable SVG designs. 

Discover the elements or features that you love. Develop them further to find out why you like them. Eventually, you will find the sleeve, neckline, trim, details, and skirt shape that you love. Once you have a better idea of what you like you can start building your designs with more focus or direction.

It’s also important to mention that attention to detail is key! Sure, spend some time hashing through your ideas by quickly sketching but once you have a strong idea of what you want and how the elements of your designs work together, you should spend more time on actually drawing your design. Be careful, have patience, make sure your lines are straight, clean and accurate. Eventually you will start to see the results. The more you develop your ideas and combinations the better your designs will become!

One last thing… Always think about your client and the brief when you are designing. It’s easy to get carried away and diverge from the important aspects of the garment. Aspects that have been specified by your client. You can diverge, just make sure the client’s needs are still covered. It’s a balance between your own design and the clients brief. Most importantly enjoy and explore your ideas. Draw ten, twenty or one hundred garment ideas. Your designs will evolve and become unique and special!

What’s next?

In the next episode, we will explain how to turn your fashion illustrations, or hand drawn sketches, into gorgeous digital illustrations using Adobe Illustrator. Not only that but we’ll also show you how to add colours, prints and even textures to bring your designs to life. Your designs will become beautiful accurate precision drawings perfect for presentations and debriefings with your clients!

S1. EP2 – Creating fashion mood boards in Adobe Illustrator

S1. EP2 – Creating fashion mood boards in Adobe Illustrator

S1. EP2 – Creating fashion mood boards in Adobe Illustrator

What are Mood Boards?

We define mood boards as an arrangement of images, materials, pieces of text, etc. intended to evoke or project a particular style or concept. They are used to convey your design idea, win pitches and get an early sign-off on your work. They are an integral part of any design project and can be used by anyone, from absolute beginners to industry professionals. Think of them as a way for other people to understand your vision without the need for too much verbal explanation. You can create either one large mood board or a series of boards that each demonstrate a particular concept within the larger idea.

As we’ve mentioned in Episode 1, we use mood boards to categorise our research into the four main fashion design categories: Mood, Silhouette, Design Details & Colour/ Print/ Fabric. Not only are they a good way of communicating your ideas to others, but they’re incredibly useful when it comes to actually designing your garment or collection of garments, since they already contain all of the key ideas you have in mind.

So… want to know how we created our mood boards in S1. EP1  of our new video blog? Of course you do! This tutorial should give you all the info you need to quickly create your own. We’ll take you, step by step, through the whole process. We’ve also included some handy downloads to get you started (bottom of page)


Types of Mood Board

 You can create mood boards in a number of different ways, but essentially they all serve one purpose. 


Online & Pinterest:
Essentially, Pinterest was invented purely to make image searching and mood board creation simple! It’s a wonderful platform that is continually evolving. It’s great for finding imagery, sharing ideas with others on your team and collaboration on specific projects. Although it is very versatile, it can be tricky to arrange your imagery into a story, since the flow or positioning of images are controlled by the width of your screen. Recently, Pinterest have introduced sections to their boards, which allow you to categorise your inspiration more effectively. Although Pinterest is fab, you still can’t sketch on it or add objects easily. We tend to use Pinterest for the initial research process and as a reference point for our clients. 


Wall Art:
Why not go old school and pin inspirational imagery to your wall at home or in your studio. This technique is especially helpful if you have a lot of imagery or inspiration. You’ve probably seen design studios covered in images, nick-nacks or objects that relate to their current collection. It’s an old-school technique predominantly taught in fashion design schools. It’s a great way of formulating ideas since you are always surrounded by the things that inspire you, giving your subconscious time to process your ideas. You might find this technique the best for those ‘eureka’ moments! You can also play with your imagery, draw on it, move it around, stick objects to it and more. It’s a really hands-on way of working through your ideas. 


A booklet is a very handy way of collating your inspiration, especially for review by your client or teammates. A booklet let’s you tell a story from start to finish, focusing on the most important elements of your concept first and then finishing on the least important or less established ideas. Not only that, but it allows you to enlarge or reduce the size of specific imagery to make it more or less prominent. It’s also small, easy to print, portable and you or your client can make notes on the various page. A win-win! We think of the  booklet as the final step in your mood board making process.


Tutorial Overview 

  • Create a new document in Adobe Illustrator
  • Define the paper size, number of pages and orientation of your mood boards.
  • Use the rectangle tool to create a series of custom grids and image layouts to display your inspirational imagery.
  • Edit, duplicate and combine existing image layouts to quickly create new mood boards.
  • Refine the spacing between your image layouts using the nudge or arrow keys on your keyboard. 
  • Add transparent banners, titles and text to your mood boards in preparation for your imagery.
  • Copy inspirational imagery from Pinterest or your web browser into Adobe Illustrator.
  • Rotate, resize, flip and mirror your imagery whilst maintaining their proportions.
  • Arrange objects using layers and add imagery to your layouts using the clipping mask tool.
  • Create beautiful colour palettes by picking colours from your imagery using the eyedropper tool.
  • Arrange and order your mood boards to either save or print in order/ sequence.
  • Save your mood boards as a multipage PDF and adjust the file size to print, share or send via email.




Mood Board Templates

As promised, we have created 12, fully editable A4 mood board templates within Adobe Illustrator CC to give you a head start when creating your own. Feel free to download and use them as you wish.

Kimono Moodboard example

Download the finished kimono mood boards, in PDF format, to help you understand the concept and tools used to create them. Includes imagery, layouts and titles. 

Visit our Pinterest page to see all the images used for both the robe and kimono projects.

S1. EP1 – The fundamentals of fashion design – Understanding a brief

S1. EP1 – The fundamentals of fashion design – Understanding a brief

S1. EP1 – The fundamentals of fashion design – Understanding a brief

Hey guys and welcome to the first episode of our brand new video blog!

In this blog, we aim to shed some light on the process of designing individual garments or collections of garments based on our client’s brief. Designing to a brief is a process that features a number of steps, which is why we’ve broken it up into simple, weekly bite-size pieces that are easy to follow and digest.

It’s a process that has been refined using our experience creating collections for commercial fashion companies. It is a derivative of a technique that’s taught on Fashion Design courses worldwide. Everyone has their own method, of course, but we thought it would be interesting to show you our own process. Either way, we hope it helps you guys get the most out of your own projects and PatternLab.


So who is our new client?

Some of our more devoted followers might recognise Francesca from our PatternLab measurement tutorial  the one featured on our Profiles page). She helped us immeasurably back when we needed a measurement guinea pig, so we thought it would be a great idea to show our appreciation by featuring her in our first ever project. Plus, we already have her measurements saved in our system, so it seemed like the perfect situation!



Like any new project, we need to start somewhere and the first step is the briefing. Ideally, this should be done in person, since we need to see imagery and discuss ideas. You could, however, do this via Skype and share your screens. Amazing things have been accomplished using this technique considering Mike lives in Australia and Ralph lives in London!

To start with, we ask Francesca to do some research that will help define what she wants us to create. We also ask her to provide some basic imagery to inspire us. It turns out she’s a huge fan of kimonos and decadent robes for swanning around the house in… we love it, she’s such a diva!

Normally, we get a lot of imagery from the client which is a great start but from there we need to focus that down to something more specific. So we need to ask some important questions and use the imagery provided to focus the inspiration into solid ideas. You can even present your own ideas and see how the client reacts. Essentially, it should be a discussion combining both of your ideas. You are attempting to realise their dream, but it has to be realistic based on your experience and ability.



Once we have our brief and a good understanding of what the client wants we move onto the research phase. This can be done in a number of ways and depends on what resources you have at your fingertips. Our studio is located in central London which means we have a plethora of museums, exhibitions, shops, boutiques and more to draw our inspiration. Unfortunately, not everyone has this luxury, which is where Pinterest and online imagery becomes useful! 



We use the brief, the questions asked, and the imagery provided by the client to expand these concepts with more focused imagery. This can take hours or even days. It really depends on how deep you are willing to delve. The more research you do, and the more refined your ideas become, the easier it will be to create your designs – simply because you have more inspiration to choose from.

You could even play around with design hybrids. This might be an idea for a pocket that you love but want to develop further by combining it with other details. This can take time to work on and might need sampling to see how achievable it is. We want to keep this project relatively straightforward or simple – so we won’t develop design hybrids just yet.

Researching is a continual process that develops over time. Adding, combining, and replacing images will help you refine your ideas until they are strong cohesive concepts.


Design Theory:

We then categorise our imagery into the four main concepts of fashion design. This helps us understand what we will be creating.

1. Mood: Creating a mood is really important! We explain this in terms of the general feeling you want to evoke with your finished garment or collection. Where would it look best? Who would wear it or what type of person would wear it (apart from your client)? Why would they wear it and for what event or situation? Imagine you were holding a photoshoot. Imagine your garment finished in all its glory. Imagination is very important, so take your time, and allow yourself to dream…

2. Silhouette: The silhouette is the outline, shape or base of the finished garment. This can be an established idea with specific images attached to it or a vague idea that we can later work into and develop. Think of your garment as a black and white silhouette. There are no details whatsoever. Think of the length, how full the skirt, upper body or even sleeves might be. This is your silhouette. Keep it vague for now since your design details will no doubt affect it eventually.

3. Design Details: The design details are the elements that will fill your silhouette. They can be necklines, fastenings, embroideries, darts, pockets or even panels. These are the more functional elements of your design, so take your time to experiment.

4. Colour/Print: You might not know exactly what colours, textures or prints you would like to use but it’s important to have some idea. Colour theory is a tricky concept but there are plenty of colour boards out there, especially on Pinterest. Type in pink to Pinterest and see what colour combinations it comes up with. These colours will be predetermined based on their ability to work together (or not in some cases). Again, there’s no need to rush this process. You can even create your own palate. Adding complimentary imagery to your colour palate can also do wonders.

Using these guidelines and answering questions (with the client) will not only help you find the right imagery to inspire your research, but it will also prevent you having to ask the client at a later date. The more you can get from your brief the better. No one likes unanswered questions, especially when it comes to design.

Mood boards:

Mood boards are an incredibly important part of the design process. They are essentially a refined collection of your strong or cohesive ideas/images laid out on a series of boards. They should tell the story of your finished garment. Separate them into the four key categories: mood, silhouette, design details and colour/print. There’s a lot to think about but the more you go through this process the easier it will become and the quicker you will be.

What’s next:

Next time, we’ll be using our mood boards to start our design process. We’ll use design templates to quickly freehand draw our designs. We will then trace these designs into Adobe Illustrator and start to add colour, print and textures. These will then be presented to the client and (fingers crossed) they will pick a design. If not, then we go back to the drawing board.

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