6 Tips for Designing a Collection with Katie Kortman

The Spoonflower Seller Handbook: 6 Tips for Designing a Collection with Katie Kortman | Spoonflower Blog

Designing collections is a great way for customers to easily shop coordinating designs in one place and gives designers an opportunity to focus on a specific theme or color palette. In an all-new article from The Spoonflower Seller Handbook, designer Katie Kortman is sharing her process, from start to finish, on how she creates her own collections while offering a few helpful tips along the way.

Tip 1: Create a Mood Board

A collection can begin before you even sit down to design if you’ve been saving inspiration on some sort of mood board or sketchbook! I like to keep my creative space inspiring and have decorated a wall in my studio with color combinations I want to use in future collections. I put up paint chips, photos I’ve clipped from magazines, advertisements I like and other articles of paper.

The Spoonflower Seller Handbook: 6 Tips for Designing a Collection with Katie Kortman | Spoonflower Blog
Katie’s paper collaged mood boards
The Spoonflower Seller Handbook: 6 Tips for Designing a Collection with Katie Kortman | Spoonflower Blog

I also keep saved “collections” on Instagram. I named one of my saved folders Color and Pattern and any time I come across something I really like, I stick it in that folder. I don’t always go back and reference it when I’m creating a collection, but it’s there in case I do need some inspiration. Even if you don’t directly look at the things you’ve been saving, they get filed away in your subconscious so when you create they often come through in some way.

The Spoonflower Seller Handbook: 6 Tips for Designing a Collection with Katie Kortman | Spoonflower Blog
Katie’s color play in the beginning stages of a new design

Tip 2: Have Fun with Color

When I begin a collection, I start by painting. I get out my art supplies and create images that I can experiment with using Adobe® Photoshop® and even Procreate®. Sometimes I use paint chips—Pantone® chips would be even better—to come up with colors I want to use, but often I just start painting. The great thing about Photoshop is that you can focus on the design and change the colors later (I’ll show you what I mean in a bit). 

Designer tip: Read Katie’s Color Theory 101 blog post which is full of helpful advice for choosing colors that work well together!

The Spoonflower Seller Handbook: 6 Tips for Designing a Collection with Katie Kortman | Spoonflower Blog

I usually create a few different paintings and then do a high-resolution scan to my computer. I have also taken high-quality photos of the paintings when I did not have a scanner—both methods work.

Next, I get out my Spoonflower Color Map (I have the map printed on a few different fabrics to see the color variation—for example, the colors on polyester fabrics are generally much more bright than on naturals) and try to find similar colors to those in my painting or ones that I want in the final printed designs.

The Spoonflower Seller Handbook: 6 Tips for Designing a Collection with Katie Kortman | Spoonflower Blog

To change a color in your design it’s quite easy in Photoshop! Here’s one way I do it:

Go to Image > Adjustments > Replace Color > then use the dropper to select the color in your image that you want to change. You’ll want to adjust the Fuzziness slider to fine-tune your selection. (A lower number results in a more precise selection.) Next, double click the color box at the bottom of the pop-up that says Result. This will open another window called Color Picker where you can select the color you want! Click Ok to apply the new color to your design.

The Spoonflower Seller Handbook: 6 Tips for Designing a Collection with Katie Kortman | Spoonflower Blog

You can create a folder in your color swatch box and fill it with colors that you want to use in all of your designs so you don’t have to keep going back and forth with the dropper tool. The hex codes on the Spoonflower Color Map can be entered straight into Photoshop to get you the exact color you want! Keep in mind that they will look different on your screen but just TRUST they will print like you see on the fabric!

Tip 3: Build Upon Your Motifs

I like to create a few different designs and then make a few different colorways out of each of them when I create a collection. In my Spring 2020 Stripes, Flowers and Dashes collection, I started by first creating a design using one painted motif that repeated (below, left). The next design was derived from the original motif and became a flower (below, right).


After creating new colorways of each of those designs, I used the colors to create dash and stripe designs that coordinate. These designs can all stand alone, but of course, it’s fun to have prints that would work well in a quilt or garment when placed side-by-side!

The Spoonflower Seller Handbook: 6 Tips for Designing a Collection with Katie Kortman | Spoonflower Blog
Katie wearing a me-made shirt in Poly Crepe de Chine featuring Horizontal Dash – Mauve_Red_Blue

Tip 4: Consider the Scale (Size) of Your Design

Many customers are looking for prints that work well together. You can also create prints in different scales so that there are options that work for smaller or larger projects. This is easy to do in whichever design program you’re using or even just when uploading to your design library.

The Spoonflower Seller Handbook: 6 Tips for Designing a Collection with Katie Kortman | Spoonflower Blog
Katie working to scale her Easter Basket Stripes design

Make sure you are designing at 150 DPI (Dots Per Inch) since that is the resolution Spoonflower prints at, otherwise, the scale could be off and your image could be larger or smaller than you intend. Once you have uploaded your design to your Spoonflower shop, you can select “smaller” if you want it to be smaller than the original. Also be sure to select what type of repeat your design should be, then click Save This Layout.


Tip 5: Add Tags and More

It is critical to add relevant tags that describe your pattern so your design shows up for shoppers in Spoonflower’s search results. There is also a section that offers prompts to help create strong tags if you are unsure of where to start.

Decide how you want your design to display in your public shop by selecting the thumbnail (fat quarter, swatch or crop).

The Spoonflower Seller Handbook: 6 Tips for Designing a Collection with Katie Kortman | Spoonflower Blog

Pro Tip: Proof up to 42 designs with the 1-yard cheater quilt project using Spoonflower’s Fill-A-Yard® technology so you don’t have to order individual swatches. It’s a more cost-effective option!

Tip 6: Promote Your Designs

Once you receive your proofed swatches or yardage make sure you promote, promote, promote! Take photos of your fabric (or a product made with your fabric!) and send it out to your email list, put in on your blog, or any social media channels where you are actively posting. I like to share my design process in my IG stories while I am creating the collection, then again when I get the yardage so they can see how it looks printed out. After that, I sew things up with my prints and post them for everyone to see! When other makers sew using my designs, I repost their photos to my IG stories for others to see as well (this is called UGC or user-generated content).  Another idea is to feature those makers in an email or blog post to show all the ways your prints can be used.

One last idea is to consider creating your own unique hashtag. I use #katiekortmanfabric which is not only another way that allows me to curate a selection of my designs but it also means that the people who sew things with my fabrics can contribute to those curations by using the hashtag on their own posts.

The Spoonflower Seller Handbook: 6 Tips for Designing a Collection with Katie Kortman | Spoonflower Blog

I hope this post helps you in creating your first collection! It’s a fun way to work and helps buyers as well. Happy creating!!!


About the Guest Author

The Spoonflower Seller Handbook: 6 Tips for Designing a Collection with Katie Kortman | Spoonflower Blog

Katie Kortman is a sewist, artist, and self-proclaimed dancing queen. Over the years she has sold her artwork in galleries, worked as a display artist for Anthropologie, taught high school art, had a handmade accessories company called Blue-Eyed Freckle, and mothered her four children.

Katie enjoys combining her passions into one by using her artwork to design fabric on Spoonflower, that she can then sew up into clothing (and DANCE). She blogs at katiekortman.com and over on Instagram you can find her @katiekortmanart where she dances around in her handmade wardrobe.

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