Developing a Colour Palette

I recently ordered and received digitally printed fabric from Spoonflower. Spoonflower is a digital printing service in America where you can upload your designs and print your own fabric. You can print swatches and yards of fabric with no minimum order. This is the first time I’ve used it.

Colour-Guide-SwatchesTo begin I ordered the Spoonflower colour guide and fabric swatches. The colour guide and fabric swatches are $1 each. Colour guide and fabric swatches across.

PS  Colour Modes

Once I received the fabric swatches and colour guides I applied the colour schemes to my repeats in Photoshop. I used the HEX Codes from the colour guide to replace my current colour. You can see the colour picker across. I just needed to replace the HEX Code with the code from the Spoonflower colour guide.

On screen the colours turned a lot brighter. This is my first time replacing colour on photoshop to printers colour codes. I am a textile surface designer specializing in screen printing. I usually mix my colours manually. I’ve little knowledge of matching the colour to RGB or CMYK models. I found digital colour very different. I questioned the bright colours on screen but the colours on Spoonflower’s colour guide looked great, so I assumed it would look better when physical printed. How wrong I was! The colours I chose for my fabric were awful!!!! Nothing to do with Spoonflowers service but more my lack of experience with digital colour. Below are photos of my printed fabric:


Jersey Fabric with floral repeat


Cotton Sateen



This last piece is still usable but the purple is bright. I like more subdued subtle colours.

How did I go wrong?

Well as we all know fabric have different texture, opacity and absorption. The colour guide is printed on a cotton and I wasn’t ordering cotton fabrics, the weights were heavier and I chose some synthetic material. The colours on the screen where as bright as they were printed. It’s obvious to me now and I feel I should have known better.


Since receiving my printed fabric I’ve done a lot more research into Colour Theory and Colour Models. There are several different digital colour models that define colours based on different components. The most popular ones I found are: RGB, CMYK, HSB, LAB and Hex colours. Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator allow you to supply codes for these models to match colours of manufactures / printers. It is best to find out what colour model your printer uses to match colours so they come out right when printed. PS  Colour Modes

I also looked at the colour wheel again, refreshing my colour theory, it’s hues, tints, shades and tones. Refreshing all the basic colour schemes: the complementary colours, the near complements, the triads etc.


Definition of a colour palette:

A colour palette is a limited selection of colours that a designer uses in a collection to ensure that all the colour elements sit together in a controlled way.

Finding just the right colour palette is very important, but it can be a challenge! I’ve found a few different ways to help me develop my colour schemes.

I started a Colour Pinterest Board just for colour ways. I pin photos I like the colours of or other colour schemes designers have shared. I don’t mind using other designers schemes or them mines as they are always applied differently. Your welcome to follow my board here.

I’ve downloaded Adobe Kular. Adobe Kuler is a great tool to develop a colour palette from a single image/photo. It pulls colours from the picture and helps create a colour palette. There are free apps and generators online like Adobe Kular you can use if you just google “Colour palette generator”.

And I can’t forget trends for colour inspiration. It’s easy to become overwhelmed with the number of trends available for generating colour schemes but it is all about research, choosing a trend and sticking to it.

I feel I have learned a lot from this experience and I am so glad I only ordered quarter of a yard of each design. I didn’t order a tiny swatch as I need to see the repeat, but thankfully they repeated fine. I have a long way to go in my design career and it’s embarrassing to say but getting my colours right is my next priority. The two of the most important factors influencing your designs are the choice of colour and fabric. My colour theory refreshment has reminded me restricting yourself to a set of colours is an important part of the creative process. People are drawn in by colour, and either soothed or energised by it. Colour attracts people to your designs as much or even more than any other aspect of your design. I find it intimidating to work with but with a little combination of technical know how and play, I’m determined to make it a satisfying aspect of designing.




About Fashion Textile Design Centre

Louise Porter is the blogger for the Fashion & Textile Design Centre. Louise has a degree in Fashion & Textile Design degree and a Masters in Business.
This entry was posted in Creative Juices, Fashion Design How To and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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