Fabric design is a skilled practice that combines artistic flair with a detailed knowledge of textiles. It’s not enough to just have a keen eye for design in this sector, as how a print works with a specific fabric also plays a significant factor in clothing production.
Textile design is an essential aspect of the manufacturing process, and for many fashion brands, having a unique print or surface pattern is necessary for brand identity.
Surface design is in every sector of the fashion industry from wholesale garments to high-end collections. If a fashion brand is looking to diversify in the market and create products that are truly unique, hiring the skills of a textile designer is a great option.
What is a textile designer?
Simply put, a textile designer is an individual that crafts designs for woven, knitted or printed fabrics for clothing and interior production. The designs they create can be used for exclusive lines, or in most cases for repetitive manufacturing. This type of design is often overlooked by small businesses due to budget constraints.
However, by investing in design work specially tailored to your brand, it will set you aside from the thousands of mainstream designs in the consumer market.
A textile designer has many qualities and can contribute a host of expertise to your brand. Some of the main elements they cover include:
- Creating sketches and samples for presentation
- Liaising with different teams or suppliers such as manufacturers and buyers
- Interpreting brand ideas and concepts
- Using specialist software to assist the process
- Advising best practice and design elements for chosen fabrics
- Sourcing suitable textiles based on brand requirements
- Up to date knowledge of the industry and trends
There are several freelance textile design specialists that are able to translate your ideas into saleable products. But, there is also a selection of studios and designers within manufacturing companies that can assist you.
You’ll find a range of fabric designers and clothing manufacturers on Sewport that can provide expert advice and design ingenuity. Sign up here to source the best designers for your brand needs.
Costs and rights of designs
As mentioned above, the cost of hiring a designer should be budgeted into your production spend. However, it’s not as simple as getting someone to create some print for your chosen fabric. You have to think about the rights to the work also. There are several ways in which you can determine rights to creative work including:
- Exclusive use and copyright ownership
This is often most favoured by fashion brands, as it gives you ownership over the final design work. But, this option does come at a cost. Not only do you have to factor in the charges for the design work, but also the rights that transfer to you. Exclusive use gives you ultimate control over what happens to the work after it is signed over. Plus, it protects you from the design being used elsewhere.
Purchasing licenses for a design
Licensing can be a cost-effective option for a brand. It also allows you to introduce designs and artwork into your product line without extensive investment. This term means that the copyright of the design is still with the designer, and you are in short, renting it from them to use. This fee is sometimes called a royalty and is often decided by how popular the artwork is.
Licensing is a great way to help boost your brand. Collaborations with influential fabric designers can also be an excellent way to promote your brand and products to a new audience.
Check out this that provides further insight on the difference between exclusive and non-exclusive rights .
What to prepare before working with a designer
One of the first places to start is with your initial ideas. Drawings, sketches and mood boards are the foundations of good design. A textile specialist will need these concepts to help you create a solid base for the surface design. You could also take inspiration from other prints and artwork, or look at resources such as Pinterest to gather inspiration.
Another area to consider is how you to propose to print the designs. You may need to source a suitable printing partner or get an idea of what you can achieve before you finalise the work.
Some printing companies have different printing techniques such as DTG (Direct To Garment) or screen-printing options , which have various limitations depending on the fabric and colours used. By giving your textile designer an idea of the scope of colours and material that is required, they will be able to translate your ideas more efficiently.
The textile design process
Building a good relationship with a fabric designer is essential for utilising their skills and developing a profitable design. The process of working with a designer is quite simple. However, having some knowledge of the stages of design and what to expect is a great way to manage expectations and timelines.
Take a look at some of the keys steps of the process:
Finding a textile designer
The world of design is vast, and there is a hive of talent out there depending on your requirements. As mentioned previously, you can opt for freelance specialists or design studios to complete your artwork. With the help of Sewport, there is also a host of options across the globe that can assist the process. It is advisable to check portfolios and look at previous brands they have worked with to gauge whether the style and service meet your needs.
During the process of selection, designers will often offer a consultation to determine your goals and discuss pricing. In some cases, you will have to pay for this; in others consultations are free. During this consultation, you will be able to get a feel for the potential partnership opportunities and discuss your ideas more thoroughly to get the best ideas of costs.
It is worth noting that designers rarely start work without a deposit. This is to protect the work they produce during the initial stages of concept development. You will need to discuss this cost at the consultation phase, but it is helpful to budget at least 50% of the project fees before work starts.
Producing sketches and concepts
A fabric designer will pull together your initial ideas and inspirations and build a picture of your design. They will often ask questions about colours, fabrics and printing methods to get an idea of how the design will work in reality.
Once this artwork has been completed, a first draft will be submitted to give you a chance to make alterations and provide feedback on the design. When you are happy, the final design will be drawn up using digital software, so this can be shared with your manufacturing partner with ease.
By this point, you’ll be eager to see how your design will look on the finished product. The next stage is to send your artwork to your printing or manufacturing company and obtain some initial samples to assess. This process is called Strike Off and involves printing a small sample to see how the colours and scale look before committing to a larger order. If there are some adjustments to be made, your designer can modify at this point to avoid a costly printing mistake.
When the work has been signed off and is ready for delivery, you will often need to make the final payment before the design copies are handed over. This again is to protect the textile designer in case of any disputes with payment. It will often be written into a contract that the design copyright does not transfer to you until full payment has been made. This is particularly prevalent for exclusive use work, as the rights will also have to be paid for before being signed over.
Working with fabric producers
As mentioned above, it is vital to get your print correct before committing to the printing stage. Once this is finalised, you can work with a fabric supplier to print your design for your clothing.
In most cases, it is cost-effective to produce prints that have a Technical or Seamless Repeat . Simply put, the design can be printed continuously or seamlessly without lines or gaps in the fabric. To achieve this, you will need to check the limitations on certain materials such as width and type of print.
For some products, you may require Placement or Engineered Design . This effectively places a print on a garment and requires special printing. This method is often used in t-shirt production.
The next steps…
Fabric print design is a critical stage in the clothing manufacturing process. For brands that are looking to produce unique products, hiring the expertise of a surface designer or textile company is a worthwhile investment.
Some clothing manufacturers can recommend services to complement the production process, or you can source suitable designers to meet your individual needs. This step may seem like a snippet in the grand scheme of clothing production. But, it provides a vital opportunity to establish your brand in this competitive industry.
For more information on the whole production process, check out our Guide To Working With Clothing Manufacturers to help you get your ideas off the ground.