My design process starting with colour

I thought you might be interested in seeing how I start my creative journey when planning a collection.
I always start with colour and select a colour palette before I start designing. Research is important and I am always looking at colour trends, I receive colour trend magazines and often use these as a starting point. I buy Mix magazine which is invaluable and really gives me an insight into what is happening in the world of colour.

Starting I use Adobe Illustrator to create a colour blanket, this is where I select an artboard the same size as metre of fabric. I cover it with squares of colour using Pantone TCX colours. It is important to have some Pantone software and I purchase the Pantone colour swatch fan, these are expensive £200 but invaluable as a physical reference to colour. The hardest part about designing is imagining the colour on and off the screen. This is one reason why I spend so long on this process. When I add the colour squares to my virtual metre of fabric I use the colour codes from the Pantone FHI colour book which I have imported into Illustrator. This means I have the same colour physically from my colour fan and on my computer screen. I make lots of different colour palettes, these are just made up of 6 to 8 colours, I then make mini palettes from these. I use these mini palettes when I start designing to see which colour combinations work the best. Once my metre of fabric is ready I send off the TIFF  file to the printer to have it printed onto the finished base cloth I am going to use for my finished collection. Colours change depending on what fabric they are printed on, usually I use linen union which is a combination of cotton and linen, the colours look softer than on pure cotton and it hangs well.


Colour blanket

When I have my colour blanket back from the printers I cut it up so I have all my colours ready to combine. My  blanket has been sectioned off into separate colour palettes, the numbers I have used are all printed onto the colours. I make them big enough so I can see the colour and I can cut them up further to use on my colour boards which will be the next stage. 

For this coming collection I thought I would try some other base cloths and I had the blanket printed off onto 100% cotton panama, organic and optic white. It was amazing how different the results were when the same colours had been printed. I have decided to use the linen union,  from now on I just use the cut out colour chips from that blanket.

It is quite important to decide which base cloth to use at this stage because they come in different width and this makes a difference when you are designing. If I designed on a cloth which was 150cm wide which the cotton panama is, then it would be difficult to convert my designs onto the linen union which is 138cm. I would run into problems with the scales, they would have to change to become large or smaller. The finished patterns width has to be a multiple of 138cm if I am using the linen union.

There is quite a bit to think about even before you have started to design, colour scale, fabric base and width just to name a few. My main problem is I have too many colour palettes to choose from and I find making a decision agonising!! I just pray I get it right.

Colour Chips

The next stage is to create a colour board, this is a functional board and does not have to look beautiful. I use it as my physical reference when designing. The palette I am using is cut up and I make combinations of colours to see which goes well together, I try and put one fabric on top of another to get an idea of what they would look like printed. This process can go on for a very long time and you need lots of Pritt sticks! Here I may exclude colours from a palette and only work with the ones I like. I try not to make it too tonal and have some contrasts, my colours are quite limited but I think this is important in interior design, it is easier to match to other colours and doesn\’t turn into a mess of mixes colour. My palettes do have a definite direction, this is where the mini combinations come in and I try and use 3 colours that work together then another 2 or 3 colours somewhere else but they all go well because they are in the same colour palette. I try and pair down my designs so they are not too complicated, but some are and I like to have at least one fabric with lots of colours, this is called my \’show stopper\’. Then I look at simpler versions for the other designs. In all this process takes a very long time and the photo I am showing you here is only one out of about 8 boards I will create for a collection. I like to have at least 3 separate colour palettes per collection. I like lots of choice!!

Colour board