Love of Lotus fabric design close up

Design Your Own Fabric with Spoonflower

Love of Lotus fabric design close up

Love of Lotus fabric design on Basic Combed Cotton – close up view

Dear fans,

I’ve heard of Spoonflower for printing your own fabric for a couple of years now, and finally gave it a try last week. I must say I was very happy with the result! There’s nothing like holding a nicely finished product with your own design on it.

I prepared my file in a 300 dpi PNG with transparant background. The file size was pretty big, but I managed to squeeze it under 40mb, which is the upload limit of Spoonflower.

design on a transparent background

design on a transparent background

Spoonflower has a pretty intuitive design application that helps you see how the design is going to be laid out on the fabric. I know nothing about fabric or fashion design, and it was pretty easy for me to use. There are a couple of different choices for repeating the design on the fabric, such as centered, basic repeat, half-drop, half-brick and mirror repeat. The different fabric and yardage choices have prices marked beside them which is very handy for “price control” while you’re designing.

Spoonflower's design application

Spoonflower’s design application

It took me a couple of uploads to get my file looking exactly the way I wanted before I checked out. After about a week or so I got this really nice fabric with my own design in my hands! The fabric feels very soft, doesn’t smell weird, and the print quality was excellent.

The laid out fabric

The laid out fabric

The calligraphy on the fabric was small but comes out very clear

The calligraphy on the fabric was small but comes out very clear

Another detailed view of the fabric

Another detailed view of the fabric

A fabric sample swatch that Spoonflower included

A fabric sample swatch that Spoonflower included

I had the idea of designing my own fabric because my mom has been taking quilted handbag classes and I thought it’d be a nice birthday present if she can make a bag with my design on it. Working with Spoonflower was a very nice experience and I’d definitely do it again. Maybe expect my upcoming fabric line? :)

Das Wilderbeasts

Das Wilderbeasts

Das Wilderbeasts

Das Wilderbeasts

Dear fans,

Das Wilderbeasts is a two-color, 5″ by 7″ linoleum block print on paper.

“In the landscape of your mind, there are beasts. Beasts without names or shapes. Beasts you cannot control. You watch them. The only thing you can do is watch them. They eat flowers you planted. They run around in the woods of your beliefs and the canopies that once shaded the raw soil come crashing down. You need this. Believe it or not, you do. Sit back. It’s like watching the Discovery channel, where you learn about nature. Your nature.”

For creative inspirations, I subscribe to a couple of different blogs and websites. One of the sites that I love a lot is grain edit, which features classic and modern design works. Many of the designs they showcase, vintage or not, have a variety of very charming textures, like this one done by Telegramme Studio.

These posts also reminded me of some German expressionists’ prints that I was introduced to when in college. Suddenly, instead of colorful, flat, sleek screen prints, I wanted to make limited-colored block prints with some rough texture. That’s also why the text of the print, instead of “The Wild Beasts,” is called “Das Wilderbeasts” some kind of pseudo German ;p

The Prophet--wood block print by Emil Nolde, 1912

The Prophet–wood block print by Emil Nolde, 1912

1) Idea sketch Sketching out the idea first on paper.

sketching out the idea

sketching out the idea

2) Transfer the image to the block I forgot to purchase copying paper, so I just covered my original paper with graphite, than draw on the back of it with the block at the bottom. Notice that you have to transfer the image onto the block backwards right now, otherwise your print will end up being backwards.

transfering the image to the block

transfering the image to the block

3) Mark the cutting area The graphite lines were a bit faint, so I tried to mark the lines with sumi ink, but it didn’t stay!

sumi ink doesn't work on linoleum block

sumi ink doesn’t work on linoleum block

Luckily the sharpie marker worked! Note that the image is backwards.

marking the lines with sharpie

marking the lines with sharpie

4) Carving time to bust out the knives and do some damage. I have accumulated many sets of cutting knives of various brands throughout the years. For linoleum, which is quite soft, it doesn’t really matter which brand I use.

my carving knives

my carving knives

 

Carving Progress

Carving Progress

For some really fine areas, I used an box cutter to cut. There’s no rules saying what tool you need to use, as long as you get the job done and it looks right to you.

using box cutter for cutting small areas

using box cutter for cutting small areas

 

Close up of the beasts

Close up of the beasts

5) Printing the background layer since I threw out a lot of my block printing equipment during the house fire last year, I needed to purchase some new stuff. Here’s a sheet of mylar, basically a thick piece of plastic, on which I’m going to squeeze and roll out my ink.

plastic sheet

plastic sheet

The painting knife is for handling the ink once it is squeeze out of the tube. The Barren is for hand printing block prints, applying pressure on the back of the paper.

ink, painting knife, blocks, barren and paper

ink, painting knife, blocks, barren and paper

And don’t forget, the ink roller!

block printing ink roller

block printing ink roller

I must insert an educational moment here. Please do NOT put your roller with the rubber side down on any surface! It hurts the surface of the roller, causing it to become uneven and will not be able to distribute ink nicely onto your block! Plus, on a hot summer day, your roller may become soft and melt and stick on your work surface!

don't put the roller side down on your work surface

don’t put the roller side down on your work surface

Here, I squeeze out a blob of ink, “stir-fried” it a bit to make it softer, and draw out a ribbon for the roller to roll out.

squeezing out the ink

squeezing out the ink

 

rolling out the ink

rolling out the ink

Inking the background layer.

inking the first layer

inking the first layer

Using the barren to apply pressure on the paper to pick up the ink. This was tiring and aggravating to my sore wrists (which I have only myself to blame). If you have a printmaking press, you wouldn’t have to do this.

barren action

barren action

first layer

first layer

 6) Printing the 2nd layer rolling out the blue color first.

rolling out the blue color

rolling out the blue color

rolling the ink onto the block

rolling the ink onto the block

close up of the inked block

close up of the inked block

And of course, nothing good ever get made without there first being tons of mistakes. The major challenges here are aligning the second layer with the background, and also not over ink and put too much pressure on the paper while printing.

mistakes and proofs

mistakes and proofs

too much ink and pressure causing double image

too much ink and pressure causing double image

 

it takes more time to print blocks than silkscreens

it takes more time to print blocks than silkscreens

And…drum roll please! Here’s the texture!

the block printing texture

the block printing texture

 

printing an edition of 15

printing an edition of 15

 

Das Wilderbeasts

Das Wilderbeasts

Voila! Here it is, Das Wilderbeasts! I hope you have learned something from this post or at least been entertained somehow. Isn’t printmaking entertaining? I think so. As always, I dedicate this print to Larry, who taught me how to print.

And, as always plus, if you’d like to own this, just let me know! XOXO

From Afar silk screen print on paper

From Afar :: silk screen print on paper

From Afar silk screen print on paper

From Afar silk screen print on paper

Dear fans,

Back! With another print! “From Afar” is a six color silk screen print on paper using contact paper as stencils.

This is a print that talks about seeing something from a distance, and thinking how beautiful it is without having a clear idea what it really is. It is precisely this ignorance of the reality of it that makes this thing you can’t quite see or obtain so beautiful. So, would you pursue it, hold it in your hand in close examination, risking your appreciation of it, or would you just admire From Afar? Your choice :)

There is not really a central focus in the composition, rather it is a collage of bubbles with different patterns and colors. Yes, just like seeing the street lights at night without your glasses on. So, you ask, what’s the inspiration for those particular patterns and colors? Well, they each represent something but if I tell you, I’ll have to kill you. Or, you’ll have to kill me, unearth one of my hidden sketchbooks and maybe you’d know. Heeeeee…

Here’s how it was put together:

1) The original sketch I got the idea from one of my marker drawings that I do daily. The color combination had some kind of Bob Marley flavor to it. Hmm.

From Afar marker drawing

From Afar marker drawing

2) Designing it Illustrator I redesigned it in Illustrator. The final font chosen was Orator Std Slanted.

Designing the print in Illustrator

Designing the print in Illustrator

3) Making the stencils for each layer I separated out each color and shape, printed it onto a piece of paper from a printer to help cutting the stencils from contact paper.

the stencil print out

the stencil print out

Cutting the stencils

Cutting the stencils

Cutting the stencils

Cutting the stencils

Cutting the stencils

Cutting the stencils

 4) Printing the first layer One circle, quite easy!

printing the first layer

printing the first layer

5) Printing the second layer I had to tweak the color of the pink a little to match the tint of the yellow circle.

tweaking the pink color

tweaking the pink color

printing the second layer

printing the second layer

6) Printing the third layer Because all the circles are pretty small that it didn’t make sense to use up all the contact paper to cover the whole screen. So I just taped some extra paper to cover the rest of the screen up so the ink wouldn’t leak. For this layer I used a fun metallic colored ink.

stencil of the third layer

stencil of the third layer

 

printing of the third layer

printing of the third layer

close up of the third layer

close up of the third layer

 7) Printing the fourth layer I used some left over ink and added a bit of different colored ink here and there to achieve the dark green color. As long as you have basic colors such as black and white, yellow, blue and red, you can mix any color. It may not be as bright or pure as store bought ones but it is often times more interesting.

mixing the dark green

mixing the dark green

printing the fourth layer

printing the fourth layer

8) Printing the fifth layer or rather…NOT printing it! I experimented with a scrap paper and found it too distracting for the whole composition, so this layer was scratched. Again, printmaking is all about the experimentation process.

the layer that never was

the layer that never was

9) Printing the fifth and sixth layer yes with the previous layer scratched all that’s left are the highlight dots. They were pretty straight forward and I took the colors right out of the can. For the yellow color, I had to change it to more of an orange for it to show on top of the yellow circle better.

testing the colors of the dots

testing the colors of the dots

10) Okie Doke sit and look at them from afar. No, from very close!

all the circles

all the circles

From Afar silk screen print on paper

From Afar silk screen print on paper

Yes, that’s it for now. I love you, thank you for stopping by. Again, thank you Larry for teaching me how to print. As with all things in the universe, ask, believe and receive. If you want this, let me know.

Ciao Ciao!

Cross the Swamp :: screen print on paper

cross the swamp screen print

cross the swamp screen print

Dear fans,

Oh my god, I made another screen print! Cross the Swamp is a screen print on paper with 5 layers of colors using contact paper as stencils.

I’m totally addicted to the process of interacting with ink, paper, stencils, my hands, water, the wind that blows through the curtain in my room, the sun that shines through the window, and my own breathing while laying down the screen. And most importantly, in the end of all this, I get to hand them out to people who I love and care about. What in the world is better than this!? Hmm…sex? But that’s something else entirely :)

So what does “Cross the Swamp” mean? What is this swamp? I recently read the book Gifts of Imperfection by Brene Brown, who is a love and joy researcher, but before that she was a shame and fear researcher. She said,

In Jungian circles, shame is often referred to as the swampland of the soul. I’m not suggesting that we wade out into the swamp and set up camp. I’ve done that and I can tell you that the swampland of the soul is an important place to visit, but you would not want to live there.

What I’m proposing is that we learn how to wade through it. We need to see that standing on the shore and catastrophisizing about what could happen if we talked honestly about our fears is actually more painful than grabbing the hand of a trusted companion and crossing the swamp. And, most important, we need to learn why constantly trying to maintain our footing on the shifting shore as we gaze across to the other side of the swamp–where our worthiness waits for us–is much harder work than trudging across.

So yes, it’s the swamp of shame! How dark. well, we’ve all got it, you’ve got one too. Have you tried crossing it? Or have you crossed it many times? It fracking sucks!

Here’s how I put it all together.

1) Pencil sketch and creating shapes in Illustrator

pencil sketch and creating shapes in illustrator

pencil sketch and creating shapes in illustrator

2) Designing in Illustrator

The final font selected is Kabel LT Standard. It is such a thin, beautiful and elegant font with a nice contrast with big blocks of color.

designing in illustrator

designing in illustrator

3) Layers sequence

Since there are multiple colors which will layer on top or overlap each other, it is important to decide which layer to print first. Usually you’d want to print the lighter color first, then finish off with the darkest color to make sure everything shows through nicely.

layers sequence

layers sequence

4) Cutting stencils

I use contact paper to cut out stencils for each layer.

stencil for the swamp

stencil for the swamp

stencil for the flowers

stencil for the flowers

5) Printing the first layer

The first layer is usually the easiest and really no big deal.

printing the first layer

printing the first layer

6) Printing the second layer

The second layer was a bit trickier. Since I was using the leftover semi-transparent ink from the last print Twin Heart, I had to tweak the colors and transparency several times to get the right shade. For multiple color layers, registration, which is lining up of each layer, becomes very important and can go wrong a lot of times.

experimenting with colors for the second layer

experimenting with colors for the second layer

7) Printing the third layer

The third layer, the flowers, was the easier layer since they pretty much just floats on top and doesn’t matter if they line up with anything.

close up of the third layer

close up of the third layer

 

printing the third layer

printing the third layer

 8) Printing the 4th layer

This layer was easier too since it only involves the tree trunk and the text that is kind of far away.

printing the 4th/text layer

printing the 4th/text layer

 9) Printing the swamp

The swamp is decidedly the main element in the whole composition. The dark color and swirly outline anchors down the whole image.

On the top right area of the swamp there are two white reflections. For this kind of “white out” or “donut hole” you need to cut out those particular shapes and stick it back on the screen to block out the ink.

It is also why on my prints, the O, the A, the R and the P of the text layer all have a black out style, because I was too lazy to put the hole back to the donut you know what I mean :)

the white out area in the swamp layer

the white out area in the swamp layer

testing the swamp layer

testing the swamp layer

printing the swamp layer

printing the swamp layer

On registration 

One of the toughest things to get right on a multi-colored or multi-layered print is to line up all layers correctly. Here I’m showing the mistakes that I made before I could get them right. For every good print in your hand a number of prints died because of registration or other mistakes. Even more regular printing paper also died for experimentation. They sacrificed bravely for the collective (collectable) good—the limited edition.

registration mistakes

registration mistakes

cross the swamp screen print

cross the swamp screen print

Voila, that’s it for now. Thank you for visiting and I hope you found it useful or entertaining either way. Again thanks to Larry who taught me how to print, and the universe who provides all that’s necessary for this to happen.

Talking about the universe, ask and you shall receive! If you’d like a print from this edition, just let me know :)

Twin Heart screen print on paper

Twin Heart :: screen print on paper

Twin Heart screen print on paper

Twin Heart

Dear fans,

New screen print, so excited! Thank you so much for being here with me. This is a screen print using contact paper as stencils and ink with translucent effect for layering using an ink extender base.

This is a limited editioned print of 30. If you’d like one, let me know and I’ll see if I’ve got an extra for you ;)

What is Twin Heart? It is a heart condition that can develop in the human body. According to WebMD (not really), it is a growth of extra heart material and tissues as a physical representation of your lover in your body.

If you’ve ever really loved someone or be in a long term relationship, chances are that you’ve had a twin heart at some point or even now, like me. Twin heart can stay symptomless indefinitely. During times of crises, extreme heart ache. Yup damn relationship issues.

1) Design The image was inspired by one of my daily marker drawings. I redesigned it a little bit to prepare for the print.

Twin Heart screen print: redesigning the original drawing in Illustrator

Redesigning the original drawing in Illustrator

Sorry, but I have to brag about my new acquisition, the Speedball screen print kit! I finally plunked down some money for it. Totally worth it if you’re trying to set up a home printing environment. The hinges make it really easy to flip the screen up and down for fast printing. Yes you can build a screen yourself, yes you can get a base board yourself and get the hinges from the hardware store. But you can also get a part time job and buy these things in a kit on your way home.

Speedball printing kit

Speedball printing kit

The hinges of Speedball printing kit

The hinges of Speedball printing kit

2) Creating stencils from contact paper The heart shapes are made from stencils from Contact paper, which is what your landlord uses to line the kitchen drawers. You can get a roll for $3 from local hardware store and it lasts forever…unless you are really lining drawers ;p

Using print out and contact paper for creating the stencils

Using print out and contact paper for creating the stencils

The first heart stencil

The first heart stencil

Stencil for the text

Stencil for the text

3) Printing the first layer I also used the print out as a registration technique to help me put paper in the right place to print for different layers.

Printing the first heart

Printing the first heart

First heart layer

First heart layer

4) Mixing the transparency ink For the slightly transparent/translucent green heart layer, I recommend using a transparent extender base like this one.

Speedball screenprinting ink transparency extender

Speedball screenprinting ink transparency extender

But the art store was out of this, so I used the Permaset transparent white ink instead. The white color tinted the green a bit, which was okay with me.

Permaset transparent white screenprinting ink

Permaset transparent white screenprinting ink

On mixing a transparent layer, always, always use more base, then add the light color, then gradually add in the darker color. Otherwise, you’re going to run out of extender base because of too much colored ink.

Mixing transparency ink by gradually adding colors

Mixing transparency ink by gradually adding colors

Test test test! Use a spare paper to test the transparency and color for the desired color. The color you see in the tub can look very different on paper!

Testing transparency and colors on spare paper

Testing transparency and colors on spare paper

Testing also on proofs of the first layer to see how it comes out when it’s layered on top.

More testing on spare paper, layering with first layer

More testing on spare paper, layering with first layer

5) Printing the second layer

Printing on nice paper after many testing

Printing on nice paper after many testing

Close up of the layers

Close up of the layers

6) Printing text layer Finally, print the text layer. Again, lots of testing on spare paper before printing on nice paper.

Testing text on lots of spare paper

Testing text on lots of spare paper

7) Sit and look at them Et Voila!

Printed all layers!

Printed all layers!

Twin Heart screen print on paper

Twin Heart

I hope this record of process was helpful for you!

Again, as with all my prints, this is dedicated to Larry who taught me almost everything about printmaking. Okay, fine, the professors taught some, but nothing he didn’t already know. Hmm, I think Larry is now having a nice French meal with a beautiful French lady in a very French corner in heaven!

quite_explosion_screen_print_yachinyou

Quiet Explosion :: screenprint

quite_explosion_screen_print_yachinyou

Quiet Explosion Screen Print

Dear fans,

It’s Friday! Today I made this editioned screenprint using a gradient background with two colors and grunge effect text with talc powder/body powder. The paper is Utrecht American Masters 90lb printmaking paper that has a slight cream tone and holds the ink very well. If I were a goat I’d eat it, it’s nice.

So what is “Quiet Explosion“? Well, I’m referring to those moments when you encounter something so beautiful that your eyes widen, your heart hurts, you hold your breath and there seems to be an explosion in your brain and you think pieces of your skull must be scattered all over the place. All this happens in absolute silence in a split second, yet you are a different person now. Prepare to accept. It’s hard to accept, but you’re different now.

It could be a blooming flower on the road side, it could be realization of some kind of knowledge, it could be a mysterious stranger who passes you by on the street. It could be anything, anything that blows your mind yes yes yes.

Anyhow, here’s the total steps break down of how I screen printed this.

1) Sketch: I rolled out of bed and sketched out my idea on my sketch book.

quiet_explosion_screenprint_tutorial_image0

Quiet Explosion screenprint sketch

2) Design: I did my design in Illustrator, testing out fonts and making the shape of the explosion. As you can see the explosion is made of several circles and many long triangles.

quiet_explosion_screenprint_tutorial_font_test

quiet_explosion_screenprint_tutorial_font_test

quiet_explosion_screenprint_tutorial_explosion_shape

quiet_explosion_screenprint_explosion_shape

quiet_explosion_screenprint_tutorial_final_design

quiet_explosion_screenprint_final_design

3) Make contact paper stencil for 1st layer: I printed the design flipped, then use it as a guide to cut out the contact paper stencil to affix on the screen.

quiet_explosion_screenprint_contact_paper_stencil

quiet_explosion_screenprint_contact_paper_stencil

quiet_explosion_screenprint_background_stencil

quiet_explosion_screenprint_background_stencil

4) Mix and print gradient colored ink: As you can see from the design above, I wanted to have a gradient effect on my background from red to orange/yellow. Once I have my orange color mixed, I put the two color together side by side on the screen. This is how you make a gradient shape. At first it will appear to be two clear cut colors, but after a couple of pulls they get mixed better and became a nice gradient.

quiet_explosion_screenprint_mixing_orange_color

quiet_explosion_screenprint_mixing orange color

quiet_explosion_screenprint_two_colors_side_by_side

quiet_explosion_screenprint_two_colors_side_by_side

quiet_explosion_screenprint_two_colors_mixing

quiet_explosion_screenprint_two_colors_mixing

quiet_explosion_screenprint_mixed_ink_on_screen

quiet_explosion_screenprint_mixed_ink_on_screen

quiet_explosion_screenprint_background_layer

quiet_explosion_screenprint_background_layer

5) Make text layer stencil: while the bottom layer is drying, I went ahead and made my text layer stencil on the contact paper.

quiet_explosion_screenprint_text_layer_stencil

quiet_explosion_screenprint_text_layer_stencil

6) Grunge effect with talc/body powder: To create the distressed, grunge effect on the text, I used talc powder, also known as talcum powder, which is basically body powder which you can buy from Walgreens. I have no idea why someone would want to put this stuff on their body. What the powder does is that after you sprinkle some on the screen, the powder goes into the surface of the screen and clogs the pores of the screen, creating stencils of those shapes. Now maybe that’s why people put on this stuff because they want to clog their pores!?

quiet_explosion_screenprint_grunge_effect_body_powder

quiet_explosion_screenprint_grunge_effect_body_powder

quiet_explosion_screenprint_grunge_text_effect

quiet_explosion_screenprint_grunge_text_effect

6) Print text layer and viola!

quiet_explosion_screenprint_text_layer

quiet_explosion_screenprint_text_layer

Done done!! It too me all day and fortunately I had turntable.fm with DJs spinning sick dance tracks to tie me over. Ate a bowl of rice noodles and 2 sweet potatoes. You know how we roll :)

numbers and colors at work

Some tools and inspiration for designing infographic

numbers and colors at work

numbers_and_colors_at_work

Dear fans,

Look what I do for work! Today I had a chance to design some infographics that are related to milestone data of child development that we collected from moms engaged on our site. Of course the above image is NOT the thing, it was just something I was playing around with for the design of the bars and the charts and the bar charts. When it is published I will post more details here.

It was my first time designing infographics and there are a couple of tools that I found useful. First of all, you need some data about something. Just in case you lack something interesting to say, check out Google Public Data. They have many interesting data sets about the world which are visualized in charts such as this one, general government debt as percent of GDP in European countries.

general government debt as percent of GDP in European countries

general government debt as percent of GDP in European countries

Another tool I found useful is IBM’s Many Eyes, a data collection and visualization tool. Here you can upload your own data sets and choose from a variety of visualization methods such as bar charts, pie charts, bubble charts, square charts…etc. All the data that the users have uploaded is available for anyone to see, so it’s also an interesting place to explore data, such as this one, degrees earned by gender over 5 decades. Looks like more and more women are completing higher education!

degrees_earned_by_gender_over_5_decades

degrees_earned_by_gender_over_5_decades

Many Eyes is mainly what I used to create my infographic. I publish a set of data using their tool, then take the results into Adobe Illustrator to design the layout and the looks.

To see some really inspiring finished infographics, check out Daily Infographic. I practically drool over these designs and want all of them as posters in my house.

daily_infographic_website

daily_infographic_website

Another website that might inspire you is Cool Infographics, a blog about infographics by designer Randy Krum.

cool_infographics_website

cool_infographics_website

Yes we learn something everyday and it’s even more special to learn from something beautiful everyday!