How to use your Scanner and Photoshop 6.0 to create a preview your quilt design with your own fabric colors and prints:

This tutuorial will show you how to preview the actual fabrics you would like to use in your quilt using your scanner and Photoshop 6.0 Elements on your computer. You can make virtual quilt blocks using the actual fabrics you are considering for your quilt, and arrange them into the pattern that appeals to you, all before having to cut, stitch, rip out, or re-sew a single fabric quilt block.

Designing a quilt, selecting the fabrics, and figuring out where to place the blocks can stump even an accomplished quilter. It's the quilter's version of writer's block, with so many design and layout choices to  make all at once, that it is nearly impossible to picture it all in your mind.

The old fashioned way of designing your quilt was to sit down at the table with your graph paper and colored pencils....two days later, complete with cramping fingers, your paper masterpiece won't look anything like your final quilt will look. I graphed out my quilt design  and still had no clue if I liked my pattern or not (the graphed design is the image next to the actual fabric scanned design- What a difference!). Now there are computer software programs designed for quilters, such as EQ7 that cost around $175- to assist in the process.  I don't know about you, but that kind of investment isn't workable if I'm only making an occasional quilt.
Like most of us, I am neither a computer genious, nor a professional quilter. I make quilts on occasion as meaningful gifts for the people I love.....like a daughter heading off to college whose favorite color is purple.....I hope she doesn't see this tutorial or she'll certainly be able to see exactly what her graduation gift is going to look like!

Ready ?  I'll give you two versions in this tutorial:
1. The "short" version for those of you who know how to use your Photoshop 6.0 elements program well, and have a good understanding of how to make a quilt.
2. The step-by-step version for those who are less familiar with  Photoshop 6.0 elements, and designing a quilt.

Step 1: The Short Story

Virtual Quilt Layout: The Short Story
1. Decide what quilt block and size you would like to use:
    I chose two basic quilt blocks
    a. 12" Nine Square" 
    b. 12" Grecian Design block

   *I found a very helpful website to help with my quilt design called MyWebQuilter.com. The website has a library of prints and fabrics to use in your design, standard quilt blocks, and will calculate the approximate yardage needed for each fabric in your design, the finished size of your quilt, gives you pattern pieces for cutting your blocks, and also instructions for assembling the blocks. 
2. Select an approximate size that you would like your quilt to be by deciding how many columns and rows of 12" blocks you will use in your design, and what size border you would like
    I chose 66x 90 inches, which is 7 rows of 12" squares, x 5 columns of 12" squares, plus a 3" border
3. Purchase the fabric, or just buy 1/8 yard samples of the fabric that you are considering using. 
4. Use your flatbed scanner to scan into your computer copies of each of the fabrics you would like to use in your quilt. The swatches should be at least the same size as your actual cut quilt pattern would be. Scan each fabric into a computer file.  I scanned mine in at 200dpi, as the file can get rather large as you add blocks to the quilt.
5. Use Photoshop 6.0 Elements to create each different quilt block you would like to use in your computer by:
    a) Open Photoshop 6.0 elements
    b) Select File-New-Blank File, and set your size to 12" x 12" Or whatever size YOUR finished quilt block will be), 72 pixels/inch, titled   "Block 1"
    c) Open your Fabric Scan File, select your first fabric for Block 1, and cut/paste your fabric onto your Photoshop 6.0 virtual quilt block.
         In my case, most of my blocks were designed with 4" squares of fabric, which made it easy to cut/paste the squares into my new
         virtual quilt block
    d) Repeat designing each block of your quilt in this manner until each unique quilt block is done. Many quilts are made of repeating blocks, which makes them easier to assemble (like mine in this case).
6. Now, assemble your virtual quilt:
   a) Open Photoshop Elements 6.0
   b) New - Blank file- title and set the size of your new file in inches to be in the same ratio as your quilt squares. In my case my design is five 12" quilt block colums x seven 12" quilt block rows. In order not to create an enormous file, I made my canvas size 15" x 21" so that each quilt block gets re-sized into a 3" square.
   c) open, copy, and paste each quilt block into place until your 15x21 virtual quilt is complete
   d) Re-size the virtual quilt canvas size to add your border fabric, and open, cut, and paste your fabric border into place.
Voila!  The quilt design you see took me about an hour to design, scan, and assemble in Photoshop 6.0 Elements. When I initially looked at that pile of fabrics, I wasn't  sure that I would like the way they were going to look as a completed quilt. Now that my virtual quilt design is complete and I can see what the finished quilt will look like, I really like it! Of course I did make a couple of changes along the way as I was laying out the quilt on the computer.... I'm off to grab my scissors and start cutting.
...If what I've written above sounds a little confusing to you, read on to the step-by-step instructions I promised on the following pages.
Genius! Definitely beats trying to fold up the fabric into funny shapes and blur your eyes to try and get an idea of what it will look like all together.
<p>Absolutely brilliant! I remember buying a fisheye front door peephole as suggested by my workshop facilitator one time as it was easier than squinting!</p>
You're so funny, and I completely agree. My mother has been quilting for years, and I always saw her layout a pile of fabrics on the floor, folded into scrunchy little shapes, squinting and trying to guess what the quilt would look like. I know she hated to start cutting until she was sure of her design.
I had to come back and comment that after reading this Instructable I decided to try Photoshop and OMG 10000 times easier than using Paint. I had my squares pasted in and done in less than 30 minutes, emailed myself a jpeg. Thank YOU!
Thanks so much for such a nice comment. I'm really glad that it was easier! <br>
I want to make my daughter a Sesame Street rag quilt so I went to the online store, found the fabrics, took screen captures of each, cropped them in Microsoft Paint, then used them there to arrange them to make sure the colors worked the way I wanted them to work and then I purchased the fabrics. It would have been easier to use a different photo editing program because in Paint once you stop touching a particular square, it becomes permanent them you have to select it and again. a pain if you have an intricate design but I didn't. It's a simple rag quilt.
Ha, a much more sophisticated way of doing it! I've drawn out little grids and tried to find colored pencils to match my fabric colors before... never again. :P
I did the same thing! I actually have a colored pencil grid drawing that I spent time on when I started thinking about this quilt design for my daughter. It really didn't help me much.

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Bio: Most people know me as "the cookie lady" :) , though I've been drawing, painting, sewing, fusing glass, and making other creative things for as long ... More »
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