January 21, 2018

What is a textile designer?

textile design

Also referred to as surface design, textile design is a niche within graphic design covering all facets of print and pattern from specific types of fabrics for garments to interior design, and more. Textile designers have the ability and know-how to create artwork that can be purchased and used on various surfaces. Prints can define a brand or collection which makes it an integral layer to the manufacturing process. They are also trained with a particular skill set, to prepare files to reproduce onto fabric, and more.


How to find a textile designer?


There are a slew of textiles designers working in the industry, from solo workers to groups represented by agencies. With major trade shows scheduled every year for textile artists to showcase their talents, many styles and artists are represented and some popular shows include Print Source, LA Textile, Indigo Premiere Vision, and many more. Through an internet database, major studios can also access textile designers via their online portfolios on sites like BeHance, LocalSolo, or Art Thread. Many artists become known for specific types or niche styles, with several textile designs offering technical skills to place current artwork on to a technical file for printwork.


Costs of working with a designer

women designer


A budget should be created if there’s interest in artwork or incorporating prints into your collection. Typically,artwork must be purchased for exclusive use or licensing a design. Clients seeking out exclusive use want original artwork that has not been seen by the general public and once purchased, ownership is transferred to the client and can be used in any manner. This type of artwork is more expensive because of the copyright issues and the exclusive rights that come with its purchase. So, in essence, clients are paying for not only the artwork, but the digital files, the fabric samples, and the option to use the image as desired. The price, however, doesn’t include printing or fabrication and once sold, that responsibility falls on the client.


Another option for clients is through licensing a design, which is basically renting textile designs for a specific period for a project. In licensed designs, the copyright remains with the artist but with negotiated guidelines between both parties. The royalties or fees generated from the artwork depend on a number of factors including the popularity of the designer and how the design is used. Small companies with small budgets realize that licensing is a great option to save money while introducing artwork by a brand.


Preparing for a project

Having a bit of technical know-how can aid how you utilize the artwork. Printed artwork should be seen by a printer first to discern the type of printing they have the ability to perform, the kinds of fabrics, file formats, and any other technical information. Printers with digital capabilities allow for more freedom when it comes to color and scale, while there are limitations involved in the types of fabrics. The more knowledgeable an artist is, the more time is saved when it comes to color schemes, textures, creating mood boards, and much more. Learning how to use a sewing machine is also a great skill that textile designers should be knowledgeable about.

Additional textile and surface design terms
A design featuring a seamless repeat can be printed on fabric without interruption in the design flow. A engineered design is one that is made for a surface that doesn’t repeat and is strategically placed on garments and requires special printing. T-shirt graphics are an example of placement graphics that many textile designers utilize. A design can typically be created in several carrying color schemes, with additional colorways available for a smaller fee. New brands can stretch budgets by utilizing one-two artwork and colorways instead of several different artworks. Printed artwork must be digitally separated from each color and the more colors, the more expensive the printing and artwork. Strike off a small sample to check the colors and scale before making the entire reproduction as this can be a costly error if adjustments must be made. Croquis are a design that are not in technical repeat, so when purchasing artwork, it is crucial to know the version purchased.



Chiara Schmid is a former champion equestrian from Switzerland who now lives in China and creates textile-based art. If you would like to commission a piece of art, please contact Chiara at chiara@swisshorsemanagement.ch.

Recent letter to the editor

“Hello Chiara, are you accepting applications for interns at this time, or do you know artists who are? Would love to join you, thank you!”