Snip, Sliver, Slice

This week I’ve been playing with fiddly bits of paper. I thought the digital color-card-swatch-chart-palette thingy I’ve been working on needed a redesign—fewer darks, more grays, another column, and a better numbering system—so I’ve been auditioning paper samples to get a better idea for how they’ll look and feel in real life.

Left: January’s chart. Right: February’s chart.

I’ve also gotten motivated to start a Daily Drawing practice like my lovely friend and accountabilibuddy, Monica, at lalalamonique. She turns her drawings into joyous designs for fabric and furnishings. They’re wonderfully bright and whimsical, and she has a gazillion of them because she’s so diligent in her practice. Very inspiring!

I’m not sure if mine will turn into anything, but for right now, just doing it is the important thing. I’ve gotten very rusty, so to ease back into the habit, I’ve been cutting out snippets and bobs from magazines with the intention of gluing them into my planner and doing side-by-side sketches.

Swatches and flowers. Drawing flowers seems like a good place to start. They’re lovely AND forgiving.

In his latest book, Keep Going, Austin Kleon writes, “Because drawing is really an exercise in seeing, you can suck at it and still get a ton out of it.” I love his approach. It takes all the pressure off.

Color Swatch R&D

The first set of color cards has arrived, and they’re lovely! I had them printed on Spoonflower’s Smooth Wallpaper, so they’re slick and clean and crisp. I think I can ratchet up the loveliness though. The bottom rows in each family are almost solid black. They make a big leap in value from the rows above, and there’s very little value change between the swatches themselves. I’m going to have to resample everything and cinch them up out of their dark depths.

On the left, the digital version, and on the right, the IRL print version on wallpaper. The printed reds are a little murkier than their digital counterparts, but the oranges and yellows are almost spot on.

I also need to take back some of what I said about using colors “willy-nilly” because the gamut issue seems to be wreaking a little bit of havoc. In a couple of spots, the values are weirdly reversed. All of the lighter values should be on the left, but two swatches in the red-orange family and two in the yellow-green family are backwards. Not a huge big deal, but good to be aware of.

So, back to the drawing board. I think these are going to be nifty once they’re fine-tuned.

Sometimes it Pays to Ignore the “Road Closed” Sign

Color Family Sampler IRL

The Color Family Wallpaper Sampler I ordered from Spoonflower arrived, and—Good news!—it shows that despite the fact that all kinds of beautiful saturated colors were being identified as “out of gamut,” they all printed just fine.

BEFORE I hit the Gamut Warning button.
AFTER I hit the Gamut Warning button. Who ate all my colors??

I started to get nervous when I was working on a set of full-spectrum color cards (like Color-aid Paper only more of them), and the triangular “out-of-gamut alert icon” on the Color Picker kept popping up. I was afraid I would have to make a major detour, but thankfully no. The “Really, Really Red” I wanted, for instance, is in fact really, really red, and not a dingy off-red or grey.

False alarm.

The greens do appear to be a wee bit off in the upper right corners. There’s a yellow tinge to them, but it’s not off enough to exclude them.

Funky greens.

There may be other nuances I’m missing—I don’t think I’m a super human tetrachromate—but I feel like I can use all the colors willy-nilly now without concerning myself with their gamutness.

I finished the first set of color cards earlier this week, and I’m waiting to see how they print before I continue with the other four. The sampler also showed that Spoonflower doesn’t trim their wallpaper exactly along the design’s borders. The top and left edges are missing an eighth of an inch. Probably wouldn’t matter if I was using the wallpaper as wallpaper, but as a one-off piece, it looks goofy. Like I don’t understand how rulers work. That’s good to know though. I was able to make some adjustments on this new design and gave everything more wiggle room.

First set of color palette swatches.

I can’t wait to get my hands on the color cards. Everything hinges on them.


Color Ranges and Sales Spikes

This week I uploaded a new designer’s tool to Spoonflower. I’ve been wanting to create a deck of color cards similar to Color Aid Paper but with a broader range of colors (750 vs. the 314 in Color Aid’s Full Set). It would be a collection that I could print at Spoonflower and that would take the guesswork out of color selection and the disparity between screen color and IRL color. Something that could be shuffled, dealt, grouped, matched, auditioned, and coordinated to create a bunch of different, yummy, go-to color palettes.

In the process of designing the cards, though, I had to contend with the “gamut” issue: what parts of the color family were reproducible in ink and what were not. As I systematically carved away all of the unusable colors, like greys and uber darks that look the same no matter what color family they’re in, I was alarmed by how much of some color families fell into the “out of gamut” range. The cool side of the color wheel in particular (green, blue, purple) seems to shrink dramatically when you have to consider its printability.

left: All the beautiful yellows that the Adobe Color Picker has to offer in the Hue 48 zone. vs. right: Only the allegedly printable ones.
left: All of the beautiful blues that Adobe’s Color Picker has to offer in the Hue 240 zone vs. right: Wait…where did all the beautiful blues go??

It made me curious. I tend to question restrictions and good advice, and like my husband and his buddy when they come across a “Road Closed” sign on their motorcycle adventures and say, “Let’s see how closed it is,” as they proceed past the sign into the verboten area, I thought, “Let’s see how ‘out of gamut’ these really are.” So, I took a detour from the color cards and made a color sampler instead, using thirty entire color families. Out-of-gamut colors and all. I designed it to fit on a swatch of Spoonflower’s Prepasted Removable Smooth Wallpaper to get the most intense color they can print. The order was placed on Wednesday, so we’ll get to see what we’re dealing with in a couple of weeks.

All the Gamut Color Family Sampler for Wallpaper


In other news: sales!

It’s the end-of-the-year financial report wrap-up, and I actually have something to report. The design that got into the Spoonflower Challenge Winner’s Circle in October — the Khokhloma Tea Towel — has sold 9 whole times! One was bought by Spoonflower for the complimentary towel that was included in the prize package. Most of the sales were during sales, but my commission stayed the same whether it was on sale or not. Bless all the folks who shop at Spoonflower!

Breakdown for the year:

  • 1st quarter: $1.30 for 1 Ambrosia Bites tea towel
  • 2nd quarter: $2.60 for 2 Ambrosia Bites tea towels
  • 3rd quarter: zippo
  • 4th quarter: $12.60 for 9 Khokhloma tea towels

Total: $16.50 – That’s four pints of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream!

With this happy turn of events, a question that had been rattling around in my head was answered. Does winning matter? I know it isn’t true for other designers, but in terms of sales, in my tiny corner of the design world, the answer is yes. Yes, it does. The only things that I’ve ever sold at Spoonflower were challenge entries that made it into the Top 10.

The challenge for the new year? To sell something that hasn’t run the gauntlet of the Spoonflower Design Challenge. And…go!