My “Digital Quilts” have created lots of interest lately, so I thought I would share 10 ways to create with a Tablet. This technique is not just for Quilters, it is also perfect for Zen Doodlers, Embroidery artists, and anyone who likes to create.
For the examples shown in this post, you will need a Tablet capable of running Photoshop Elements (PSE), or similar program. This means that the tablet you use can be a Wacom plug-in type of tablet, a Tablet PC, or a Tablet Slate. If you have an iPad or Android tablet that uses “Apps,” then watch for a future post dedicated to creating with this type of tablet. My tablet also has a stylist pen, which I highly recommend.
10 Ways to Create With a Tablet:
1. Plan out a Whole-cloth Digital Quilt. This is very rewarding and creative task to do with your tablet and only takes a fraction of time required to make a fabric quilt. For example, I made the design shown above in about 15 minutes. It just makes sense to save time planning your design out digitally rather than draw it out on paper or fabric.
Tablets, along with Photoshop Elements, are the perfect tools to draw, copy & paste design in quilt sections in order to make the entire quilt. Did I mention that creating digital quilts this way is fun, too?
2. Create a Colored Whole-cloth Digital Quilt.
Using a photo editing program like Photoshop Elements, you can quickly color the whole-cloth quilt. Best to work out your quilt color combinations digitally rather than start coloring or painting the fabric, only to discover you dislike your color scheme.
Above is an example of what I colored digital quilt looks like. Here is another colored digital quilt from a recent blog post:
3. Experiment with Quilt Color Hues/Saturation. Experimentation with Hues/Tones is very easy to do with a Tablet and takes hardly no time at all to do using a software program like PSE. Here are 3 different colorways for the quilt shown under #2:
4. Design Your Quilt- Both Pieced and Applique Quilts.
You can also use your tablet to visually design your quilt top. This method works for both pieced quilts and applique ones. For instance, after my trip to the South Pacific, I designed this applique quilt with an island flair (shown on the left).
Below is a collaborative quilt design created with my friend, Lori. We call it “Hairy Leg Quilt,” because I quilted hair in each block. This example shows you how the design concept completed with my tablet, and the photo of the finished quilt block.
5. Plan Your Machine Quilting Design. I have been drawing on quilt photos over the last decade with my tablet in order to plan out what I want to quilt before starting the quilt.
The digital quilting plan becomes my visual road map for the overall design. This is most helpful since stand-up quilters only work on small sections of the quilt during the quilting process. It is easy to forget what you quilted at the top of the quilt when you get to the bottom border.
6. Make a Pantograph or Edge-to-Edge design.
In quilting, we call an edge-to-edge design which is similar across the quilt sandwich a “pantograph” design. Here is a sample pantograph design drawn with my Tablet:
7. Trace a Design to use as a Motif.
A Tablet is also useful for tracing a copyright free image from a clip art book, or from the web. This is especially useful for quilting themed quilts. You can also take a picture of any object, or fabric and trace that design, too. In my example, I took a stock retro image for an Astro themed quilt, traced it, then edited to make it more continuous for quilting.
8. Practice Drawing Freehand Quilting Designs. Practice makes perfect, if we take the time to learn and draw new designs.
If you can draw it, you can quilt it, is one of my philosophies.
I use my Tablet to practice new motifs and quilting fills before freehand quilting them out. Once again, the tablet wins hands down for convenience.
9. Create Zen Doodle Designs. Many fiber artists are combining zen doodling with fabric to create interesting and cool art quilts. This is another task where the Tablet wins out over paper. If you slip and make an oops, you simply click the “undo” button and re-draw. It is also a great way to use all your fabric quilting fill designs, too. Here are 2 examples- a heart and a birdy head:
10. Easily Chose Color Palettes For Quilts and Other Projects.
I found this photo of Rarotonga, Cook Island online, and loved the colors.
So I created this custom palette (see below) using my tablet and PSE. In PSE, you sample color using the eyedropper tool. This is very easy to do.
Next step is to audition it on a quilt or whole cloth quilt design. You want to experiment ahead of time to ensure you like the colors before putting time and energy into the quilt.
Below is what the quilt might look like using this palette. If I wanted to change a color, then it is easy to do.
These are my favorite 10 ways I use my Tablet PC and PSE together in my work.
I hope you have enjoyed a glimpse into a few of the wonderful things you can do with modern tablet technology combined with quilting. Part of the photos and ideas are from my Tablet Design Class for Quilters. Please note that if you live in Australia, I will be teaching this class in person at the AU Machine Quilting Festival in October, 2014.
Author of this post is Carla Barrett, a fiber, quilt and digital artist from Northern California. Carla owns at least 6 or 7 types of tablets, and is considering her next tablet purchase. 🙂
Thanks so much for this information. I have an Android tablet, so I’m looking forward to information on that format. I just got a 16″ sit-down quilter and now am struggling with “how to” finish my quilts lol! I’m so glad I found your blog!
Appreciate the comment, Linda-kaye! Enjoy your quilting journey! Carla
I can’t wait to see how to do this on an iPad! This post is so wonderful. I have been designing my quilts on a computer but moving to a tablet is the next logical step. It will cut out so much work. Thanks for sharing.
Hi Charlene, thanks for writing!
This is a wonderful post full of great info!!! I hope to have a tablet/I Pad someday but, for now, I do print out several copies of the quilt and doodle possible motifs on the print-outs. I can totally relate to linda-kaye’s comment (above), as I have a 16″ sit-down quilter, also. Love your blog!!!!!
My name is Debbie Winn. I am a longarm quilter in Hamilton, Ontario.
I just love your work. My mother in law forwarded your newsletter to me. I would also
like to subscribe if I may. Please send your wonderful newsletters to me at
Thanks so much,
Hi Debbie, Thanks for writing! I would be happy to contact you when I decide to hold my next class. Meanwhile, may I suggest you sign up for my blog posts via email? I have a link in the right hand column on the Home page. That way, you will not miss any announcements.
Btw, I actually know where Hamilton, Ontario is. I’ve been to Ontario several times and stayed at St.Catharines in Port Dalhousie before going through the Welland Canal. Such a beautiful area! Hamilton is about 10-15 miles away, right? Anyway, I appreciate your comment!
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