Tutorial: Visualising Fabric on Patterns – Part Two (Gimp)

Welcome to part two of my tutorial showing you how I transform pattern line drawings with photographs of my fabrics to get a little taste of the end result. It also helps me decide if I like the pattern in that fabric and it is particularly helpful when using boarder prints to work out how best to place the pattern pieces on the fabric.

If you missed part one using Photoshop have a look here.

As I said before, I am quite new to Gimp but it is an incredible program for free. I’ve done my best to replicate the part one post so you can achieve the same beautiful images as I do using Photoshop.

For this tutorial, to keep it interesting I have a different pattern and fabric selection.

Here is the download link I used to install Gimp. You should also grab the help plug-in download in your language while you are there; install this after successfully installing Gimp.

Although Gimp is written for Linux-based operating systems (such as Ubuntu) this version is specifically for running in Windows and seems pretty stable  (I had a couple of freezes and one crash but I was being pretty brutal and hey, I’ve used worse and for more important projects!)

(Typical but important disclaimer: At the time I downloaded the above files were clean and free of viruses. Even when downloading from a reputable website you should always use up-to-date virus protection software to scan all downloaded files before installing them in your computer and re-scan your computer after installation as well. FYI: I use AVG Free which is excellent.)

OK ready? Good, let’s begin:

What you’ll need

– Gimp program

– A really good photo of your fabric.

Iron any major wrinkles out and take a photo by standing on a chair over your fabric. Try to get as much in the photo as you can but don’t stress if you get your feet in there or the colours don’t look perfect, we’ll fix them up later on. My picture isn’t prefect but I know I can fix that up later on, you’ll see.

I got this amazing jersey print from Potters

– A clean line drawing of your pattern.

My scanner has decided to stop talking to my computer so my image for this post is taken with my camera…but it ends up being a good example to show you that any image can be fixed up (even this crappy pink toned photograph) and jazzed up with your choice of fabric.

For my example I’m using dress 173 from the Manequim issue 621


First of all let’s go over a few of the Gimp tools I’ll be referring to and where to find them (click images to enlarge):

Free Select tool – this tool is great for drawing selections that are weird shapes.

Crop tool – Just what it says, used for cropping an image down to just what’s needed

Move tool – Use to move parts of an image about

Fuzzy Select tool – The most amazing tool in the world and it is just a little bit magical, used for automatically selecting areas of the same or similar colour

Zoom tool – To zoom in select this tool and click on your drawing. To Zoom out again hold Ctrl and click

Scale tool – Used to change the size of your image (similar to “Transform” in Photoshop)

In Gimp the Layers and History share the same window, you swap between them using the tabs at the top

Layers Window – This is where you control your images layers. They list here as you build them up in the image. For this example we’ll only end up with two or three layers so it won’t get too complicated. The darker grey layer is the one that is active so if you find what you are doing to your image isn’t affecting the right layer pop over to the Layers window and check that you have the correct layer selected.

History Window – If you make a mistake in any of the steps below you can click back in the History list to undo it. You can also Ctrl + Z or Edit > Undo to go back several steps but sometimes it’s easier to view these step using the History window.


The first thing I do is prepare my pattern line drawing.

Open your patter image file.

Select File > Open and browse to your image, open it

You can see my image is a photo from the instruction page. It contains a bit of text as well as the pattern line drawing.

Since I am only interested in the line drawing  I am going to crop the image down to just that.

Select the crop tool then click and drag across your image to enclose only what you want left behind. The parts of the image that will be cropped out are shown dark grey.

You can move the selection box around with your mouse or adjust it by grabbing at each edge to fine tune the selection. Use the arrow keys on your keyboard to increase the size by small amounts.

When you are happy with your selection press enter on your keyboard and your image is cropped.


If you are using a photograph or scanned image like me you’ll probably find your image isn’t perfectly black and white, this is no good for us because firstly it doesn’t look very good and secondly when we use the Fuzzy Select Tool to remove some of the white it’s just not going to work so well. We need to make sure our image is truly black and white so let’s desaturate it just to be sure.

Select Colors > Desaturate, click ok.

Even if your image looks black and white it’s a good idea to desaturate it anyway.


Now comes the fun part. We need to remove the white from the inside of the line drawing so we can see through it. To make this easier you might need to enhance your image a little. If you scanned your image from a magazine or envelope (or took a photo like me) it’s an especially good idea to make the black darker and the white brighter.

Select Colors > Brightness-Contrast and adjust the sliders to improve your image.

Subtle works best here, but if your image is particularly bad (like mine) you may need to bump both sliders up quite high. Just have a play, you can slide them back and forth until you are happy, you don’t want to distort the line-work. This makes the next step that much easier.

Click OK when you are done


Now we need to do something funky that I don’t quite understand (I might be a Photoshop Queen but I am definitely a Gimp N00b) but we need to do it so just trust me on this one…

Select Layer > Transparency > Add to Alpha Channel


Now we are going to use the Fuzzy Select tool to quickly select the white and then delete it.

Select the Fuzzy Select Tool and then click on a white part of your image that you want to remove (basically all the central areas) then press delete.

You should reveal a grey chequered background, this is a good thing. Our layer is now kind of floating over nothing. Now we are looking through the deleted areas at that nothing.

You can select multiple areas to delete using the Fuzzy Select tool and holding the shift key on your keyboard. Keep selecting and deleting areas until you have them all.


If you find an area doesn’t select very well or the Fuzzy Select tool selects too much you can manually select these areas using the Free Select tool.

Select the Free Select tool and zoom in to the troubling area. Click around the areas you want to remove to create an enclosed selection (the marching ants) then press delete.

When zoomed in you can move around within the image by holding down the space bar on your keyboard


Right, now let’s sort out our fabric

Open you fabric photo image

Select File > Open and browse to your image, open it

Now you might not be happy with the colour or contrast of your fabric image, we can fix this up using the following tools.

Select Colors > Color Balance and adjust the sliders to correct any colour discrepancies. Again, subtle is best and the general rule is that if you image looks a bit magenta, drag the Magenta/Green slider away from magenta. If it looks a little yellow, drag the Yellow/Blue slider away from yellow etc…When you are happy, click OK

Select Color > Brightness-Contrast and adjust the sliders to improve your images brightness and contrast, click OK when you are happy with the result


I took a pretty big photo of my fabric and because it’s jersey I was able to get it really flat and wrinkle free, most of the image is good, I just have to chop out my toes and the hideous carpet, hehe

Select the crop tool  then click and drag across your image to enclose only what you want left behind. The parts of the image that will be cropped out are shown dark grey.

You can move the selection box around with your mouse or adjust it by grabbing at each edge to fine tune the selection. Use the arrow keys on your keyboard to increase the size by small amounts.

When you are happy with your selection press enter on your keyboard and your image is cropped.


Ok, we’re nearly there, still with me? Good 🙂


Now for a little bit of technical jiggery.

We need to just quickly check our pattern image size so that when we copy our fabric into it we’ll have a bit of an idea of how much we need to crop it.

Select Image > Print Size

My image measures 12cm wide by 15cm tall, make a note of this, we’ll use that bit of info in a little bit.


Now comes the proper exciting bit, we’re going to finally copy and paste our fabric image into our pattern image and get the first glimpse of how it all looks, ohhh!

Right click on your fabric image and select Edit > Copy

Now right click on your pattern image and select Edit > Paste

Our fabric image appears but it is huge! We need to scale it down a little.

Click on the Scale tool  then click on your image

The Scale dialogue box pops up, wow, our fabric is a huge 60cm wide!

Let’s bring that down a bit, I’ve typed 15cm into the width box (remember my patter image is 12cm wide), the height adjusts automatically

That looks better doesn’t it?


Now take your mouse over to the layer window and right-click on the Floating Selection (Pasted Layer) and click New Layer

Our fabric image automatically became the top layer but we want to put it below so grab the active layer (Pasted Layer – our fabric, you can see the little thumbnail) and drag it below the Background layer (our pattern image)


So far so good, but now we need to move our fabric about a bit and maybe even change its size.

Click on the Scale tool  then click on your image.

To change the size of you fabric image grab one of the corner handles on the transform box. As you drag it smaller (or bigger) hold down the shift key to keep the proportions correct. Let go when you are happy with the size.

Clicking and drag the circle inside the transform box to move the fabric image around.

If you want to change the orientation of your fabric image right-click on your image and select Image > Transform you can choose to rotate your image 90 or 180 degrees.

When you are happy with your scaling you can press enter on your keyboard.

Use the Move tool  to further adjust the position of your fabric image and you can use the arrow keys on your keyboard to fine tune it.


You can see that I have positioned my fabric at the bottom of my image but it isn’t big enough to fill the whole dress so I need more fabric to fill in the top part.

I can with just make a copy of the fabric layer and reposition it.

Take your mouse over to the Layers Window and left-click on your fabric’s layer, select Duplicate Layer

Now you have a second fabric layer. If you like you rotate this layer (right-click Image > Transform) then use the Move tool  and reposition it to fill the leftover space


One you are happy with your final image the last thing we need to do is flatten the image so we can re-save it as a jpeg.

Take your mouse over to the layers window and right-click on one of the layers, select Flatten Image

Now save your image

Select File > Save As

Chose where to save your file, give it a good name and select your File Type as JPEG, click Save

Aaaaand you’re done, good job! 🙂

Ohh I like it! For this example I DO have enough fabric for this pattern, but there are also two other dresses I might want to use it for. How can I decide? Of course I can repeat the above and decide which result I like the best 🙂

This is only my second quite technical software post so if you have any questions or get stuck on a step please contact me through the comments on this post and I will do my best to help you out and improve any steps as needed.

I’d love to see your images so please feel free to share them with me.

Good luck! xx

IMPORTANT: This work is my creation and my intellectual property, protected under a Creative Commons license. You may not use it for any commercial purposes, claim it as your own, or resell it.

Creative Commons License

The Curious Kiwi Tutorial: Visualising Fabric on Patterns – Part Two (Gimp) by thecuriouskiwi is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

31 thoughts on “Tutorial: Visualising Fabric on Patterns – Part Two (Gimp)

  1. I’ve wanted to do something like this for a long time, one thing I do your readers may be interested in is change the line drawing. I always throw my line drawings of the photo of the wafer thin model on the pattern envelope into paint and make the photo wider but not taller to see what an actual human will look like in the design, and you can go as wide as you want and get from normal to obese.

    • Hi Wendy – I have been planning a follow up tutorial to this which would include altering the model image to a more realistic proportion (it’s easy using the transformation tools in Gimp or Photoshop) and also placing line drawings over your own mini-me croquis to make up whole outfits. I’ll get to it one day soon 😉

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  3. I’ve so been wanting to do for quilt planning, but wasn’t sure if I could figure out how to do it with my software. I do have Photoshop, but have never used it. I’m more familiar with Adobe Fireworks, sooo, I followed your instructions for doing it in Gimp and did the same/similar steps in Fireworks with a paper doll dress image and it worked famously. Doing this for my quilt plans should be a breeze and I’ll even be able to try out different sizes and shapes of blocks with my scraps. Aaand, I don’t even have to install any software, free or otherwise. Thank you sooo much! Can’t wait to tell my sister about this!!! I can just think of all the possibilities!

    • Hi Evelyn, that’s awesome, I am glad you found my tutorial and I’m excited that my instructions worked for Fireworks! I never thought about using this technique for quilt planning but it’s a great idea. I want to write a follow up with some advanced techniques (using solid colours, combining several fabrics and outlines to make whole outfits etc) so I’ll make sure I mention how useful you found it for quilting and also Fireworks. Thanks so much for letting me know xx

  4. Hi! Thanks so much for this tutorial! I have Gimp but never worked with it plus there’s a dress I’m thinking about but worried that the fabric will make it dowdy. Now I can check it in advance plus it will help me get to know Gimp 🙂

  5. This tutorial is sooooooo awesome. Tomorrow I will be playing around on the computer with my deer and does and my new fabric! I can’t wait for tomorrow! Thanks so so much!

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    • Thanks Emma 🙂 I hope you can give it a try, it’s so fun to get a glimpse of the end result.
      My Mum just texted me that she kept two of my Nana’s mini machines similar to the one you posted on your blog but she can’t remember where she put them. When I see her next I’m going to look for them and take a photo.

  8. THANKS – I’m so glad you did a GIMP tutorial as well as not all of us have or like photoshop. I love GIMP – and I have evernote – just have gotten my act together to start using it propper. I think I will now

  9. Great technique, I’ll try to remember this! Only thing is that I have to remember to edit the size of the fabric, so that the design is in the appropriate size.

  10. Thanks for posting the Gimp tutorial. I don’t have photoshop on my Mac (but I am trained in it) and I haven’t played around in Gimp yet, so this is great.

  11. Thanks for the instructions, they are amazing. I am not very good with programs other than Word…and I actually got this!!!! I am so excited to try it!

  12. you are without doubt the best technogeek i know bravo for delighting me in a crazy mel nerd way,,, if only i had the time !!!!!

  13. Excellent tut, I’ve printed this out and going to give it a go.
    You realise you have added another thing on my “to do” list … download line drawings of burda picks, evernote, pinterest and now this! No wonder I haven’t had much time for sewing.

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