GIMP is a graphics manipulation programme very similar to Adobe Photoshop. The major difference between the two is that Photoshop costs around $1,500 retail and GIMP is a totally free open source software programme.
The easiest way to create your own satin stitch embroidery patterns using GIMP is to download and install some free brush sets. GIMP recognises brush sets designed for Photoshop, so there are hundreds to choose from. In the spirit of free and open source, please don’t use these free brushes for commercial purposes.
You can download GIMP here.
Please click to enlarge any of the diagrams.
1. Start a new document in GIMP and set the size of the new file to reflect the size of the fabric piece you intend to embroider. For this exercise, I used a napkin size of 18’’ or 46cm square.
If you’re new to graphics programmes then layers will be new. Basically every new design element is created on a new layer. That way if you want to manipulate only one element of your design, you just select that layer and all other elements will be unchanged. So before adding each new element to your design, create a new layer.
3. Now we need to download some brushes. Google free GIMP brushes and you will find hundreds of websites and brush sets to choose from. For this tutorial I’ve used the graphics pack found at QBrushes.
Download the zip file to your desktop and unzip the brush file to your GIMP brushes folder which is found at C:\program files\GIMP-2.0\share\GIMP\2.0\brushes.
Once you’ve downloaded the file, you will need to refresh your brushes in order for them to be available in GIMP (see diagram below).
4. Now for the fun part. Select your favourite brush and use the scale bar to resize it and the colour palate to change the colour and design away.
5. Use the move, scale, rotate and perspective tools to manipulate your design. This is where working with layers is important. You can move, rotate or scale an individual design element and all other elements will stay the same.
For elements that you want to create a mirror image, right click on the layer in the layer dialogue box, and select duplicated layer. Then use the layer menu option to flip the image and then move it into position using the move tool.
6. Once you’re happy with your design, you need to print it.
You have several options here. If the design is smaller than A4, then print it directly from GIMP.
If it is larger, you will need to select individual design elements (using the rectangle select tool), copy and paste into: a new image. Save each separate element individually (I like JPEG file format at 100%) and print each image. Alternatively, once each image has been saved, you can insert them into a Word Document and rotate them so that all design elements can be printed on a single A4 sheet (just ensure that the scale is kept the same as the original).
7. Use a light box to trace your design onto your fabric and you are ready to sew!
I ended up with this design which I used to make tea mats for Christmas hampers: