Converting a photo to fabric takes fewer artist genes than you might think. My secret is using software to manipulate the photo into a “values” picture to use as a pattern. My package is Adobe’s Photoshop Elements 10 on Windows, but there are several alternatives, each with their own lingo:

  • Picasa: free download from http://picasa.google.com/. “Crop” is in the 1st menu tab. “posterize” in the 4th menu tab (“more fun and useful photo editing”) does the values thing.
  • Corel Paintshop Pro $30 on Amazon: contours, posterize, and topology. Demo available
  • Tammie Bowser’s is $99 and up.

My directions below use the Photoshop Elements names for the various tools.

Supplies:

    • Photo (to which you have rights) scanned into computer.
    • Clear plastic to make a pattern (e.g. a clear photo sleeve protector or a shower curtain)
    • Dark sharpie
    • 7 or so fabrics; graded from light to dark.
    • Steam-a-seam-2-lite
    • Scissors for cutting paper
    • Iron
    • Applique Pressing Sheet (fusible won’t stick.)

pretty susanSteps:

  1. Choose a photo with nice contrast. For faces; make sure there are some shadows to delineate the features.  For example, I used this Polaroid taken by my father when I was little.
    • Lighting from the side is always good; flash photos may not have enough shadows.
    • Decide either the original colors from the photo or values of any colors
  2. If you are not using the colors from the original, then change it to black and white:
    Enhance… Convert to black and white
  3. Now, convert it to a “values” picture. In Photoshop Elements: Filter… Artistic… cutouts.  Try different number of levels from 4 to 7.  The best choice depends on the picture.

pretty susan cutouts   portraits pallette

  1. Choose fabrics
    • Original colors: about 4 value levels in any given color family; like face vs. clothes & hair.
    • Free colors: use the black & white tweaked photo with 5-7 value levels in any colors you like.  Previously, I always used realistic colors, but this time I experimented.
    • Avoid contrast in any one fabric; want constant value.
  1. Cut fabric
    1. Make a “placement diagram” by tracing face edges onto plastic with a sharpie and write POSITIVE on it
    2. With placement plastic upside down, trace individual shapes onto grid side of fusible leaving some space for overlapping.. leave at least 1 edge “extra” to tuck under another shape. (I draw “hair” sticking out where I don’t want to cut tight) Cut out loosely.
    3. For tiny dark bits, don’t make patterns.  Add those details later with markers, paint, or pens.
    4. Fuse all the shapes for each fabric level onto BACK of fabric.  Cut on shape line; except for the “tuck under” edges

    portraits diagram   portraits fusible    portraits fused

  2. Build the photo
    1. Use an applique pressing cloth for a base
    2. Arrange the pieces under your plastic placement diagram nudging into place.
    3. Set aside the plastic diagram (it’ll melt), cover w/ your pressing cloth & fuse together.
  1. Finish
    1. Fuse your motif onto the quilt.
    2. Anchor all pieces with stitch of choice. I used a free motion zigzag with invisible thread.  Other choices: the “snow” stitch (#105 on a Bernina), just free motion around like Tammie Bowser.
    3. Quilting: either quilt A LOT or not at all. Don’t mimic the color edges; those are not muscle edges and look funny. Actual edges like a nose or ear profile work.
    4. Invisible thread works, but hair likes colored thread work.

Daddys Girl

— Susan Kraterfield

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