Design Process: Making of the Reef Print

The Coral and Ocean Reef prints are part of the Indian Ocean Collection, inspired by our travels to Mauritius. Here’s a look at the process from inspiration to design, print and product.

Design Inspiration

As you might guess, it was snorkelling in the Indian Ocean that inspired this design. We wish we had an underwater camera to record it, the colours and variety of fish were amazing – we had to capture it in a pattern!

Design Process

For this design we didn’t have photos or sketches to start with, but an idea of composition and sense of energy that we wanted to translate. Sarah started drawing with her Wacom directly into Photoshop, and slowly the design began to take shape. These screenshots show the design development, from a rough idea to refining details and playing with colour.

After a lot of experimenting with scale, colours and repeat, we decided to produce the design in two vibrant colourways; Pink ‘Coral’ Reef and Blue ‘Ocean’ Reef.

Sampling the Design

With the design drawn, we make the artwork for hand screen printing. This means creating colour separations for each of the four colours in the design. The separations are made in photoshop and printed onto transparent films. Each film is exposed onto a mesh screen covered with a light sensitive substrate, which when washed away leaves the mesh open for ink to pass through in areas of the mesh with the design, whilst blocking the mesh in the rest of the screen.

At this point we test the screens to make sure all layers align correctly. We also select Pantone colours. The Pantone is just for reference, as our water based inks are all mixed by hand, but it gives a good starting point. We always tweak one or more of the colours slightly as they never print on fabric exactly as they look in digital mock ups, so we make them lighter, darker or a slightly different tone until they work harmoniously together.

These are the fabric samples of the pink colourway, Pink Coral Reef. It’s very subtle and maybe you can’t notice, but each one has a slightly different combination of colours. The same colours also print differently on different fabrics; appearing lighter on lightweight cotton cambric and darker on heavier weight cotton linen.

Hand screen printing

With our colours decided and screens ready, we print the full run of fabric. Two artisans work up and down the table, printing one colour at a time and passing the squeegee back and forth to slowly build up the design layer by layer. It takes a lot of patience and skill!

Printing the Coral Pink Colourway

Printing Red...

Printing Orange...Printing yellow...Printing pink...

Once printed, the fabric is hung up to dry before going through a heated machine to ‘cure’ and set the design.

Stitching Reef products

We bring the printed fabric back to our studio in Chirag Delhi and wash it in small batches, before making it into cushion covers, quilts, table linens and accessories. To reduce overproduction we only make a small number of products and keep the fabric in stock, making more products to order.

Our prints make a statement, so we generally keep the design of products themselves simple. But we like to play with fun details, such as handmade scallop edging on cushion covers that complements the wavy curves in the design.

You can learn more about our fabulous team and printers in this post from Fashion Revolution Week.

Shop the Reef products

 Blue Ocean Reef Quilt

Blue Ocean Reef Quilt

Pink Coral Reef Quilt

Pink Coral Reef Quilt