At some point back in 2000-2001 I made the decision, for reasons both practical and philosophical, to stop using Microsoft’s Windows, along with a lot of other proprietary software. Everything I do these days – the morecloth site, my personal computing, the soon-to-be-launched site I’m building for online textile design – everything runs on free open-source software. This policy has worked well for me. The only only glitch I’ve encountered so far has come from the fact that fabric-printing services, all of which seem to depend on mysterious black-box configurations of unnamed software and hardware, tend to release clues about their secret processes only in proprietary Adobe Photoshop formats.
Of the four low-cost custom fabric printers I’ve looked at (Spoonflower, FabricOnDemand, KarmaKraft, and EyeCandey aka candeyshop.com), Spoonflower has been the most forthcoming with information. Last year Spoonflower published a downloadable file (in Photoshop .aco format) containing 523 colors (well, actually, 505 colors, since some turn out to be duplicates, at least when expressed in 24-bit truecolor RGB format) – let’s just say a downloadable file containing a big general-purpose selection of Spoonflower-safe colors. By “Spoonflower-safe (my term, not theirs) I mean that, if I understand things correctly, none of these 523 (or 505 or whatever) colors is “out of gamut” for Spoonflower’s printers. In other words, all of these colors can be printed, singly or in combination with each other without triggering the dreaded “remap colors” function that seems to reside deep in the bowels of all commercial printing systems.
I say “dreaded” because this “remap colors” function is undisclosed (at least to us end-user customers) and therefore unpredictable. The function doesn’t just remap the out-of-gamut colors to in-gamut colors; it remaps some or all of the in-gamut colors as well. In short, it tries to help us clueless customers out – and, no doubt, in many cases succeeds – while telling us, in effect, not to bother our pretty little heads about all that in-gamut / out-of-gamut stuff. Not my preferred way of doing business. In fact, as I’ve been getting ready to offer design-and-layout services to people wanting custom-printed fabric, my biggest worry has been color predictability – i.e., preparing files in such a way as to dodge the unwanted help of unknown color remapping functions.
Yesterday I finally set to work on Spoonflower’s Photoshop-formatted file of safe colors. (I hadn’t realized earlier that it could, in fact, be auto-translated into a format usable by gimp-2.4, the free open-source program I use in place of Photoshop.) Once I had the Spoonflower palette file in a format I could use, I still had to make some adjustments; I had to split the palette up into smaller ones, since indexed-color images require palettes of 256 or fewer colors. But now, with that detail taken care of, I have the means, so it seems, to auto-generate a large number of color schemes in Spoonflower-safe colors. (You can see a sampling of 252 such color schemes in the two images above.) I’ll be printing swatches to test things out and, if all goes well, uploading some color scheme files here that others may find useful.
(To see the Spoonflower-safe palette and a couple of smaller palettes that I extracted from it click on the following link.)