Wednesday, 4 March 2015

Quilt Design part 2 - using Touchdraw!

Unlike Microsoft Word, which is primarily designed for text with simple shapes added in, Touchdraw is designed as a vector graphics editor.  This means Touchdraw has been designed to create, manipulate and scale shapes.
More complex shapes are possible and they can be enlarged and rotated without any pixelation or loss of quality (which you can get this using paint or photo editing software like Photoshop).

You can move a figure around, change its shape and size without having to cut and paste it and can do all of this without affecting the other shapes in your image.

menuIt is a favourite of Lynne’s from Lily’s Quilts who has written tutorials on her blog using it.  She has a great Getting started post here and one for arranging and colouring Half Square Triangle here.   I find it a very useful tool for playing with shapes and creating images for patterns and online sharing.

When you open Touchdraw you will see a menu on the right with sample drawings and this is where any of your creations is saved.

On the top line you will see a down arrow that will open an image from your gallery or hard drive and if you want a blank image to start with chick on the +document.  Beside that is a +Folder where you add folders to the menu on the right to keep organised.
Menu 2

Screenshot_2015-03-02-14-42-32Screenshot_2015-02-27-11-54-22When you open a document you get a blank canvas with a grid enabled.  If you click on grid preferences you can turn on the snap functions (shapes stick to each other to make alignment easier).

Clicking on the shape menu allows you access to units and rulers and you can set the grid to inches with 8 subdivisions.

The menu on the left hand side is the main drawing menu and you can leave it here for right handed users or change the preference to move the menu to the other side so left handed users can have an easier time of it.

Untitled picture

Some notes on the commands above.  If you draw a freehand line or a straight lines into a box Touchdraw will still only see these as separate lines.  If you want a shape you have to draw it from shape menu or trace with the pen tool.  You can change the number of sides the polygonal tools have and make hexagons with 6 sides or change the number of points in a star etc..


The blue handles let you pull the shape in any direction distorting it, the orange keeps the shape square and allows scaling, click or pull the red dot and the shape rotates and the green dots allow you to change the shape of the points making skinny star legs or short ones!

These handles can be toggled on and off by clicking on the shape and dragging the shape around to where you want it.  To zoom, you do the normal tablet thing of pinching the screen and if you tap on the grid 3 times the shape will fill the screen in a zoom to fit.  If you want to pan around the drawing (i.e move it about!) you click on the hand command and use two fingers to swipe up down, left or right!

So let’s make a quilt!  
To start with select a right handed triangle from the Shapes menu.  Copy it and rotate the copy to make a matching triangle  which when put together gives you a HST. 

Change the colour using the colour fill command.  I made one half white and coloured the other and copied and pasted my HST a few times to give me 4 yellow, 4 cyan, 4 magenta and 4 light orange to work with, just for a bit of variety.


Moving the HST triangles around and rotating them to play with the shapes gave me this block in the end that I quite like the look of.  If anyone knows what this is called, please let me know!


I could change the colours here if I wanted but I decided to stick with this and selected all and clicked on Group to make them all one shape and into a block.
Now that parts are one shape, the handles change on the entire group and you can pull on the blue corners to change the size or click on the red and pull to rotate it.  Copying this 4 times and tiling the blocks side by side gave a nice zig-zag ribbon, so I made a few more and arranged them in a long chain.

TD-20To make the design a more rectangular quilt shape, I drew a square to make a back ground shape that would sit behind my blocks.  To do this you have to change the order.  The last created shape will sit on top of the other blocks and obscure them but if you move this shape to the back it will sit behind the blocks.

On a MAC you can you use the menus or short cuts to send to back.  On the app, you can click on the shape orientation menu (rectangular box), chose order in the drop down and send to back.  You now have a background shape you can resize or move to create an off centre design.

I repeated the process to add a second square slightly larger again, coloured it with cyan and sent it to back to look like binding.

To simulate how your design will look in fabric, you can select all and click on the shape menu and on the drop down, click on stroke.  Turn stroke off and the boundary around your shapes disappears!

Now, I thought my design was a bit chunky so I ungrouped everything, deleted the two outside columns and got a narrower shape that I though fit better.  I also changed the way some of the magenta arrows pointed to make it more interesting.

Liking the cyan a lot (still loving the ikea kitchen trolley!) I pulled out more shapes and just played around with it.  So easy to do and you can save each variation under a new name and decide later which you prefer.
TD-06 For another example, here’s a Flying Geese block from Displacement Activity, who has a really nice tutorial on how to make this block called Migration.

Flying geese are traditionally twice as wide as they are tall.  This means you can make them using two HST or a long rectangle with triangles on the corners.  Changing the size and orientation makes for a really interesting block design.

Adding in colours similar to those above and turning off stroke will give us a block representative of how it would look in solid fabrics.

Copy to make 4 blocks and rearranging gives this design! 

You could leave it as is but similar to above, I wanted to play with negative space so, doing the same as the previous design, creating a background shape and some binding gives this result, which I am very tempted to make!

To audition possible quilting designs, you can turn on the pencil and draw on your shape.  I prefer not to draw right on top of my quilt blocks elements in case I want to change anything later so instead, I create a new layer and draw on that.  A layer is like overlaying acetate on your quilt.  You are drawing on a see through surface which doesn’t affect the layer below. 

If you want to try another design, simply hide this layer by clicking on the eye and the layer turns off, create another new layer and draw again.  Toggling between layers will let you decide which you like best!
This is what Touchdraw looks like on the Mac!
This is what Touchdraw looks like on the Mac!

Example image from Touchdraw
Like our exploration of Microsoft Word last week, Touchdraw has a grid, simple shapes that you can draw on your image and snapping to be able to align shapes to each other.  It allows grouping of shapes together to make blocks and fill in with lots of different colour options and textures.   In addition to this it has the ease of use and functionality to do much more!

You can import an image, create a new layer, draw on your image without affecting it to pick out shapes to make templates (useful for applique work), or add text to make headers for your blog or patterns.

Here’s the thing, it is not free.  For a tablet on the iTunes store and Google play it is £5.99 or $8.99.  For those of us who use a Mac, it can be downloaded from the Mac App Store for $19.99 and installed on your computer.  You can share files between tablet and computer and can import and export your image in lots of different formats including JPEG, PNG, SVG and PDF.  (Windows programs run on Mac’s through a special virtual machine and is a pain in the butt sometimes, so its nice for Mac users to have this option for a change!)

There are other vector graphic editors like idraw, Inkscpae (free program for Mac/Windows/Linux) up to Adobe Illustrator which is expensive and hard to navigate for beginners.  Next week, I’ll be looking at Inkscape and how you can use it to help resize basic shapes with easy or little maths involved!  I have to admit though, I really like Touchdraw a lot and I think it is worth the $8.99 price tag!  What do you think, tempted to give it a try?



  1. Wow great article Ruth, very helpful and thank you for taking the time to put this together.


  2. Wow I am sooo impressed Ruth! I might get brave and give it a try on my iPad. That finished design... I sure hope you do make it someday, because that would be one awesome quilt!

  3. This does look fun Ruth . The question is am I brave (mathematical ?) enough to try it on my day off on Friday ?

  4. Informative article, just what I was looking for. Thank you so much for taking the time for you personally to share such a nice info.
    Graphic Design Software for Mac