how to make a quilt using Rasterbator

Marica - is this my birthday face?Recently someone visited here asking about making a quilt using Rasterbator – *free* software (online) or download from here that enables you to print your own images big. I wrote about making a large image of Marica, and how I’d hidden the image behind a quilt my sister had made.

I love the idea of rasterbating a quilt – I have never done so, but I can guess/suggest some ways it might work. If you make such a quilt please let me know – I’d love to see the results. Note – producing a half tone image is possible in Paint Shop Pro 9 – use the ‘Half Tone’ Effect, and in Photoshop by using the Pixelate/Colour Halftone filter, and then desaturate to make the image monotone. This will only make a halftone image, you would have to discover some way of pumping up the size of the image, and sort out the printing – suddenly using Rasterbator seems effortless if you want a large image.

So, ideas about making a quilt with Rasterbator. These are my opinions, not based on personal experience. This is about art and your experimentation. But this is how and where I’d start.

I downloaded the software and it runs beautifully on my xp laptop. I’ve also used the online service without a problem, but I expect it may have problems with looneys setting up for enormous images. You can adjust the dot size in rasterbator – the default size is 1 cm – slightly less than ½ inch. I cranked the dot size down in this image to maybe 1 mm – that’s tiny. You can pump up the volume to 25mm (1″) or beyond, depending on your printing/design desires. Rasterbator outputs a .pdf file, which allows your to save and print at colour print place if that is your wish.

If I wanted to make a quilt for a single bed I’d measure up a single blanket – well, no, I’m less adept than that. I’d spread the blanket out on the living room floor and I’d carefully lay sheets of paper on the blanket to make a call about the anticipated printing – landscape or portrait. Rasterbator will make allowances for the fact that most printers cannot print edge to edge – there’s the white borders to take account of. Personally I like them, so I’d be keeping them – it’s for a quilt, after all.

Pretending the image here is going to be my quilt (about a single bed size at a guess – 6×6 A4 = 6 x 210 mm = 1260 mm = 126 cm = slightly over 4 feet wide by 6 x 297 mm = 1782 mm = 178 cm = 70 inches (5′ 10″). I think this would mean some other fabric down the sides and at the head and foot of the quilt. Could be good. Your design, you choose. Your mileage may vary if you use letter, legal, or A3 sized paper.

What ever paper size I wanted to end up with (I might want a design element based on long strip down the middle – say a tree – or number of horizonal panoramas of vinyards or coastlines for example) I would resize the image in photoshop (Paint Shop Pro or other) to be in proportion. There’s no point in trying to force a square image into a long thin rectangle.

Because I think the scale of the task would be enormous I’d be inclined to make my first quilt using a monotone image (black and white). I would recommend using Photoshop’s Desaturate command rather than converting to greyscale, I think it gives a wider range of tones. I think this, I have no real evidence. Old habits. Would it make any real difference in a quilt? Probably not. Obviously your quilt wouldn’t have to be black and white, although I am imagining how a commission to design and make quilts for accommodation at a boutique vinyard or coastal retreat would be nice – perhaps a series of landscapes of stroked with gold or other colour. Hmm, I can suddenly think of lots of very interesting designs.

So, your photo is the proportion of the anticipated printing, and you’ve converted it to monotone. I’d recommend printing just on a single sheet of A4/letter/A3 – whatever your final output is planned to. Fix the image to a wall and stand back – are the tones working how you want? If not, work with the image until it is as you want it. Test print, rinse, repeat. When you’re happy do the save as thing (I recommend saving all the time as I hate losing my work), and print out the full strength big image. Note – print while you’re there – don’t let the paper fall on the floor or in any way get out of order, or upside down, unless you enjoy jigsaw puzzles. Rasterbator prints top left corner to bottom right corner – the first page out of the printer is the top left corner, the last is the bottom right corner.

In terms of transferring the image to the fabric – really guessing here – I’d make a decision at the image stage about contrast levels and change them so I could cut the image along the dark and then the medium tone edges. That would give me a nightmare of assembling fabrics and at this point I’d give up, but I know this would be nothing to a quilter on a mission. There’s probably some way of sticking the fabric together on fabric blocks, and then doing the assembly part. You might be able to guess I’ve never done this before… 😉 Suddenly my commissions are vanishing…

You could print on a colour inkjet/bubblejet-type printer and iron on the print – which would mean colour options and even more creative experimentation is possible. I think there’d be some very exciting options there.

Another thought – and again, there’s no practical experience of this – would be to use an image and print to bigger dots, and then use a fabric that doesn’t fray, and simply punch holes through using the paper as the template. Lay the fabric over a contrasting colour and attach. In this context I was thinking of using a thin leather – I can imagine (again) a portrait of the old west, in leather, with the sections laced together. Not exactly traditional quilting, but I can see the finished work (always easy in my head) hanging from a suitable branch, in the foyer of my desert resort; or in the boardroom of the Texas branch of my empire…

Good luck with your Rasterbation, and please let me know how your quilt works out.

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