Turning photos into designs

Turning photos into designs

Many textile practitioners look at a photo and wonder how they might go about turning what they see in the photo into a design suitable for fiber. If you are in this situation this free online tool may help you. 

BeFunky is a free web based  online service that allows you to apply special effects to your photos. These effects although fun as they stand, can also be used to simplify a photo in order to use it as a design. 

Take a look at what I mean. This is the original photo. 

Here it is again after digital manipulation. As you can see there are many flat and simple areas that can easily be translated into stitch or applique and stitch. 

This filter produces an image that can be easily simplified a little further to produce a line drawing that can be stitched. 

All effects are produced online within seconds so you do not have to download and install software. You can source your photos from several photo sharing sites like Flickr, FaceBook and PhotoBucket and you can pull photos from your computer desktop or any folder.

When you create a free account you can store your photos and add titles and descriptions. From there you can share your photos on social networks and photo sharing sites or e-mail them to a friend.

Added later: As KD pointed out in a comment below, I have written this piece assuming people will observe copyright laws. Just to make it clear, obviously you have to use your own photos or get permission from the photographer to use them. 


  1. Thank you for the clarification. I once was accused of using copyrighted material in a computer class. I had to show that the image of the rhino I used was taken by my husband from the San Francisco zoo and that he had given me permission to use it.

  2. KD you can pull the photo from your own flickr site – lots of textile people take a photo themselves and want to turn it into a design. As a designer I am always doing it and use my own photos, The challenge is to get the photo into a format that is suitable to stitch

    Sharon B
  3. I know you didn’t mean that anyone could use any image on Flickr, but as my husband is a professional photographer, I just want people to understand that most Flickr photos are COPYRIGHTED. Even if the photograph is released under a Creative Commons license, that still means, YOU CAN’T USE THE PHOTO FOR COMMERCIAL PURPOSES. You can’t sell a design based on it. You can’t sell an article stitched with it. Sorry to have to jump on the Copyright means You Don’t Own It bandwagon, but "You can source your photos from several photo sharing sites" is a little too close to "go out and take anything interesting that you see there". Running a photo through a distorting filter and using it is still a copyright violation. I appreciate all the links you provide to historical sites that have passed into the copyright free zone, so don’t backpedal on artists’ right now.


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