Design colourful kimonos in Photoshop

By Santiago Paredes

image of a template for a kimono

I’ve been using Photoshop CC since it first came out, and I have done digital retouching for photographers, but before, I never thought of it as a legitimate form of expression. Up to that point, it was merely to sketch drafts.

David Hockney’s iPad artwork gave me the confidence to take this tool seriously. It doesn’t have the texture or voluptuousness of traditional media, but it has its own expressive resource.

I am from Argentina. In my country it’s not so common to see someone ‘painting’ on their computer. In fact, I’ve never had a graphics tablet, I do everything using just the mouse. I like how that gives room for mistakes to happen, conveying more of a human quality. Graphic designers often regard me as odd!

Now, I’m designing kimonos using this software. Here’s an overview of my process.

01. Materialise concept

Santiago Paredes likes to think of each kimono as its own full canvas

I started designing kimonos digitally due to my fascination with Japan. Then I began to make dresses, and now I’m preparing a whole collection of sweaters for the winter.

The ultra-comfortable and distinguished nature of the kimono was the most amazing starting point for me, because it adapts easily to all body types, represents no gender in particular, and can be used at home or at a fancy dinner party.

Its structure is also very much like a canvas. It’s mainly a large and wide rectangle that folds in half, representing the front and back. Two more rectangles serve as the sleeves. This way I can think of the kimono as a single piece of work, focusing on the main print on the back, and little ornamental motifs for the front and sleeves. The edges and the belt, which are the same colour, are key to defining the ultimate tone and mood of every design.

I started working on small pattern designs that I intended to repeat geometrically along the cloth. But after making drafts for about 10 different motifs, I realised each one was an accomplished painting in itself. I could not ignore this. It struck me that I had no idea how to develop a traditional rapport pattern; I naturally conceived the painting as a whole image.

02. Establish colours and mood

kimono design inspiration

Colour and mood go together in the planning stage

I distribute colours in a messy way, with a big brush stroke, whose edges I trim with the Eraser tool if necessary. I also enjoy using loose, thick, wavy lines, without much concern for detail.

I ponder on the mood I want every piece to convey. For this collection of kimonos, I decided one had to be mostly yellow, recalling a light spring atmosphere. Red would stand for an imperial style, sophisticated and distinguished, whereas dark blue would suit an elegant, nightly look, not sombre but fancy. I also wanted a vibrant orange, only not …read more

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