How to Become a Fabric Designer


Career Path Guide

If you want to become a fabric designer, you first need to determine if this career path is a good fit for your skills, interests and personality traits. If the following description sounds like you, then you’re probably well suited for it:


• You have an artistic flair, with particular interest in textiles

• You have an interest in fabrics and/or interiors

• You have, or are willing to gain, an understanding of the properties of different textiles

• You are willing to continuously improve your design skills

• You have, or are willing to a degree related to fabric/textile design

• You have perseverance, and are willing to look hard for work in a highly competitive industry


Below we've outlined what you'll need to begin a career as a fabric designer. We've also included helpful information for this career, such as job description, job duties, salary expectations, educational requirements, a list of possible employer types, and much more!



Education Needed to Become a Fabric Designer

Employers will likely require that you either have an associate’s or bachelor’s degree in fabric or textile design, or in a closely related field such as human ecology, fashion design, fine arts, or surface design.


Degree programs in areas closely related to fabric or textile design will likely offer areas of specialization; be sure to pursue coursework in an area of specialization in which you have career-related interests.


Many degrees in the area of human ecology, textiles and fashion design offer work placement and internship opportunities, these are a great way to get a feel for working in the industry (although each employer will likely offer a different experience from one to the next), develop industry contacts, and help build your portfolio.


Getting a job in fabric design is possible without a relevant education, usually as a machinist or pattern cutter, but career advancement is slow without formal design training.





General Job Description

Fabric designers, also known as textile designers, create two-dimensional designs that can be used in the production of knit, woven and printed fabric or textile products. Fabric designers often specialize in of two major fields; interiors or clothing.


The interiors specialization includes upholstery, soft furnishings and some types of floor and window coverings. Fabric designers who specialize in clothing concentrate mainly on fashion or specialized clothing, such as sportswear and fireproof clothing.


No matter their specialty, fabric/textile designers must incorporate colour trends, learn about the production and application of textiles and use state-of-the-art industry technology and traditional art tools in the design and development of different fabrics and textiles.



Typical Job Duties

• Liaise with clients and other members of other departments, such as buying staff, to plan and develop new designs

• Interpret the ideas of clients accurately

• Produce sketches, samples and mockups for presentation to clients and customers

• Assess and improve upon completed items

• Experiment with colour, fabric and texture

• Must stay current regarding knowledge of new design and production techniques and textile technology

• Source fabrics and other materials at trade fairs, markets and shops

• Attend trade shows as an exhibitor or a delegate, which may involve appraising the work of competitors



Work Experience Needed

Fabric designers may work as freelance designers or as casual or permanent employees of fabric design companies. Whichever career path you chose in the short and long term, there are certain actions you can take to increase your chances of success.


A good way to begin a career as a fabric designer is to join an internship or apprenticeship program. These programs will give you hands-on experience in fabric design. This will also allow you to make valuable industry contacts.


Whether or not you gain an internship or apprenticeship program, you must continuously hone your skills, so draw and paint at every opportunity. Buy fabric, as you will need to practice your designs on real fabric. Try painting your ideas on cotton, velvet or linen. Use your designs to make clothing, accessories and other items.


Although there may not be a quantifiable amount of experience you need to get a job, gaining experience will afford you the opportunity to develop a portfolio and make valuable industry contacts.


Collect photographs and samples of your work to assemble in a portfolio. Your portfolio will be your visible resume; you will use it to market yourself to prospective employers or buyers. Don't be afraid to show people your work out of fear they will steal your ideas, because the only way to get noticed is to have people see your work.


Your portfolio may be a collection of projects you’ve completed while in school, projects you've completed during an internship or apprenticeship, freelance projects you’ve completed, or projects you’ve completed purely for practice. By the time you start applying for contract or permanent jobs, your portfolio will speak for itself. 





Crucial Skills You'll Need

To be effective as a fabric designer, and perform your job duties with competence, you need to posses a certain set of skills. These skills are usually acquired through schoolwork, practice, career experience and natural ability.


• An artistic flair

• A good eye for colours and patterns

• A good understanding of the properties of different materials

• Able to draw well freehand

• Able to use computer aided design software (CAD)

• Strong attention to visual detail

• Able to sew and weave

• Fashion design skills

• Budgeting skills and the ability to work out costs

• Marketing, financial and administrative skills (needed for running a business)



Characteristics You'll Need

In order to enjoy performing the duties of a fabric designer, you need to have certain personality traits. Taking enjoyment from your duties as a fabric designer is important, as it helps you maintain a positive attitude towards your work, which usually leads to having a long and successful career.


• A keen interest in coulour schemes, patterns and textiles

• An interest in fashion and/or interiors

• A high level of self-motivation, perseverance and initiative

• Imagination and creative talent

• An interest in continuously improving design skills

• A capacity to endure periods of limited income

• The ability to handle criticism and rejection

• Willingness to keep informed about new materials, trims and manufacturers' practices



Who Employs Them?

Fabric designers are employed on a part-time, full-time, contractual or freelance basis by the following types of organizations:


• Manufacturing companies that produce clothing, soft furnishings and other textiles-based products

• Medium and large-sized fashion and clothing retailers

• Fabric/textile design companies that produce bulk-manufactured items

• Fabric/textile design companies that produce small batch and specialized items

• Fabric/fashion design consultancies

• Small specialist design companies

• Interior design and decoration services



Current Job Opportunities

Our job board below has "fabric designer" postings in Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom and Australia.




Career Advancement Possibilities

The main opportunities for career advancement for fabric designers depend primarily on their career objectives. Those who wish to work for themselves (work freelance or open their own design studio) must first have properly honed skills, and a solid portfolio of their best work.


As the freelancer’s portfolio and contact base grows, so will their freelance business, thus resulting in more consistent work and a more dependable income. Similarly, with enough contacts, strong enough design skills, enough capital, and strong marketing and business management skills, a fabric designer may then choose to then open their own design studio.


Fabric designers who wish to work for a design studio as a permanent employee on the other hand, may have the opportunity to do so with a strong enough portfolio, or by first securing a contract or part-time job with that studio. Of course, securing a job with a studio is also possible right out of school if there are opportunities available. Working in a part-time, freelance capacity is a great way to develop some industry contacts and build a portfolio while trying to secure a permanent fabric design job.


Once they have gained enough experience with the studio, fabric designers may have an opportunity to work in a supervisory or management capacity within that studio, provided they also show initiative and competence. Some employers may also require their fabric design supervisors or managers to have completed post-secondary education in management. 



Average Salary Level

The salary level of fabric designers can vary widely, some work part-time and use fabric design to supplement their income, while those whose products are in great demand can make quite a good living. The earnings of fabric designers typically depend on the following factors:


• Their level of education

• Their level of experience

• Whether or not they are self-employed

• The size and type of their employer

• Whether or not they work full-time

• The region in which they work


Fabric Designer Salary - Canada: According to the 2016 Alberta Wage and Salary Survey, Albertans working in the Theatre, Fashion, Exhibit and Other Creative Designers occupational group earn an average wage of between $17.89 and $29.47 per hour. Unfortunately, no similar statistics were available from reliable sources for other Canadian provinces or territories at the time of writing (July 11, 2019)


Salary - United States: According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median salary level of American workers in the Fashion Designers occupational group is $62,860 per year.



Working Hours

Permanent Employees: Fabric designers that work as an employee of a manufacturing, retail or design company, typically work standard weekday working hours (9-5, Monday to Friday). They may need to work overtime during busy periods, in order to meet deadlines. These designers may be required to travel within their region, within their country or overseas, for example to exhibit at trade fairs, or to visit clients and manufacturers.


Freelancers: Fabric designers that work as freelancers typically split their time between designing and marketing their work (which includes attending trade shows, developing and maintaining their portfolio, promoting themselves on social media, and other activities). They may also have to spend time supplementing their income with other types of work. 



Similar Careers in Our System

Listed below are careers in our database that are similar in nature to "fabric designer", as they involve many of the same skills, competencies and responsibilities:


Fashion Designer

Interior Designer

Retail Buyer

Textiles Production Manager

Wallpaper Designer




Please use the references below to find more information on the various aspects of a career as a fabric designer.


Occupations in Alberta:Fashion Designer.” (March 9, 2016). ALIS website - Alberta Learning Information Service. Retrieved November 18, 2019.

Art & Design:Fashion Designers.” (September 4, 2019). Occupational Outlook Handbook - United States Bureau of Labor Statistics website. Retrieved November 18, 2019.

Careers:How do I become ... a fabric designer?” Sandra Haurant (February 23, 2016). National Careers Service website. Retrieved November 18, 2019.

Explore Careers:Textile designer.” (n.d.). National Careers Service website. Retrieved November 18, 2019.



Scholarships for Becoming a Fabric Designer

Scholarships that are relevant for becoming a fabric designer are all of those that are found on the following pages:


Clothing, Textiles and Material Culture Scholarships

Fine Arts Scholarships

Human Ecology Scholarships


Success Tip: Be sure to apply for any scholarships that you even barely qualify for, as there are millions of dollars of scholarships that go unused every year due to a lack of applicants!



Applicable Majors

Studying one of the university majors listed below will serve as an excellent educational foundation for this career:


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