Blackwork Embroidery Pt 2 (Shading Again)

Read Pt 1 (Shading) here.

I’ve been doing up some blackwork patterns to sell on Etsy, which for newer ones means tidying up some shortcuts, making some quick fixes to things that annoyed me when I was stitching. For some of my older ones, though, this means a complete redo because my methods and organisation were… questionable… when I started making blackwork patterns.
Gardevoir was the second blackwork Pokemon I stitched, and the first on black cloth. It doesn’t look as good as it could. I’m currently redoing this design, so I’ll talk about the mistakes I made and how I’m rectifying them!

Left. I made the design the same way I made my previous ones, working on a white background because that’s what PCStitch uses. The darker white and green shades are more dense.

Middle left. Oh, wait, how am I going to stitch white on white cloth? It has to be a dark cloth. Now, because the background colour has changed from white to black, you can see that what were the darker (denser) shades have become the lighter shades. At the time I thought something seemed a bit off but I didn’t understand why. Another mistake I made was leaving the outline and checking official artwork until last in the process. I had been working on Gardevoir’s green as one entity instead of recognising its multiple parts (underskirt, arms/body, and separate sections of hair). As such, part of the outline that crosses over the fill pattern to the left of Gardevoir’s face (depicted in yellow for clarity) is a line which already existed in the fill pattern. Since the outlining was done with additional strands of the same colour thread as the fill, this doesn’t stand out very much at all. (I did aim for a minimalist design, but hadn’t thought it through enough.)

Middle right. My redo! I started from scratch, first doing the outline and following official art (and using layer masks to make changing out fill patterns much easier) as is my current practice. Both the hair and skirt have additional and fine-tuned outlining (easier to see in the next image), which was something I considered as I was finishing stitching the original Gardevoir but obviously didn’t add at the time. I’ve switched densities around to work properly against a black background, you can see it looks more natural than in the original.

Right. I’ve started moving beyond the original fill patterns. The dress fill patterns are similar but much denser; I’m not only thinking about the darker white-lighter white contrast but also white-green-red brightness contrast and white-cloth contrast. I’m considering using lighter shades for the outlines. Next I’ll change out the green and red fill patterns to see if anything works better than the original ones. I’ll probably refine the shading edges to get a better read on the shadows next to the dress folds, end up simplifying the outlining around the hair sections as between the hair-shoulder, front hair-back hair and front hair-front hair boundaries it’s quite busy. It’s less minimalist than the original, but so far I’m preferring how it looks.

Here’s another example.
diagram and photo
Left. Original design for Dragonite. Notice the sparser fill in the middle for the lightest shade, which would work fine on a white blackground but achieves the opposite effect on a black background. Like with Gardevoir I had worked with a white background while creating the design and I didn’t think through what to do with a black background.

Right. Stitched Dragonite. Maybe about a year passed between when I designed and stitched this, so I was able to understand I’d erred. Instead of changing the design so that the darkest shade is sparsest I decided to go for a fuller, plainer look. The darkest shade uses one strand of thread, the middle uses two making it more dense and brighter, and finally the lightest shade uses two strands of a lighter thread. This doesn’t make it any denser but it does make it stand out as a highlight. Also the outlining has been done in lighter thread, whereas the design follows the original sprite’s colours and has them darker.

I’m happy to say that I’ve since learnt to ask myself, “What colour cloth will I be using?” in the early stages to avoid these problems. If I’m going to be using a dark cloth then I start off with the correct shade-density progression. Still need to improve how I look at the overall shade-density of a piece, looking not just at lighter shades vs darker shades in one colour but looking at lighter colours vs darker colours too, as well as ensuring a nice balance across the piece. Never not learning! 🙂

Next time: maybe some basics?

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