Why Printers Should Care About Repeats in Printing Patterns
Printing patterns for use in interiors is different than printing other types of products such as signage or packaging because patterns need to be in repeat. Repeats should always be seamless and not readily obvious to the eye.
Why should a printer care about repeats?
As with anything, it’s always helpful to know basic terms in case a customer has a request, but also some projects are designed with a certain type of repeat in mind. This can be because a designer wants to achieve a certain look or hit a certain price point.
More importantly, when a design’s repeat is off, it is a costly problem to fix, especially if it’s not discovered until after printing. Mistakes cost money and a mistake due to a bad repeat is easy to avoid by making sure repeats are seamless ahead of printing.
How can you spot a bad repeat?
When a repeat is done poorly, there will be obvious stripes or squares of negative space because the design was created in a square and then tiled out. The edges of the square are meeting up and there are no design elements in that space. No one needs to be an expert to spot a bad repeat, just relax your eyes or squint gently and any weird striping will become visible. One way to avoid bad repeats in the first place is by working with a designer who has experience designing in repeat.
There are 7 common types of repeats.
This is the most basic layout, with one motif repeated out directly in a horizontal line from the original motif.
In this repeat, a motif is repeated but placed halfway down vertically or horizontally from the original motif.
These repeats are similar to a half drop, but they don’t necessarily drop by half. They are sometimes referred to as a free drop. They can drop by whatever amount makes the design flow more seamlessly.
A mirrored repeat refers mostly to stripes or plaids and refers to a balanced stripe mirroring from a center point. In the case of a plaid, mirroring in both directions.
When a stripe is nonmirrored, the stripe layout is seemingly random, not mirrored along with a center point.
An allover pattern is one in which the pattern doesn’t have any obvious direction to it. Motifs and colors are evenly distributed throughout the whole pattern. Allover patterns can be cut in any place and used on furniture or garments without being engineered. This makes them economical choices for certain types of products.
Directional patterns have a definite top and bottom to them and need to be used with that direction in mind. A landscape pattern or a damask would be an example of a directional pattern. These types of patterns need to be cut according to the pattern's direction and sewing will be engineered.
Knowing the basics will make it easier to communicate with customers and make sure there are no costly mistakes made during printing.
Related story: Tips for Working With a Designer on Your Interior Projects
Kristen Dettoni is the founder and CEO of Design Pool LLC, the only pattern library created exclusively for interior designers. Since 1996, Kristen has worked for mills throughout North America, designing fabrics for automobiles, furniture, and home furnishings. She developed the first sustainable upholstery fabric for office interiors, the first sustainable upholstery fabric for automotive interiors, and was awarded a patent for automotive suspension seating. Kristen believes strongly in the power of good design to transform our environments and experiences.