Design repeats

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After purchasing or designing a pattern, the textile designer decides on a pattern repeat to obtain an infinitely repeating motif. This is called pattern matching. The next step will be reducing the colours in the motif.


Design repeats

Design repeating is used to obtain a motif that repeats without boundaries, without break or interruption, with a regular or irregular visual rhythm. The sides of the motif correspond perfectly when the motif is duplicated and juxtaposed. The motif can thus be printed on any surface size in an unlimited way.

There are several types of textile motifs: all-over patterns, semi-engineered patterns and engineered patterns. For more information, see the article on textile motifs.

The repeat is designated depending on the direction of the repeat:

  • along the height of the fabric : vertical repeat
  • along the width of the fabric : horizontal repeat


Types of repeats

There are many ways to repeat a motif, including:

  • block repeat (rectilinear repeats)
  • offset repeat
    • brick/half brick (staggered horizontal repeat)
    • drop/half drop (staggered vertical repeat)
  • mirror repeat
  • diamond repeat


In practice, repeats are often halfway offset, which is equivalent to a staggered pattern repeat. The shift between each row equals half of a motif or figure, so that the created repeat is balanced.

Block repeat :

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Staggered repeat :

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Diamond and Mirror repeats :

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The size of the motif

In traditional rotary-screen printing, also called cylinder printing or rotary printing, the size of a pattern depends on the size of the cylinders that will be used to print the pattern. This is not true of digital printing, which does not limit pattern sizes as it does not use print cylinders.

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Vertical repeat

The vertical repeat refers to the basic unit of repetition in the direction of the fabric height. Its size is a function of the circumference of the cylinder used for printing. The repeat of the pattern is a sub-multiple of this measurement.

For example, for a cylinder with a 64 cm. circumference, (the most common size), the vertical repeat height of the motif can be:


  • 64 cm
  • 32 cm (½ of 64 cm)
  • 33 cm (⅓ of 64 cm)
  • 16 cm (¼ of 64 cm)
  • 12,8 cm (⅕ de 64 cm)
  • 10,66 (⅙ de 138 cm)
  • 8 cm (⅛ de 64 cm)
  • etc



Horizontal repeat

The horizontal repeat designates the basic unit of the repeat in the direction of the width of the fabric. Its size depends on the length of the cylinder, generally usually 140 cm or 160 cm or even 280 cm (especially for upholstery).

The horizontal repeat is calculated by subtracting the selvedge* (fabric edges) from the length of the cylinder.

For example, on a 140 cm fabric base with 2 cm selvedges, the base horizonal repeat is 136 cm.

The size of the horizontal repeat is a submultiple of the width of the cylinder minus the selvedges, so, in this case, a submultiple of 136 cm.

The horizontal repeat (the width of the pattern) can be:


  • 136 cm (this results in a semi-engineered repeat, see explanation below)
  • 68 cm (½ of 138 cm)
  • 45,33 cm (⅓ of 138 cm)
  • 34 cm (¼ of 138 cm)
  • 27,2 cm (⅕ of 138 cm)
  • 22,66 cm (⅙ of 138 cm)

 Horizontal/vertical repeat combinations

After calculating the horizontal and vertical repeats, you can obtain a multitude of horizontal/vertical repeat combinations resulting in various pattern sizes:

  • 64 cm (height: vertical repeat) x 68 cm (width: horizontal repeat)
  • 64 x 34
  • 32 x 68
  • 32 x 17
  • etc.

 With a horizontal/vertical repeat of 64 x 68, the pattern would repeat 2x across the width of the fabric, 4x for a 64 x 34, etc.

Horizontal/vertical repeats can be infinitely combined as long as the sub-multiples are respected.

In this example, the size of this all-over motif, which has a half-drop repeat, is 21.33 cm x 19.42 cm. The motif has a 21.33 vertical repeat (height) and a 19.42 horizontal repeat (width).

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Semi-engineered repeat

When a pattern is placed along the entire fabric width ** with a height which corresponds to the circumference of the cylinder or is a submultiple of it, the design is called a semi-engineered repeat. The motif is said to be a semi-engineered motif (see examples).

For example for a cylinder with a circumference of 64 cm, we can obtain a motif that is

  • 64 cm high x 136 cm wide (height = 1 circumference)
  • 32 cm high x 136 cm wide (height = ½ of the circumference)
  • 21,33 cm high x 136 cm wide (height = ⅓ of the circumferrence)
  • 16 cm high x 136 cm wide (height = ¼ of the circumference)

Example of a semi-engineered motif for a tablecloth (the height of the motif corresponds to the vertical repeat of the pattern, the width corresponds to the horizontal repeat)

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Pattern repeats are created using professional textile software such as those of the Ned graphics suite (design & repeat), AVA, Pointcarré

It can also be done in Photoshop or Illustrator with some tools that I will present to you shortly.

To proceed to colouring the desired motif, the textile designer now proceeds to reducing the colours of the motif.


*fabric selvedge

The selvedges correspond to the two edges of a brabric

Les lisières correspondent aux deux bordures d’un tissu.


** fabric width

The width corresponds to the width of the fabric between (and excluding) the two selvedges.


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