Home » Sewing Techniques » How to Match Prints

How to Match Prints


Printed fabric is fabric with a design on the surface. Prints can have many colors or just one or two. Often the print will sit on the surface of the fabric, and the wrong side will be white or another solid color. Prints can be large, small or in between, with defined edges or subtle transitions between colors. Florals, animal prints, polka dots and graphic prints are just a few of the endless possibilities!

Printed fabric bundle

Printed fabric bundle

Printed fabric

Printed fabric


I use printed fabric all the time! I love prints. Choosing printed fabric is a wonderful way to work lots of color and personality into your sewing projects and wardrobe. Printed fabrics are great choices for tops, dresses and skirts. A couple of surprise bonuses come with sewing with printed fabrics, too. It’s easier to tell the right and wrong side, and printed garments hide a little bit of dirt.


When you’re cutting printed fabric, think about where the print is going to go on each piece. You want to avoid having two flower blooms placed on the bust or one flower bloom at the center front of your skirt. If you have a favorite section of the print, aim to cut the bodice front from that part.


My suggestion when it comes to picking a print? Choose prints you love. Don’t worry so much about what the fashion magazines are saying about what’s “in” or “out.” If you love polka dots, then choose polka dots!

That said, you want to consider the pattern you’re sewing. The larger the print, the fewer seams there should be in your chosen pattern. Otherwise the print will be sliced up and won’t look quite the same as it does on the bolt. Smaller prints may look like solids from far away, which make your garment more interesting when people see you up close. If you’re browsing in a fabric store, try wrapping the fabric around yourself and looking in a mirror. I’ve found that prints I love on the bolt may look a bit intense as a full garment.

It’s easy to like a print when it’s fabric but not like it when the same fabric is sewn into a garment. If you have a hard time choosing prints that you actually like to wear, window shop at the mall and look for prints you like in ready-to-wear garments. Or look online at clothing brands you like and note the colors, styles and scales of the prints they use.


Do you have to match printed fabrics, like with stripes (page link) and plaids (page link)? It’s up to you. I match prints only if it will be really distracting if I don’t. If the print is small, it doesn’t matter. Only when the print is very large or the lines are very distinct and there’s an important seam, like the center back seam, do I like the print to continue across the seam line. If you are piecing together your fabric and want the seams to blend, matching the prints is a good idea. If you are placing a patch pocket (page link) in printed fabric, you can make the pocket practically disappear if you match the pocket print to the background print.

To match prints along a straight seam line, cut out the first piece you need to match. In this case, I’m matching the center back seam. I have to cut two back pieces. Instead of cutting the piece once, through two layers of fabric, you’ll be cutting this pattern piece twice through a single layer of fabric.

When I laid out my first piece, I had a general idea of where to place my second piece. You need to make sure if you’re cutting a half-shape along the center back that you also have enough room to cut out the other half of the shape along the opposing seam line. Remember that when you cut a single layer, you’ll need to flip the pattern to cut the second piece.

How to Match Prints 1

Here’s my left back piece. I’m going to be matching the right edge to the right back piece. Press under the seam allowance along the center back seam or along the seam you want to match. This will be the line you need to match against your right back piece.

How to Match Prints 2

Lay the left back fabric panel on the fabric and match the print pattern as you go. See how I’m lining up the print across both sides of the seam? If your cut piece nearly disappears as you lay it on top of the fabric, then you’re doing it right. Take a step back and look to see if any of the edges are out of line. Pin along the seam to match.

How to Match Prints 3

Take the pattern tissue and press under 5⁄8″ (1.5cm) seam allowance. This will help you line up your right back along the matching line. Line up the folded edge of the pattern tissue along the left back fold line. The edges should meet, fold to fold, with no space between.

How to Match Prints 4

Pin the pattern tissue to the single layer of fabric around all edges. After pinning around the edges of the tissue, lift off the left back fabric panel. Unfold the center back seam allowance on the tissue piece, and pin along the edge. Cut out the right back piece.

How to Match Prints 5

All of this hard work and attention while cutting will pay off when you sew up the center back seam. From far away you can’t even tell there’s a seam, which is the ultimate goal. You may want to baste (page link) the seam before stitching for even more accuracy. Baste the seam line, press the seam open to check the print matching, and if you’re happy with it, stitch the seam.

Tips + Notes

  • You may need more fabric than your pattern asks for to match prints, especially large-scale prints.
  • Bring out the beauty of the printed fabric by adding contrast in one of the print colors. Add contrast piping (page link) around the neckline, binding (page link) or even contrast panels.
  • Unsure about wearing full-on printed garments? Choose prints for smaller garments, for example blouses instead of dresses, or use prints as accent fabrics on cuffs, collars and pockets.
  • Printed fabrics make great surprise contrast facings (page link) and linings (page link). It’s especially fun to add printed pocket linings or facings on simple garments. No one will see it but you!
  • One-way designs are prints that are printed in one direction. These types of prints need to be cut with all of the pattern pieces facing the same way. See page link for more on nap.

Source : The Sewtionary An A to Z Guide to 101 Sewing Techniques + Definitions
About the Author : Tasia ST. Germaine