Katie Kortman stands in front of a brightly colored wall wearing a brightly colored scarf and jacket.

Mixing patterns in your wardrobe looks great, but how do you start putting it into practice? To help guide you on where to start, we’ve brought in a pattern mixing pro for a lesson on mixing and matching prints in your wardrobe! Not one to shy away from bold handmade garments, Spoonflower designer Katie Kortman is here to show you how to start playing with patterns in your wardrobe.

Katie Kortman lays on top of scores of dresses made with her vibrant colorful prints.

Katie: Hi! I’m Katie Kortman and I have a thing for prints. I love simple prints, bold prints, print-on-print, mixed prints that look great together and mixed prints that totally clash. I have found the more you wear prints and experiment with them, the more courageous you become. Today I am here to give you some fun tips for doing your own print-mixing! These tips can be used in your garment sewing as well as in your quilting, home decor and craft projects—like these DIY headbands!

Katie Kortman wears a white top with a quilted upside down pyramid in bright colors.
Katie wears a green-and-pink jumpsuit and magenta heels.
Katie wears yellow pants and shoes and a gray top with wispy paint strokes in yellow, red and blue.

Pro tip: Did you know mixing prints and matching prints are two different things?

Mixing prints means mixing prints that may not have the same exact colors in them. Matching prints means combining prints with colors that match well together. This post has tips for both approaches!

How to Mix Print-on-Print

Let’s start off simple: Print-on-print. Because Spoonflower has so many fabric types to choose from you can actually make a shirt out of the same print you make pants out of! I did just what when I made Friday Pattern Company’s Wilder Gown top using my Feathers in Paradise design in Poly Crepe de Chine and paired it with Anna Allen Clothing’s Philippa Pants in the same print in Dogwood Denim™. Even though you’re not technically print mixing, as it’s two instances of the same print, this is a fun way to play with print that is a little less “scary.”

Katie Kortman wears a top and pants in a colorful peach, white, pink and green swirled design in front of wallpaper in the same print.

Bonus points if you can spot the second design in this photo! I painted a canvas to create an additional print for the backdrop.

Play with Scale

Two swatches of fabric lay side by side. On the left, ice cream cone like shapes in pastel colors on a light gray background. On the right, thin rectangular sprinkle like shapes in pastel colors.
Two swatches of fabric lay side by side. On the left, blue, yellow and teal terrazzo shapes. On the right, a red-and-yellow sunburst on a blue background with several teal and brown stripes.

Another easy way to play with scale is to use the same print but in different sizes. Many designers on Spoonflower have uploaded multiple scales of one design but if they haven’t, you can always message them and ask if they will do so! I’ve done this for people with many of my prints—and a great way to get both sized prints on one yard is to use the Fill- A-Yard® option. That is what I did for the swimsuit below.

On the left Meredith wears a tank top, jacket in the same peach, blue and pink print in front of wallpaper in the same design.
Katie wears a two-piece bathing suit in the same print, but a different scale in each. The top half is a red and purple print on blue in a smaller scale. The bottom half is the same print in a larger scale.

You can also play with scale using different prints. I like to pair large-scale prints with different smaller-scale prints. Here are some examples to get you inspired!

This larger Painted Rainbow Blue print pairs nicely with my Jordanian Scarf (which I bought in Petra!) because the woven print of the scarf is small. Both have lots of color, but the second print is a smaller scale and almost reads as a solid from afar. That is why large and small prints are great together. One becomes dominant and the other becomes a “rest” for the eyes.

Katie Kortman stands in front of a brightly colored wall wearing a brightly colored scarf and jacket.

In the example below the prints aren’t different sizes exactly, but I only used a small amount of one print (at the collar), and lots of the other. This is more “proportion” than scale, but you can see how giving more size/scale/space to one print and just using another in small amounts as an accent is a great way to use two different prints.

Katie wears a vibrant dress with a red, turquoise and pink circles on a dark blue background.

I love how Deb from @3oclockstyle pairs her large stripe sweater with the smaller dot print on the bottom. There are similar colors as well, which also helps tie it together.

A woman wears a green pleated skirt with yellow dots and a vibrantly striped sweater.
Photo by @3oclockstyle

In this dress from Farm Rio, there are thin stripes, thick stripes, multi-colored stripes and black and white stripes. They played with the scale of the stripes, the direction and color.

A woman wears a dress and is turned away from the camera. The back of the dress has tiers of differently colored vertical stripes on the bottom half, horizontal stripes at the waist and varied vertical and horizontal stripes through the various parts of the top section.
Photo by Farm Rio

Which leads us to our next tip:

Mix Patterns with the Help of Color

Color is a great way to tie differing prints together, or you can use the same print but in different colors. Either way, color is another element you can play with when print-mixing.

Two swatches of fabric are laid together. On the left, a peach and white checkerboard. On the right, lemons with white dots on a peach background.
Two swatches of fabric are laid together. On the left, a terrazzo print with white, brown, blue and pink on a bright pink background. On the right, green brushstrokes amidst painted patches of yellow, peach, pink and white.

One way you can do this is to use the same print in different colors. Gorman Clothing used the same stripe in different colors for the dress on the left, and in the same abstract shapes in different colorways for the dress on the right. The stripes are cut on the grain and on the bias (diagonal) to add interest.

A woman wears a dress made out of large squares of fabric in yellow, green, dark purple and white striped patches.
A women wears a dress with geometric designs in yellow and light green and blue on a navy background, except for the right shoulder, where the dress features the same print, but with an orange background.

Photos by Gorman

Spoonflower designers often have the same print in many colorways. If I were to recreate the striped dress I would use the Fill-A-Yard Cheater Quilt template in Petal Signature Cotton™ featuring a collection of the same print in different colorways like one of the designs in my Stripes and Splashes collection! Here is a shirt I created with a few colors of my painted stripe prints.

Katie Kortman wears a top and pants made from several of her bold colorful prints.

Matching Patterns

Another way to use color is to find a common color in different prints, otherwise known as matching prints. If your prints have one or more colors in common it ties them together. Here are some examples:

Two swatches of fabric are lying together. On the left, red, navy, green and white lines and rectangles. On the right, a green, navy and light blue painted camo on a green background.
Two swatches of fabric are lying together. At the top, a terracotta, dark yellow and dark purple terrazzo on a white background. At the bottom, people are swimming amongst rose-colored seaweed and flowers.

These examples from the brand Farm Rio show how great different prints look together when they have a color (or a few!) in common. One dress uses the same color but with different shapes, and the other looks like a tank and skirt where both use red-orange! 

A woman is wearing a dress and turned away from the camera. The design on the left half of the dress features red, orange, yellow, black and white squares turned sideways. The right half of the dress features stripes in those same colors.
A woman wears a dress with a top that is red-and-white striped and a bottom that has gray stars and toucans wearing top hats on a red background.

Photos by Farm Rio

Below is an example of an Organic Sweet Pea Gauze™ dress from Andrea Jones. She used my Paper Cut Shapes and Hot Pink and Light Blue Dash designs, which both have magenta and sky blue in them. I loved how she combined these two different prints together.

A woman wears a shirt that has a different design on each side. The left side has blue, green, yellow and pink geometric shapes on a pink background. The right side features large hot pink brushstrokes on a light blue background.

Mix Maximalist and Minimalist Patterns

I was so inspired by Andrea’s dress that I did something similar with two more of my prints. This dress combines two of my prints that coordinate in color, but also shows the idea of combining a busier print like my Muted Stripes with Lilac design with a more minimalist design like my Orange and Peach Dash pattern.

Katie wears a dress with a print on the right side that is red with peach brushstrokes and on the left side has muted red, white and purple stripes on a lavender background. She is facing the camera, but looking down.
Katie wears a dress with a print on the right side that is red with peach brushstrokes and on the left side has muted red, white and purple stripes on a lavender background. She is turned to the left and looking down.

These three design combinations show how you could also combine a maximalist pattern with a minimalist design.

Two swatches of fabric laying together. At the top, a busy print with brushstrokes and splatters in blue, peach, turquoise, red and green. At the bottom, geometric shapes in those colors, but in more muted tones.
Two swatches of fabric laying together. On the left, pink half moons against orange, white and yellow stripes. On the right, stripes in green, light brown, lavender and blue on a white background.
Two swatches of fabric laying together. On the left, gray, peach and blue flowers on a light peach background. On the right, large white palm leaves outlined in dark blue on a dark yellow background.

Katie’s Top Tips for Finding Coordinating Prints on Spoonflower

If you want to find prints with similar colors on Spoonflower you can use the color selector (go to “Fabric” in the menu, then click “by color”) or type in the names of the colors you’re looking for in the search bar. For instance you can search: Aqua, Green or Stripes, Aqua, Green. I did this to find all the examples shown from the Spoonflower Marketplace! I searched a keyword (like “geometric”) plus colors, or just colors to find prints that coordinated. Then I made a collection which you can find here. Once I had my collection, I tried out the Fill-A-Yard just to see the prints side-by-side since I didn’t have them in my hands. It was easier for me to see what combos looked best, regardless of whether I was planning to order the Fill-A-Yard project. I highly recommend it!

On the left, six large swatches from Katie's mixed and matched print designs. On the right, 20 small swatches from Katie's collection of matching and mixed prints featuring bright and bold florals, checkerboards and more.

Another easy way to find coordinating prints is to locate one print you like, and then search the shop of the designer who created it. If it was part of a collection, there will be others with similar colors! For example, Heather Dutton’s collection Aria features three different designs in three different colorways and scales.

Two rows of five squares each of a design featuring a large floral repeated as it sits in a round circle. Each square is the same design in a different colorway.

If you are looking for large scale prints, add Large or Large Scale along with the color or design you’re looking for! Here’s what I found when searching for Large Scale Yellow designs.

I hope these tips help you out in your print-mixing adventures, and if you need more inspo just check me out on Instagram or my website! And for more color and print-mixing info, I have a PDF guide called Wear Happy Color to get you started!

Now that you’ve learned all the ways to incorporate prints into your wardrobe, head over to Katie’s post all about color theory!

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