I've tried searching for an answer to this, but I have no idea what terms to even search for.

I'm creating the artwork for a repeating pattern that is going to be printed on a large quantity of fabric (think 100 meter rolls). I'm wondering what the normal way to present the artwork for this would be, since it's not just one block of artwork, but rather a block that is repeated both vertically and horizontally. At the moment, my plan is to give just one full swatch of the part that repeats, with a bit of extra bleed area, and put in crop lines.

Does anyone have experience with this or know how this is supposed to be done? (PS-I'm working in Illustrator.)

  • 1
    You need to ask the firm that is printing the fabric.
    – DA01
    Commented Aug 29, 2012 at 16:06
  • 3
    Be sure to post the answer if you get one. I'd be interested. I don't think you'd need a bleed since that is only for where a sheet of paper gets trimmed. If you do need a bleed it would probably need to somehow be setup separately so that its only on the edges and not on the internal pattern.
    – Ryan
    Commented Aug 29, 2012 at 16:22
  • It wouldn't be a bleed in the true sense, it would be basically be a little extra of the pattern so that you can see where the pattern begins to repeat, and the crop marks would define the actual boundaries of the repeating pattern. Visually, it makes more sense to me to include the extra "bleed," but technically it probably makes more sense to have the pattern cut off exactly at the boundaries, and then maybe have a separate image of a larger area of the pattern showing it repeating.
    – Tim Mackey
    Commented Aug 29, 2012 at 18:40
  • @DA01, I will definitely ask them, I was just curious if anyone knew already. This is through a factory in China, who makes the product from fabric that they buy from a fabric company, so it'll be a little difficult to get good information, but I'm sure it will work out.
    – Tim Mackey
    Commented Aug 29, 2012 at 18:42

2 Answers 2


For the complete avoidance of doubt, I might send three versions of the artwork:

  • A single instance of the element to be repeated, on its own.
  • A single instance of the element to be repeated, with "bleed" and crop marks in the margin. I'm thinking that the bleed might be really important to cover up any edge discrepancies if they are making up a physical cylindrical roller to print the design - although if the pattern repeats in both directions, perhaps it's being printed digitally?
  • A single instance of the element to be repeated, with "bleed" and crop lines superimposed over the artwork, labelled "POSITIONAL ONLY - NOT FOR PRINT". This is for instruction only and should clarify any possible confusion between the two others. If the repeating element is small, this might show many instances rather than just one.

But I would ask them first.

  • Thanks for the answer—I think this is probably the safest solution to cover my bases. Direct communication with the fabric producers is pretty hard, so I think that if I give them several options and clear instructions, they'll be able to work with what I send them.
    – Tim Mackey
    Commented Sep 11, 2012 at 19:26

I have a friend (now retired) who spent many years as a fabric designer, starting back in the days when it was all done on paper, later assisted by Photoshop and Illustrator. It's a very specialized branch of the craft.

Her advice is the same as e100 and DA01: If it's possible, get the production people to tell you exactly what they need, because technologies and systems change and (especially with China) workflows and methods can be surprising. Absent that, depending on the direction(s) and angle of the repeat, send what e100 recommends.

That said, I've seen a case where the best way to communicate to a provider in China was by creating an infographic (think "IKEA instruction leaflet"). This might well be one of those cases, where the extra time at the front end saves a very expensive correction at the other. It can be dangerous to assume that any text instructions will be correctly understood unless you have had direct communication with the person who will manage the files at the other end of a 10,000+ mile communication line. (Actually, true any time your production is being handled in another country by people who are not native speakers of your language.)

  • Strayed into this question, but found this answer very insightful
    – tinonetic
    Commented Feb 19, 2017 at 16:27

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