Textile Design Lingo Explained!


Textile design related words have been at the forefront of my vocabulary for many years. It’s only as I’ve started to work with client’s who are new to the fashion industry, that I’ve realised these words are actually quite foreign. So I’ve written this glossary of words for you to refer to, either when working with me or even your manufacturer. I’ll keep adding to it as I come across other useful textile design terms. This is one to save in the bookmarks bar :) 

Yardage Print

This is basically another word for repeat pattern, where a design continuously repeats across the length and width of fabric. A Yardage print usually consists of multiple motifs that are created and placed within a square or rectangle, ensuring they join seamlessly at each edge of the square or rectangle.


Placement Print

This refers to a print design that is specifically placed or engineered onto the fabric and garment. A t-shirt print is the most common example of a placement print. It’s possible to placement print a design straight onto a bolt of fabric and then cut it out, but this is usually much more expensive due to fabric wastage as the garment will need to be cut out specifically to the print design. 

Screen Printing

This printing method involves the use of either silk screens or cylinder rollers (explained further below) that are engraved for each colour layer in a design. The colour is then pushed through the engraved screens or rollers onto the fabric to make up the design. The main thing to note here is that when opting for screen printing, you will have to consider a colour limit in your design and that each colour screen or roller will increase the cost of this printing method. You can find out more about screen printing in this blog post.

Flat bed printing

This method of screen printing is where silk screens are engraved, one for each colour in a print design.  Each colour screen is printed one by one onto the fabric, which is laid out on a long flat printing table. A squeegee is used to push the colour through the mesh and onto the fabric. This is great video if you want to see the process in action (skip to about 6 minutes.)

Rotary Printing

Another form of screen printing, where each colour in a design is engraved onto large cylinder rollers that then roll the colour across the fabric to make up the design. It’s used for yardage printing. Check out what this looks like here.

Water Based Ink

Put simply, this type of ink soaks into fabric and doesn't sit on top. You shouldn’t be able to feel the print as much compared to plastisol inks. You cannot however print light colours onto dark fabrics. This ink is commonly used for all over repeat patterns.

Plastisol Ink

Most commonly used for T-shirt prints, these are PVC based inks. They’re ideal for printing light colours onto a dark t-shirt as the ink sits on top of the fabric. It can however be felt, so you will need to consider whether this is appropriate for the garment you’re using it on.

Digital Printing

Digital printing is the process where dyes are printed directly onto fabric using ink jet technology. It is the newest form of fabric printing and has recently become hugely popular within the fashion industry. It usually produced vibrant colours, with no colour limitations. It’s often used for printing highly detailed artworks onto fabric, including photographic prints.

Colour Separations

Is the method of separating colours in a print usually using CAD (computer aided-design) software like Photoshop. It’s in preparation for screen printing, so the manufacturer can easily prepare each silk screen or rotary cylinder.

The Pantone Colour Matching System

Developed in 1950, it is the standardisation of colour reproduction where specific colour codes are used to refer to an individual colour. This means your designers, manufacturers and other suppliers in different locations can all be across your specific colour needs. There are several different Pantone Colour Books that suit different purposes such as paper, plastics and fabrics. Learn more about using Pantone colours in this blog post.

Strike off

A small sample of fabric that has been printed for you to check your design and colours before proceeding to bulk production. 

Mock Up

Refers to a technical drawing or photoshopped image of a garment or product which displays the print design on it. It helps to give an accurate representation of a repeat print scale or the placement of an engineered print design.


A colour combination that an artwork or print is created in. 

Non-Directional Print
A non directional print design, means your garment can be cut across the fabric in any direction and it won't effect the look of the design. It will also result in much less fabric wastage. For example, a children’s wear print with animal characters placed within the repeat artwork in four different directions, is a non-directional print.

Directional Print

Is where the print artwork is restricted to one direction and when printed onto fabric, will need to be cut accordingly so that the print looks visually correct across a garment. It can result in more fabric wastage.

Have you come across any other textile design related words you weren’t sure about? Let me know in the comments and I’ll add them in :)