If you are a surface pattern designer you might be asked at one point in your career to create placement prints or engineered patterns for a client. Perhaps you want to enrich your pattern portfolio richer with some borders for fashion purposes. Whatever your reason, here are my tips on how to create engineered patterns for swimwear.
What is an engineered print?
Engineered patterns (prints) in the apparel market are very common. Some companies don’t like to use too many of them in a collection because they increase the cost of production. Others specialize in using engineered prints for more sophisticated pieces.
In the swimwear industry, it is a special process because of the small size of the pieces of the garments, like a triangle bra. But for any market you are creating, you should first decide upon the kind of garment you want to design. You have to think not only about the places where you want a placement, but also the parts you want to keep plain and the ones where you want allover print, and their proportion.
Engineered patterns are also called placement patterns. A single motive or the whole layout has to be placed in a special part of the garment. It is designed to make the later production process as uncomplicated as possible. It can be a print in the center of a T-shirt, a border print on a skirt or dress, or anything else which has to be placed on a certain piece. I’ve put together a few examples in this Pinterest board.
What to keep in mind while designing for the swimwear market.
In swimwear, you have the typical garments: a one-piece swimsuit, bikini with a triangle bra, bandeau top or bra with cup, the bikini bottom, and some complementary pieces like the now trending surfer top. (There are also beach scarves, which are normally rectangles, so they are a little different. However, I won’t be talking about them at the moment.)
We can create print designs with the purpose of having adaptable designs for all options (which usually means more waste), or we can decide to work for a specific piece. If you’ve already decided, you can start to think about which part of the garment you want to place your motive on. You have to imagine how the cutter will put the apparel pattern onto the fabric with your design.
It is also necessary to consider the size of the pieces, and also the fact that they have to be sewn, so that they are a few cm bigger than the finished pieces. The scale of different sizes also matters. Some companies produce in three sizes, others much more. The difference between the sizes is normally four cm across the width of the garment. Thus, a XXL swimsuit can occupy 12 cm more than size S. So don’t forget to leave enough space for larger sizes!
It is also important to know the normal width of the fabrics. For swimwear you can find fabrics that are about 140-160 cm wide. But during printing it can reduce the usable space because due to printing process. It is safer to count with 140-145 cm.
Sometimes it so happens that the pattern slips a little to one side while printing and disappears a few cm, which can be critical. If the printing is irregular, it is difficult to lay the fabric layers perfectly and this may result in less useful width. That’s why it is very important to leave enough space around the pattern.
What's in the background?
The background is as important as the main pattern motif or placement print design. Repeating the background layer seamlessly helps to have more useful space between the pieces so that extra pieces can be added during production.
If a placement print has a plain background without textures or different hues, the client can buy the printed fabric only for the engineered parts, and for the rest of the pieces, they buy a plain fabric in the same color as the background. But it is helpful to be able to offer the same background without the placement design when the background has textures or elements.
If you are interested in designing prints for swimsuits you might find my free one piece swimsuit pattern useful to give you some idea about the dimensions of a swimsuit sewing pattern in different sizes. If you want to see how your print designs on a swimsuit would look like, check out my Swim in Your Prints class and download the free swimsuit mockup. You can also learn how to make a one piece swimsuit with your own surface pattern design!
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