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How to Mix and Match Patterns

May it be a new pattern collection or at shopping spree at IKEA (by the way, how good is the new YPPERLIG collection? More on it on the next post), coordinating pattern motifs and make them work together is NOT easy.

When creating a pattern series, I like to follow the same approach as Elizabeth Olwen, and organize patterns into 3 groups:

  1. The Hero Print: As the name itself indicates, this is the main pattern of the colletion, and the most elaborate. 
  2. Secondary Prints: With less elements and colours than the Hero, it follows the same motifs and style
  3. Blender Prints: A smaller scale motif, it can be a simplifier version of an element already present on the other prints

pattern collection

As you can see, colour is also a big point when coordinating patterns. When you create your own collection, you have more control over the colours you use (the colour palette) than when you buy them.

A little bit of theory

And I think this is a good place to share a little bit of Colour Theory. Colours are really important, and they can help to change the mood of a space completely. When combining more of one of them, one of the main thing for you to know is the Colour Wheel. First invented by Isaac Newton in 1666, based on the Red-Yellow-Blue (RBY) System, it helps to choose colours that work well together:

colour theory wheel


– In the RYB (or subtractive) colour model, the primary colours are red, yellow and blue.

– The three secondary colours (green, orange and purple) are created by mixing two primary colours.

– Another six tertiary colours are created by mixing primary and secondary colours.

There are some rules to choose colours that work specially well together, they are called the Colour Harmonies


colour theory harmonies wheel


But, not all the harmonies work great just as they are from the colour wheel, we need to introduce Tints, Shades and Tones. They basically consist on adding, white, grey or black to a colour so you can make it lighter or darker. 


colour theory tints shades tones


This is great when you want one or two of the colours on the palette to be the main focus of the composition. Also, that’s how you can create a really strong scheme using only the primary colours as a base (although you have to be as creative as Walala to get away with it! And don’t be afraid of throwing in some neutral colours!)


camille walala patterns colou palete

Creating Colour Palettes

These days, the internet is your friend. You can find online versions of the Colour Wheel that would help you create the different harmonies  

Another way is creating a scheme from a picture (If you like Instagram as much as I do, surely you have come across pics with amazing colour combinations). You can do that too on the Adobe site, although I really like how Canva and Coloor present the resulting palettes


color scheme generator online

Coordinating Retail Fabrics

However, when you go shoping the colour and pattern combinations are limited to what you can find in store. If you shop online then is quite the opposite, as you may have too many options. On both cases, you should stick to the ‘3 styles by space’ rule. They could be more, they could be less (but remember that even plain colours or basic patterns like stripes count as a style), that’s up to you and the space you are trying to decorate!

When buying we will take a slight different approach than when designing:

– First, we still got the hero print, that would still be the most elavorate/complex one

– Second, a geometric print, something still with some complexity but less lines

– And third, playing with scales, going for a print witha motif that is either smaller or bigger than on the other two.

This was a shopping expedition to Habitat on Oxford Street, and to be honest I did not have to think a lot to come up with this combination, mostly because when you have all the options before your eyes is so much easier than just thinking them on your mind!


mixing patterns habitat pillows


Seriously, mixing patterns is not easy but then is not that complicated either, the more you do it the easier it gets.

I highly recommend going to a home-wares shop (The pillows form the photo are from Habitat on Tottenham Court Road) and just have fun trying to come up with pillows/patterns combinations. You know, for practices purposes!


Learning Resources

Introduction to Colour Theory

How to mix patterns like a Pro

How to create your own Colour Schemes

Make it in Design

Skillshare (2 Free Months Subsciption)

Online Tools (Free)

Adobe Color Wheel



Design Resources

The day bed mock up that I have used in this post can be found at Creative Market


Disclamer: All images/graphics are of my  own creation.

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