How to Be Bold and Creative with Print Mixing

Let’s have some fun!  Age doesn’t matter.  The new world of mixing prints with abandon is colorful and artistic.  Artist and painter Pattie Gerrie is an example of someone who shows her true self with joy.

I’m starting out bold and creative here, then I will give you some really good guidelines to follow, and then I will finish up with outfit combinations to inspire you.  I haven’t tried this much myself, but I’m excited to do more of it.  So let’s start experimenting!  

Try mixing prints, colors, florals, or stripes with flowers or dots.

To mix bold prints, pick one palette and stick to it.

Mixing prints is easiest when they both contain one or more similar colors or shapes (such as geometric shapes, polka-dots, stripes, plaids, etc.)  Similarly sized prints always work together.

Instead of thinking “mixing prints,” think “mixing patterns”…by which I mean, use the same pattern in different sizes and colors.  For instance, two or more different kinds of stripes, different kinds of florals, different kinds of plaids, etc.  I will always work!

Instead of thinking “mixing prints,” think “mixing colors”…by which I mean, use different patterns in the same colors.  I always look for one color that is the same in two different prints.  You can use different patterns in complementary colors or triad colors, etc., but that starts to get a little more complicated.  It’s a much safer bet to make sure one color in the two patterns is the same.

Put mismatched prints together to give them new life — just make sure they have a common color.

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Neutral:  small repeating geometric pattern

In the world of print mixing, stripes and leopard prints are considered neutrals.  They go with just about anything.  Another easy neutral to use with almost anything is  a print that is so small that the pattern/colors mix together so closely that from a distance they look like they almost blend together to become one shade.

Neutral Prints to Mix and Match:

Here is a list of prints that can be mixed and matched freely because they act as neutrals (from an article by Tina Boomerina):

Tone on tone prints — patterns in lighter and darker tones of the same color.  They work just like the solid version of the base color.

Small repeating geometric patterns — such as checks, dots, tiles, squares, stripes and diamonds.

Florals that read like solids — from a distance, they can almost look like a solid color because the flowers are all the same shade or tint in lightness or darkness, or at least low in contrast.

Tartan plaids.

Animal prints.

Watercolor prints.

Tribal patterns (Aztec, African, etc.)

leopard plaid roses
Leopard, plaid and roses

Animal Prints:

An animal-print + any color or pattern!  Try a leopard top as a neutral with a printed bottom.

An animal-print vest + an animal-print tunic in similar colors + blue jeans.  Add one or more pendant necklaces + a cuff.  You may want to add a fringed bag.

Try a leopard-print top with a tiger-print skirt, a polka-dot skirt, a floral skirt or other printed skirt.

A leopard-print top + a plaid shirt or printed blouse as jacket.

Polka-dots:

A polka-dot top or bottom could mix with most other prints.

Watercolor Prints:

Watercolor or brushstroke prints could mix with most other prints.

Stripes:

This is a neutral that works with anything.  Pinstripes are even easier!

A navy striped shirt + black or brown striped pants + a black leather jacket.  You may want to add heeled sandals.

Graphic Tees:

A graphic tee inside a printed skirt (with at least one similar color or design).  Add tall flat boots + bangles or cuffs.

A short-sleeve gray graphic tee inside any print maxi-skirt.  Add any belt + slip-ons or high-top sneakers + mixed metals coin necklace or other similar necklaces + bracelets.

A long black graphic tee over black pinstripe pants.  You may want to add black sandals, a black cardigan.

A black graphic tee under a blue plaid shirt + denim bottoms.  Add black boots.

A graphic tee + a plaid shirt + black leather skinnies + a black leather jacket.  Add black ankle boots .  You may also want to add a beanie.

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Prints from Poetic Wanderlust

Plaids:

Plaid flannel shirt as jacket + a plaid shirt tucked into cargo pants.  Add sunglasses if sunny.

A long-sleeve plaid shirt + a sleeveless graphic tee + flares.  You may want to add a short cross pendant + a couple of short strands of beads + cuffs.

A plaid shirt + leopard-print jeans.

A green plaid blazer + a teal striped top or an animal-print top.

A plaid blazer + a graphic tee + destroyed skinnies.

A plaid shirt open over a tie-dyed tee + jeans.  Add sneakers.

A plaid shirt as jacket over a striped tee + blue jeans.  Add sneakers + a couple of necklaces.

Tribal Prints:

A gray and black Aztec-print cardigan + a colorful graphic tee + blue jeans.  Add a black and gold geometric necklace + a few bracelets.

Business:

Pattern on pattern can work for the office.  Just keep one of the prints on the pared-down side.

Add a leopard-print scarf to a brown pinstripe or tweed jacket + brown or black pants.

A black and white polka-dot camisole + black pinstripe pants or skirt + a jacket/blazer.  If the blazer is not a bright color, add one or more colorful accessories.

A black and white polka-dot camisole + a black pinstripe skirt or a floral skirt on black ground + a cover-up.

A navy striped shirt + navy pinstripe pants.  Add simple accessories to keep the look polished.

A pinstripe suit + a long print scarf wrapped around your neck and knotted in front.  You may want to add a fedora.

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Gingham with animal print

More Combinations:

  1. A printed top + printed bottoms + a neutral jacket.  Add shoes to match the jacket.
  2. A paisley tunic with beige ground + a beige skirt with black tiger stripes on it.
  3. A gold blouse with black zig-zag stripes + a beige skirt with black tiger stripes.  Try tying them together with a black or gold embellished belt.
  4. A blue blouse with black geometric lines + a navy skirt with white polka-dots.
  5. A gold blouse with black geometric lines + a black skirt with fine white pinstripes.
  6. A black printed tee + black printed pants.  You may want to add a long tassel pendant + sandals + sunglasses if sunny.
  7. A black silk t-shirt with gold stars printed on it + printed palazzo pants with a black ground.

Accessories:

It’s probably the easiest way to try mixing prints.  Just add a scarf, shoes, purse, hat, etc., in a print with a printed outfit.  Use the tips above, or just experiment.  Also, to tie two prints together, a top and a bottom, you can add a solid belt in a common color in any texture you like.

Add a printed, textured belt to a printed top or cardigan.

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Saramai, 62, Print Mixing Icon

Have you had success with mixing prints?  Let us know in the comments below! 

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