Mixing and matching prints can seem intimidating, but it doesn’t have to be! With a little knowledge about the different types of prints and some simple guidelines, you can easily create stylish print pairings. This pattern primer will provide you with the know-how to successfully combine different prints for a polished, put-together look.

An Introduction to Pairing Prints

When assembling an outfit, print pairings require a bit more thought than solid colors. But don’t let that deter you from experimenting with patterns! Learning some fundamental concepts about combining prints will give you the confidence to stylishly sport this trend.

Here are some useful tips to keep in mind:

  • Stick to 2-3 prints at once: Resist the urge to wear every pattern in your closet. Pick one or two prints as the focus and keep other pieces simple. Too many busy patterns can look cluttered.
  • Vary the scale: Pairing a large, bold print with a smaller, delicate print helps create balance.
  • Use solid colors as a neutral: Solids create separation between the prints and allow them to stand out.
  • Repeat colors: Having one color thread that connects the patterns brings harmony.
  • Mind the proportions: If pairing a large print on one piece with a small print on another, wear them in complimentary proportions (i.e. a voluminous large print bottom with a fitted small print top).

Follow these general guidelines, play with different pattern combinations, and you’ll be a mixing prints pro in no time!

Types of Prints and Patterns

From polka dots to paisleys, there are endless varieties of prints and patterns to play with. Here’s a primer on some of the most common options and how they pair best:

Polka Dots

A timeless print that evokes retro vibes. Polka dots come in a range of sizes, from dainty to oversized. They pair well with:

  • Floral prints: The femininity of florals contrasts nicely with the retro polka dots.
  • Stripes: Dots and stripes is a classic pattern mix that always works.
  • Checks or plaid: Play up the retro feel by pairing dots with these graphic prints.
  • Solids: Allows the polka dots to really stand out. Black, white or bold brights work well.


A versatile print that ranges from sweet and delicate to bold and tropical. Florals complement:

  • Polka dots: As mentioned above, the combo of feminine florals and retro dots works nicely.
  • Plaid or gingham: Muting florals with a graphic black and white check or plaid keeps the look sophisticated.
  • Animal prints: Florals with a bit of edge or tropical flair pair well with zebra or leopard.
  • Solids: Opt for neutral solids like black, tan, white or blush pink which won’t compete with floral patterns.


Available in everything from thin pinstripes to wide colorful bands, stripes offer great mixing and matching potential. Nice pairings include:

  • Dots: Dots and stripes is a no-brainer pattern mix.
  • Plaid or gingham: Play with contrasting these graphic black and white prints with colorful stripes.
  • Solids: Go for solids in one of the colors found in the striped print. White and black solids also help stripes pop.


Classic checks and plaid prints add a preppy touch and graphic pop to outfits. They look sharp with:

  • Florals: A gingham or buffalo check offers a bold yet polished contrast to softer florals.
  • Stripes: Pair graphic checks with colorful candy stripes for fun contrast.
  • Solids: Solid neutrals allow the pattern to stand out while creating balance.

Animal Prints

From leopard to zebra, animal prints always add a wild touch. Complement them with:

  • Florals: The floral’s softness balances the edge of animal prints.
  • Solids: Let loud animal prints be the star by pairing with neutral blacks, whites or khakis.
  • Metallics: A subtle metallic sheen can enhance the exotic feel of animal prints.

This overview of print types should provide some inspiration for combining patterns! Use it as a reference when assembling your print pairings.

Print Mixing Guidelines

Now that you know a bit about different types of prints, let’s get into some specific tips for pairing them successfully:

Coordinate Colors

Picking prints in coordinating colors is key for a cohesive look. Aim for prints that share at least one common color. The colors don’t have to match exactly, but should be in the same color family. For example, pair a blue and white stripe with a navy polka dot, or combine red florals with pink polka dots.

Scale Matters

Pay attention to the scale of the prints you are pairing. A large boxy floral paired with an oversized dot can overwhelm. Combining a dainty floral with a wide stripe often works better. If you want to do two larger scale prints, make sure they are in very different color palettes and styles to create contrast.

Solid Separators

Solids are your friend when it comes to mixing prints! Instead of combining two prints directly, use solids to separate them. For example, wear a solid colored tank under a printed blazer or add a neutral belt between a printed skirt and blouse. The solid pieces act as a neutral buffer.

Mind Proportions

When combining separates, consider the proportion of each printed piece. If doing a large scale floral pant, balance it with a fitted solid top. Or if you have a bold printed maxi skirt, pair with a simpler patterned crop top. Keeping pieces in scale creates balance.

Pick a Star Print

While you can do more than two prints, it helps to pick one focal print that stands out as the “star.” Build the rest of your look around that statement pattern. Avoid competing with the star print by keeping other patterns more subtle.

Feel Free to Bend the “Rules”

These print guidelines aim to help, but trust your eye and don’t be afraid to break some rules! After getting comfortable with the basics, experiment with bolder unlikely combinations like florals with Hawaiians or combining several graphic patterns. With the confidence to mix and match, prints become a fun way to express your personal style!

Expert Tips for Pairing Polka Dots

A versatile and playful pattern, polka dots offer lots of possibilities for creative print pairings. From romantic to retro, here are pro tips for flawlessly mixing polka dots:

Dot Size Matters

Pair dots of contrasting sizes for interest – like large dots with small dots. Or play with pairing different sized dots in the same color family – a navy polka dot blouse with a royal polka dot skirt. Also consider scaling down accessories like dots on a neck scarf or headband.

Play Up the Retro Vibe

Embrace polka dots’ retro charm by pairing with 50s silhouettes like full skirts. Or mix dots with classic stripes or checks. Delicate dotted lace conveys vintage femininity.

Punch Up Preppy

Offset dots’ retro vibe by going preppy. Combine with crisp gingham, classic stripes and solids in heritage colors for a polished collegiate look. Dots on loafer heels or a bow tie add personality to prep.

Keep it Muted

Stick with a tonal color scheme when mixing dots for a more refined aesthetic. For example, chocolate dots on ivory, navy on light blue, burgundy on blush. Muted combos look more polished than bright colors.

Dotted Accessories

Incorporate dots through accessories like dotted tights, scarves or headbands to pull prints together. Dainty dotted jewelry is an easy way to try the trend while keeping the overall look subtle.

With this polka dot pairing knowledge, let your creativity dot!

Mixing Florals Like a Pro

From dainty blooms to bright tropical prints, florals offer endless possibilities to liven up your look. Follow these pro tips when combining florals:

Scale and Shape

Play with mixing different floral shapes and sizes. Pairing a sprawling floral with a clustered posy print creates visual interest. Or do a patchwork mix of various floral shapes in coordinating colors.

Muted Color Palettes

Stick to a subtle color palette when combining florals – for example, tone-on-tone blues or shades of ivory and blush. Avoid florals that are all loud bright colors. The palette should be cohesive.

Floral Prints + Solids

Temper busy florals by mixing in solids. A neutral solid color helps the floral print pop as the focus. Consider a floral skirt with solid top or blazer layered over a floral dress.

Feminine Touches

Enhance the romantic femininity of florals by adding Victorian inspired touches like ruffles, lace and flutter sleeves when mixing prints. Delicate floral jewelry also boosts the feminine mood.

Edgy Florals

Conversely, florals’ sweetness can be offset with an edgier vibe in other pieces. Pair tropical or Hawaiian florals with distressed denim and moto boots. Or mix soft florals with animal prints.

Florals may seem intimidating to pattern mix, but following these guidelines will have you blooming with style confidence in no time!

Expert Tips for Mixing Stripes

From classic Breton stripes to varsity color blocks, stripes offer endless styling potential. Here are some tips for effortlessly integrating stripes into print mixes:

Complementary Colors

Choose striped pieces in color palettes that coordinate. If you have a blue and white striped tee, pair it with items that also have blue – blue florals, ginghams or solids. Repeat colors connect the patterns.

Contrasting Widths

Play with mixing varying stripe widths. Thin pinstripes can pair with thick bands and color blocking. The contrast creates visual interest. Or incorporate both thin and wider stripes in the same color story.

Graphic Stripes + Florals

Bold graphic black and white stripes pop against soft florals. Try a striped tee with floral skirt or scarf tied over a striped dress. The masculine stripes balance the floral femininity.

Monochrome Stripes

For a more tonal, elegant stripe look, complement black and white stripes with black, white or gray solid pieces and accessories. The simplicity allows the graphic stripes to really stand out while keeping the palette neutral.

Accessorize with Stripes

Incorporate striped patterns through scarves, layering tee’s, socks or shoelaces. This allows you to work stripes in without overdoing it. Stripes on accessories pull together mixed prints.

With this stripe pairing knowledge, you’ll be set to stripe up stylish printed looks!

Mixing Checks and Plaids Perfectly

Nothing beats the classically chic vibe of checks and plaids. Follow these tips for flawlessly incorporating these prints:

Coordinate Colors

Choose check and plaid prints that share one main color. For example, pair a red buffalo check with a blue and burgundy plaid. Repeating the red connects the patterns cohesively.

Contrast Scale

Play with mixing a bolder, larger scale check with a smaller plaid print. The contrast in size and pattern creates visual interest.

Menswear Touches

Checks and plaids have a menswear feel, so incorporate tailored touches to enhance the look – think button-downs, blazers, loafers or newsboy caps. Checks in mens-inspired houndstooth or glen plaid patterns also work well.

Checked Accessories

Incorporate checks more subtly through accessories like a checked headband, scarf or collar. Checks on shoes, socks or bags are another way to dip your toe in the print without it taking over.

Grunge Checks

Red and black buffalo checks offer an easy way to add a 90s grunge vibe to plaid pairings. Mix with distressed denim and band tees to complete the look.

With this know-how for checks and plaids, you’ll be primed to perfect sophisticated print pairings!

Tips for Mixing Animal Prints

From leopard to snakeskin, apex styles rocking animal prints command attention. Follow these tips when incorporating animal patterns:

Neutral Ground

Balance the wildness of animal prints by pairing them with neutral basics like black, white, navy or beige. Solids allow the print to take center stage.

Texture Mixing

Play with mixing prints in contrasting textures – like combining a sleek satin leopard skirt with a fuzzy cheetah print sweater. Varying the textures enhances the exotic look.

Limit Loud Prints

Resist pairing more than one loud animal print together, which tends to look over-the-top. Pick one wild print as the focal point and keep other pieces subtler.


Animal prints work perfectly when used for accessories like shoes, bags, sunglasses or jewelry. This allows you to incorporate the trend while keeping the overall look grounded.

Bold Makeup

Amp up the edge of animal prints with bold lips or smoky eyes. Muted natural makeup tends to compete with exotic prints.

Unleash your inner wild style by incorporating animal prints into your pattern pairings with confidence!

Frequently Asked Questions About Mixing Prints

How many prints should you wear at once?

It’s best to stick to just 2-3 prints in one outfit. Wearing more than that can start to look busy and unfocused rather than stylishly eclectic. Pick one or two statement prints you want to be the focus and keep other pieces simpler.

What are the best prints to mix and match?

Some safe print combinations include polka dots with florals, gingham with stripes, leopard with snakeskin. In general, pairing prints of contrasting styles and scales that share at least one coordinating color turns out well.

Should you mix big and small prints?

Yes, contrasting big and small prints together adds nice balance. For example, pair an oversized boxy floral blouse with a fitted midi skirt covered in petite polka dots. Just be sure the palette and colors complement each other.

What colors look good with animal prints?

Stick to neutral solids like black, white, beige, gray and khaki when pairing with loud animal prints. Pops of red, pink and turquoise can also enhance animal patterns if used strategically as accents.

Should I wear prints if I’m petite?

Petite gals can absolutely rock prints – just follow some adjustments. Opt for small-scale prints like polka dots. Pair voluminous printed maxis with fitted solid tops. Add solid layers like blazers or leggings to balance billowy printed pieces.

How do I look stylish mixing prints?

The key is choosing coordinating prints in a harmonious color story that complements your personal style. Don’t overwhelm with too many competing prints. Pick one or two prints you want as the focus and build your look around those statement pieces.


The versatility and style options of prints and patterns are endless if you know how to properly mix and match them. By coordinating colors, playing with scale and proportions, and incorporating solid pieces, you can flawlessly pair patterns for head-turning looks. Start by identifying the types of prints you’re drawn to and practice mixing them with complementary prints and solids. The more you experiment, the more comfortable and confident you’ll get combining patterns. Use this primer as a handy reference for effortlessly styling captivating print pairings!