Just as you might test different paint swatches on a small section of your wall to see how they look before committing to a whole paint job – fashion designers create strike-offs to sample colors, patterns, and fabrics on a small scale. These small test swatches allow designers to ensure the sample matches their design vision before producing a large order.
Whether you’re a fashion brand’s in-house designer doing a print design for the first time, or an independent freelance fashion designer trying to figure out how strike-offs work, you’ll learn all that you’ll need in this article!
Why am I qualified to write about this stuff? In my 15 years of experience in the fashion industry, I’ve journeyed from being an in-house designer, starting my own brand (yep!), to growing my freelance career to $100,000+. Now, with all the knowledge I’ve learned along the way, I want to help fashion designers (and PDs, TDs, etc.) like you make it in the industry.
In more technical terms, a strike-off refers to a design development process where manufacturers print small swatches of fabrics with specific designs or patterns as requested by the designers. This gives both parties – the fashion brand/designer and manufacturer, a physical representation of how the finished garment’s design will look.
This sneak peek (depending on the size of the pattern, it may be anywhere from just a few inches big to a few feet big!) allows you to make changes before going into large order production, helping avoid costly mistakes and saving precious time fixing potential problems later on.
Having a strike-off helps fashion brands do a test drive on several factors regarding a fabric print like checking the accuracy of the colors, patterns, quality of print, and so much more.
1. Check quality of print: Have you ever had a shirt with a logo print that cracked easily or felt really stiff and scratchy? Unless intentional – this is something that can be checked in the early stages using a strike-off.
2. Confirm color accuracy: 99% of the time, what you see on your screen or a computer printout won’t be how it looks like after it’s printed on fabric. Strike-offs allow designers to verify that the chosen colors match their original vision. This is crucial because variations in fabric types, fabric dyes, and fabric printing methods can affect the final color’s appearance. For example, printing on 100% cotton fabric might give off less vibrant colors than printing on synthetic fabrics like polyester. And you don’t want your neon collection to accidentally turn into a soft pastel collection from this mishap!
3. Check print size and placement: Designers use strike-offs to ensure that patterns, prints, and graphics are in the correct print size and placement on the fabric. Imagine making a bikini with a paisley print – having the print size too small or too big might make it difficult for consumers to appreciate the print, or having custom printed slogan t-shirts with the print placed too high up on the chest.
4. Test fabric compatibility: Apart from the print not matching the intended color, in some cases, certain fabrics cannot hold onto dyes AT ALL. In most cases, manufacturers should know about fabric and dye type compatibility already, but if you are testing new fabrics and printing methods, this step is crucial to make sure you’re using the correct fabrics and that your prints won’t come or fade off after one wash.
5. Assess overall look and feel of the design: I’m sure you’ve experienced designing something that initially seemed great in your head – but after receiving the actual sample, it just doesn’t work as well. Having strike-offs in hand helps designers make design adjustments or corrections based on how the strike-off looks and feels – or in some cases, scrap the idea entirely (it happens!).
When it comes to evaluating fabric print strike-offs, the approach can vary depending on what style of printing you’re using.
All Over Prints or Repeat Prints are designs that seamlessly repeat across the fabric. During the strike-off review, checking the scale of the print is crucial to make sure that the design is not too big or too small. For example, how big or small would you like the floral print to be on a flowy maxi skirt?
On the other hand, Placement Prints are strategically positioned in specific areas of the garment. Imagine a t-shirt with a graphic print on the front, apart from the size, you need to specify where you’d like the print to be placed. A good practice is to mock-up the print placement using the correct size in an actual jacket sample, and then you can provide instructions like “Place graphic print 3″ below the neckline seam.”
Pro Tip: When initially requesting for print strike-offs, it’s helpful to test out a paper printout that you can mock-up – this way, you can be one step ahead and get closer to your design vision far quicker than waiting for the initial print strike-off.
Regardless, in both cases, whether it’s an all over print or placement print, other factors such as the quality of the print itself, color accuracy, and fabric compatibility remain crucial factors for review.
The best thing about having strike-offs is that they give you the power to visualize and adjust your designs.
Here’s a quick checklist to help you make the most out of your strike-off:
1. Quality of print:
2. Color accuracy:
3. Print size and placement:
4. Fabric compatibility:
5. Overall design:
By using this strike-off checklist, you can easily review each aspect to ensure that it meets your design standards and aligns with your creative vision.
Save this as your quick cheat sheet to mark those red flags on your next round of sample-making!