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O'Neill's Decorating Centres

Wallpaper Pattern Matching Guide

Time to decorate?

When it's time to hang your new wallpaper from O'Neill's, you'll need to be sure of how to match the pattern up.

If you're new to decorating or perhaps it has just been a while since you last had a go, then read on and we'll try to make things clear for you.


Most wallpapers are printed using a roller system and as such are printed using a single colour at a time in repeated succession, it is the detail inscribed on these rollers that produce the pattern you have fallen in love with.

The rollers themselves vary in size as per the designer's vision but in most cases, patterns tend to be printed in 53cm or 64cm sections in a single revolution. All printed wallpapers will have a repeating print, even those which appear to be "plain" are produced in the same way using a print roller however they may be free matching.

The Main Three

We most commonly see three pattern repeat types which dictate three pattern matching techniques, they all will achieve the same goal of keeping your pattern even, level and regimented across the wall, these are:

Straight Match

This pattern repeat is a pretty simple one to follow and is used to keep a pattern regimented across your walls for matters that offer a motif (such as a fleur de Lys, cameo or shape) or damask pattern (the centrally crested motif surrounded will leafy embellishments) for example.

This pattern match type will have a part of the design that appears chopped off on each side of the roll as you look at it, this runs perfectly straight across the roll width.

If you were to fold a sample onto itself so the edges butt together you would be able to see the pattern flowing through. Your aim for hanging this type is to hang in perfect succession, perfectly parallel to any previous length.

Straight DamaskStraight PalmStraight Floral

Tip! Your ceiling may not be level across your wall, minimise the risk of chopping the top off a motif by taking the time to measure your skirting to ceiling height a few times across each wall to be decorated. With this information, you can balance the pattern giving more or less space above a motif as your decorating starts still have space above your final motif hung.

Free Match / Random Match

This pattern match type is not always as simple as it reads, a free match is essentially a pattern that does have any detail or design that hangs over the roll edge. This may be mostly seen on "plain" and "stripes" wallpapers that are hung as they come off the roll with little thought required apart from ensuring a good butt joint is achieved, however, this is not always the case.

As noted above, if your wallpaper is "plain" then hang away but if your wallpaper does have a design on it such as a motif or other item you do not have an obvious technique to follow when hanging.

These random matches allow you to decide how you want them to appear in your space, you may want to keep a motif in the same place/at the same height across your wall. Alternatively, you may want to step the design up or down after each length hung and finally you can hang the wallpaper as you like in any way at all.

REVERSE HANG: So this is an additional symbol to check on your roll label before you start hanging. This is mostly seen on plain and plain textured wallcoverings and changes the way you hang the wallpaper, it must be followed to ensure an even colour tone and texture whilst minimising the visibility of butt joins.

Drop Match

This pattern match type takes a little more thought at the outset but once you get going you'll be hanging like a pro.

Half drop, offset or drop match, all different names yet all use the same technique to hang. This type of pattern match allows the designer to create more open patterns that appear less regimented or designs that run diagonally rather than in parallel like the straight match above. Drop patterns help hide the repeating nature of the pattern and give a more natural flow which is why they are so common in printed products like wallpaper.

When using a wallpaper with a drop match, you will need to drop/move the pattern along by about half the total pattern repeat on each length you prepare after your first one. This match type does produce wastage yet gives you a more luxurious result, in the end, if like the pattern then the hanging method is dictated for you. The accurate drop measurement is normally printed on the roll label to help you calculate how many rolls you will need before purchasing (our staff can help you calculate this if you are struggling). 

Drop FeatherDrop FloralDrop Tropical;

Tip! With patterns being printed in thousands of rolls at a time, they have all been cut at different stages of the print. With this in mind, you may find the drop/wastage would be less if you tried to match your prepared wallpaper length using a second roll rather than continuing with the same one on its own.


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