What do the Colored Circles on a Printed Fabric Represent?

Written by Melissa Wolck

Have you ever noticed the colored dots printed along the selvedge edge of a piece of fabric and wondered what they’re there for? Maybe you have seen them and just ignored them, because you weren’t sure what they represented. Let’s take a moment to explain what these colored circles mean and why they are important.

The colored markings printed along the selvedge edge of a screen printed fabric are color registrations. They represent the number of different colored screens used to make the print. These markings are usually in the shape of a circle or a square and have a number located within or near each color. These numbers show the rotation in which the colors were printed. For example, the color with the number 1 represents the first color that was printed and so on and so on. A beautiful multi colored print will normally have between 6 and 12 different colored circles/squares.

Additionally, inspectors use the circles or squares as guides to show that the print is in register or in line. If the color falls outside of the circle or square then that will signal the inspector that the print or that particular color is out of register, meaning it is not “landing” where it is supposed to. If a color is out of register, the print pattern will not have nice clean edges and lines. In fact, it will likely bleed over into another color as two colors print on top of one another. In this case, the inspector would stop the machine to recalibrate the printing.

Colored Circles found along the edge of a printed fabric

These colored circles/squares are also used for color matching. Fabric manufacturers compare the colors to the original run to make sure that the colors match within industry standards. You may have used the colored circles to do some color matching of your own. Often times designers will use these colors to find the perfect coordinates for the statement print! That’s a great practical use for these colored circles, but it is important to know how they are used during the manufacturing process to make sure that your fabric has been printed correctly.

Take a look at our image gallery below to see a variety of different "print circles" and what they might look like.

Use the color circles to find your perfect coordinate!