Comprehensive Study of Motif and Pattern and Their Differences

Difference between Motif and Pattern

IE Supervisor
Aditya Birla Fashion and Retail Ltd. Bangalore.


What is Motif?
A motif is the primary entirety by assistance of which design can be made. Basically design of the garments/dresses gamble on theme. In that case, design subsist of any image which recalls that theme. Pattern would be called to portion of design which showcase its proof or character. Inside the design world it is known as a motif. Motif is born from various combination of trigonometric / geometrical shapes. Motifs are duplicated or reproduced in various methods to make a pattern and patterns are duplicated to create design. So that motif has a noticeable identity of it’s own on pattern/design. Coming to the Indian motifs, linked with the nature, culture, religion and socio-economic factor in Indian society. Mostly traditional motifs are motivated from nature. Motifs can be of different sizes, but normally every motifs in any provided work you will find it as same size. In motifs patterns and stitches used may vary, but there is always comprehensive elements, like texture, stitch, pattern, or colour, which presents finished material in inventive proportion.

motif on fabric
Fig: Motif

Designing of Motifs:
In order to create attractive fashion, there are some parameters need to followed in motif design.

  1. Directionality and Orientation of the design on fabric
  2. Motif type (Plant, floral, traditional, geometric)
  3. Repetition type (square, brick)
  4. Spacing and scale of motifs
  5. Style

1. Directionality and orientation of the design on fabric:
This is the concept which says like, number of direction/ways that you can rotate the fabric and keeping the print looking same. Most of this are situated with lengthwise way of the fabric and could be one or two ways. Motifs can be classified as follows:

  1. One-way prints
  2. Two-way prints
  3. Non directional prints

a) One-way prints:
One-way motifs that can be oriented in same way means only in one direction otherwise it will look upside down or sideways.

One-way motif
Fig: One-way motif

b) Two-way motif:
Two-way motifs are looks like same on both the side i.e. right and wrong side hence there is no limitation for fabric usage as like one-way motifs. Stripes are taken as two way motif and also it can be arranged in 4 or more direction.

two way motif
Fig: Two way motif

c) Non-directional prints:
Name itself suggest that there is no any direction for this types of motifs, can be print and cut in any direction ultimately less wastage.

These are classified into:

  1. Tossed and
  2. 4-way motifs

i. Tossed:
These types of prints looks same irrespective of any of the direction. Even In bias direction it looks similar.

Tossed motif
Fig: Tossed motif

ii. 4-way motif:
This types of prints appears similar whenever the arrangements is at 0°, 90°, 180°, 270° taken from the reference. The best example of this is tartan plaids.

4-way motif
Fig: 4-way motif

2. Types of motif:
For motifs the ideas generally has been taken from nature, architecture, geometric designs, etc. Some motifs are like:

  1. Plant motif
  2. Floral motif (Flower)
  3. Traditional motif
  4. Geometric motif

a) Plant motif:
The elements of the plant like leaves can be the design theme. In fashion design tree leaves and roots are most famous as fashion design. Duplication of the motif may or may not be done. Generally whenever requisition increases, designers showcase it in more enthralling way.

Plant motif
Fig: Plant motif

b) Floral motif:
As a name suggest the flowers are more used as a motif derived from nature. Duplicated design along with flowers as a theme known as floral motif. It is contemporary motif I’m fashion design. Floral motifs are ladylike, gorgeous and classic and have a universal appeal.

Floral motif
Fig: Floral motif

c) Traditional motif:
One indication of folk art is it’s motif. A motif doesn’t fade or lose the colour, because has capability to outlive in memory.

Traditional motif
Fig: Traditional motif

d) Geometric motif:
As name suggest, it will be consisting of geometrical shapes / designs as a theme. Includes dots, strips check, plaid, diamond, etc. It may be simple or tangled, in arrays or haphazardly distributed, straight, curvy or might be anywhere in between. These motifs are universal and adapted.

Geometrical motif
Fig: Geometrical motif

3. Repetition type:

a) Square repeat:
Its a simplest type of repeat and also called as block, side or straight repeat. The motifs are created enclosed or overlapped on rectangle and that rectangle will be repeated as a simple grid.

Square repeat
Fig: Square repeat

b) Half drop repeat:
This includes changing queue of the square repeat grid and drive them down a fraction of block height (1/4, ½, 1/3) and producing a drop. This motif will create balance while looking towards it.

Half drop repeat
Fig: Half drop repeat

c) Brick repeat:
This is same concept as half drop repeat only the change is instead of columns, rows will be affected.

4. Spacing and scale of motif:
Motifs can be crowded together or spaced / separated with keeping any of the background. Some motifs are called as open-and-closed motifs, in which motifs are packed one by one and kept some space.

5. Style:

a) Railroaded motifs:
This runs parallel to the selvedge/warp and they will be there in upholstery fabrics.

b) Border motifs:
These are anticipated/designed with a particular end use, like tablecloth, apron, skirt. Also it looks very attractive I’m Indian sarees.

Border prints
Fig: Border prints

What is Pattern?
A pattern can be defined as repeated design, like floral, geometrical, lattice, medallion, and stripe etc. This patterns can be woven into the fabric, embroidered or printed over the fabric.

Types of printing pattern:
Printing pattern is a specific design that is printed onto a fabric, rather than woven or embroidered. Here are some common types of printing patterns:

  1. Block printing pattern
  2. Diamond printing pattern
  3. Half brick printing pattern
  4. Repeat block printing pattern

a) Block printing pattern:
Block printing is a technique of illustrating and printing patterns on woodblocks. This method is fastest, simple and slowest amongst all textile printing processes. In block printing 2 techniques are being practiced and that are, direct printing, resist printing and discharge printing. In direct printing fabric first bleached followed by dyeing followed by printing with illustrated block. In resist style of printing fabric is bleached followed by printing (printing paste contain resisting agents which will resist dye particles to make bond with fabric) followed by dying. In discharge style of printing fabric is first bleached followed by dying followed by printing (printing paste contains discharging agents so that it will discharge the colour as per as block design is concern and ultimately we will get discharge style of printing. This is having white discharge and colour discharge, based on requirements it will be printed).

Block printing pattern
Fig: Block printing pattern

b) Diamond printing pattern:
I’m fabric design it is most often used. The use of diamond shape multiple times is nothing but diamond repetition. The motifs are easy, looks simple. Or else the elements will be printed diagonally means like diamond line.

Diamond printing pattern
Fig: Diamond printing pattern

c) Half brick printing pattern:
As the bricks are arranged during construction of house, same way motifs will be arranged. In horizontal row the next row seems like miss alignment with previous one. Shows unsafe look. Full brick and half brick can be used alternatively only if equivalence of next row is not equal to half motif if previous row.

d) Repeat block printing pattern:
Repeating patterns includes repeating line, shapes, tones, colours, textures and forms. This is easiest way to create patterns is to block repetition.

Repeat block printing pattern
Fig: Repeat block printing pattern

Difference between Motif and Pattern:
A motif is the primary entirety by assistance of which design can be made. And patterns are portion of design. Both are different one but one is made from another one. So both are used in different places as per the requirements.

Motif is the primary entirety by assistance of which design can be made.Pattern would be the portion of design
Motifs are made from trigonometric/geometrical shapesMotifs will be repeated to produce pattern
Motif has a noticeable identity of its own on patternPattern doesn’t have its own identity because its repeat of motifs
Motifs cannot be woven, embroidered.Patterns can be woven into the fabric, embroidered or printed over the fabric.
Motifs are the building blocks or individual elementsWhile patterns are the larger, organized designs that emerge when these motifs are combined and repeated
Example: Single flower, geometric shape, or symbol.Example: Floral pattern, paisley pattern, or houndstooth pattern.
Generally simpler than a pattern.Can be intricate and can include a combination of motifs.
Not necessarily repeated in a systematic way.Requires motifs to be organized and repeated deliberately.

After viewing the difference between motif and pattern, it says that this both terms are used conversely but they both are carrying different meaning. Motif is a constant element which contributes to theme. At same time pattern is repetitive sequence of element.


  1. Motifs used I’m Indian textiles, September 7, 2018
  2. Uses of Motifs in Textile and Fashion Design, By Jahanara Rony
  3. Prints and Patterns,
  4. Motifs – The Adorning Feature Common To Most Apparel, December 28, 2021,
  5. Create different printing style with textile design patterns, By Hunar, November 9, 2022,


Q1: What do you mean by a motif?
Ans: A motif is the primary element used in design, often inspired by themes and made up of various trigonometric or geometrical shapes. Motifs have a distinctive identity and are often derived from nature, culture, and other factors.

Q2: How are motifs designed?
Ans: Motif design involves considering parameters such as directionality, motif type (e.g., plant, floral, traditional, geometric), repetition type (square, brick), spacing, and style to create attractive fashion.

Q3: What is the directionality and orientation of motifs?
Ans: Directionality refers to the ways in which a design can be rotated while keeping the print looking the same. There are one-way, two-way, and non-directional motifs. One-way motifs can be oriented in a single direction, two-way motifs look the same on both sides, and non-directional motifs have no specific orientation.

Q4: What are the different repetition types of motifs?
Ans: Repetition types include square repeat (simple grid), half drop repeat (creating balance by shifting motifs), and brick repeat (similar to half drop but affecting rows instead of columns).

Q5: What is the spacing and scale of motifs?
Ans: Motifs can be crowded together or spaced apart, and some motifs are open-and-closed, where motifs are packed with some space in between.

Q6: What are the different motif styles?
Ans: Styles include railroaded motifs (running parallel to the fabric’s selvedge) and border motifs designed for specific uses, such as tablecloths or Indian sarees.

Q7: What are the types of printing patterns?
Ans: Types of printing patterns include block printing (direct, resist, and discharge techniques), diamond printing (using diamond shapes), half brick printing (with motifs arranged like bricks), and repeat block printing (repeating elements like lines, shapes, colors, and textures).

Q8: What is the difference between motifs and patterns?
Ans: Motifs are the primary design elements, often made from geometrical shapes and cannot be woven or embroidered. Patterns, on the other hand, are larger, organized designs formed by repeating motifs deliberately. Patterns can be woven, embroidered, or printed on fabric.

Q9: Example of motifs and patterns?
Ans: An example of a motif is a single flower or geometric shape, while an example of a pattern is a floral pattern or houndstooth pattern, which is more intricate and combines motifs.

Q10: Does motif mean pattern?
Ans: A motif is a recurring fragment, theme or pattern that appears in a work of art.

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