Wallpaper Pattern Repeats: How to Match Perfectly

Blanket on grey couch in living room interior with flowers wallpaper and lamp on table.

Ever tried hanging wallpaper and thought, “Why can’t I get this design to line up?” Wallpaper can really spruce up a room, but getting those patterns to match properly is essential to create a seamless look. It can be a tricky task, however. Fortunately, with a little preparation, it’s possible to align wallpaper patterns in a way that creates a pleasingly fluid appearance.

Whether you’re a first-time DIY decorator or a seasoned interior designer, diving into the world of wallpaper pattern repeats can really elevate your decorating game. Here’s a look at the fine art of matching wallpaper patterns.

The Basics of Wallpaper Pattern Repeats

What is pattern repeat on wallpaper? A wallpaper pattern repeat refers to the vertical distance between a specific point in a wallpaper design and the point where that same design element appears again. Essentially, it indicates how often and where a particular design on the wallpaper repeats itself vertically down the roll.

There are three main types of pattern repeats:

  • Random or Free Match – With this design, there’s no specific match point; the patterns might appear haphazard or scattered. This provides a certain freedom, making it easier to hang the wallpaper. A useful technique with random designs is the reverse hanging method, where every other strip is hung upside down. This can minimize the visibility of seams and ensure an unbroken flow, especially with textures that have a less distinct repeat pattern.
  • Straight Match – The no-nonsense design. Here, patterns line up directly across the width of the wallpaper. Every strip you hang has a uniform top and bottom starting point, offering a symmetrical pattern flow. It’s straightforward, as the name suggests, and fairly simple to work with.
  • Drop or Offset Match – This is the trickiest type. Every strip starts at a different point, creating a staggered (often diagonal) design. This category can be broken down further: the half drop, where the design repeats every other strip, and the multiple drop, with more than two vertical alignment points that create a rising/falling effect.

Understanding the different types of repeated patterns is required if you expect to install wallcoverings in a visually harmonious way. 

Challenges of Matching Wallpaper Patterns

Farmhouse wooden bedroom in boho style in white and green tones.

Matching wallpapers is both an art and a science. Ensuring that each strip seamlessly connects with its neighbor requires attention to detail and an understanding of the type of pattern repeat you’re working with.

It’s important to realize that the type of pattern you want will factor into the amount of wallpaper you need to purchase:

  • Random or Free Match – Typically, this requires the least amount of extra material because there’s no specific match point. However, some may choose to reverse hang the wallpaper, which can impact the amount of material required.
  • Straight Match – While this design is straightforward, you might end up wasting the material that is cut away to align the patterns on each strip. The larger the repeat, the more potential waste.
  • Drop or Offset Match – This can result in the most material wastage. Because the design is staggered, each strip might begin partway through a pattern, requiring you to cut away significant portions to match wallpaper designs. A large repeat on a drop match can lead to needing considerably more rolls.

Having too much material is preferable to having too little—you don’t want to be forced to go back and purchase more wallpaper that may be from a different batch with slight but noticeable design or color variations. And remember, you need a few extra inches at the top and bottom of each strip for trimming.

Wallpaper Accessories

Using the right primer and adhesive can also save you some headaches when it comes to matching patterns. An improperly prepared surface can distort patterns and make it very difficult to achieve a perfect match.

Priming your walls creates a uniform surface, so that the wallpaper adheres better and comes off easily when needed. Primer can also prevent the wall color from bleeding through, which among other benefits can preserve the integrity of the wallpaper pattern.

The right adhesive prevents the wallpaper from shifting, which can throw off the pattern. Some adhesives, like ROMAN’s ECO-888, are also formulated to give you a longer “open time”; this gives you more flexibility to adjust the paper and get the match just right.

Your choice of wallpaper primer and adhesive should be based on the type of wallcovering material you have and the type of surface on which it will be applied. ROMAN has a variety of high-quality primers, adhesives, and accessories for your consideration.

Tips for Perfect Wallpaper Pattern Matching

Modern living room interior, beautiful floral mural, flowers on wall

Always begin the process by preparing the wall in the standard way: A smooth, clean, and primed surface helps wallpaper adhere better and lay flatter, making pattern matching easier.

Here are some tricks and tips for achieving a seamless look:

  • Start with a Guide -Use a level or plumb line to draw a vertical line where your first strip will hang. This ensures the first strip is straight and makes subsequent strips easier to align.
  • Book the Wallpaper – Once you’ve applied adhesive to the wallpaper, gently fold it onto itself (adhesive side to adhesive side) and let it sit for a few minutes. This process, called “booking,” helps the adhesive activate uniformly, making the wallpaper more pliable and easier to work with.
  • Overlapping and Double-Cutting – For tricky patterns, especially drop matches, overlapping two pieces of wallpaper and then double-cutting through both layers can help achieve a flawless seam. After cutting, remove the excess pieces underneath and smooth the seam. Just remember, this tactic won’t work for wallpapers printed with butted seams. Random/free patterns are the best candidates for double-cutting.
  • Use of Symbols -It may be helpful to mark the back of each wallpaper strip with arrows or numbers to keep track of the pattern flow and orientation. (Use a pencil or a pen that won’t bleed through or damage the wallpaper.)
  • Avoid Stretching – When adjusting wallpaper to match patterns, avoid stretching it. Once stretched, wallpaper may shrink back as the adhesive dries, disrupting the pattern match.
  • Smooth with a Seam Roller – Once two pieces are matched up, use a seam roller to gently press the seams together. This helps in making the patterns align perfectly at the seams.
  • Trim with a Sharp Blade – When trimming excess wallpaper, always use a sharp blade. Dull blades can pull or tear the wallpaper, which definitely isn’t good for pattern alignment.
  • Clear Adhesive – If you’re working with translucent wallpaper, a clear adhesive can help you avoid dark patches that can disrupt the pattern.

Remember, while these tricks can significantly ease the process, patience and attention to detail are key when hanging wallpaper to ensure pattern perfection. And be sure to have the right products on hand before you begin. The ROMAN product catalog includes a wide range of adhesives and primers that are popular among do-it-yourself homeowners and experienced professionals alike.