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Writing Well-Rounded Inlay Pattern Articles
Article © MAIL User: 14thWarrior

A good inlay pattern article is more than an image and a few words
saying 'This is a picture of _insert symbol name here_'. A good, well-rounded, inlay pattern article, like a good quality craft pattern (be it sewing, knitting, crochet, or whatever) contains a minimum amount of information that allows the mailler using the pattern to select appropriate materials, in the appropriate quantities, and to easily produce the inlay with a well-detailed visual pattern.

The pattern itself is the image, or collection of images that illustrates where and how each ring is to be placed to produce the final image of the inlay. All the textual information that accompanies those images are what make the pattern a well-rounded, informative, and useful article.

The elements of a good inlay pattern article are split into two broad categories: the bare minimum, which is the information necessary to effectively, and efficiently produce the inlay; and bonuses, which is optional, extra information that can further guide the reader.

The Bare Minimum

At the very least, an well-rounded inlay pattern article should include the following: the weave, inlay dimensions, ring count, and an image.

Let's explore these elements.


  1. The Weave(s):
  2. State the weave(s) used in the design of the inlay. Although the weave is often obvious by examining the pattern image, it is possible that some readers, such as less-experienced maillers, may not identify the weave so easily from the image. Furthermore, although most inlays are typically designed using European weaves (European 4 in 1 being the most common inlay weave), the possibility exists that an inlay might be designed using a more complex weave like Full Persian (Ed - chain weaves are not ideal for inlays, author perhaps meant Half Persian 3 Sheet 6 in 1), or Voodoo, etc.; in such a case, the weave for which the inlay is designed might be considerably less obvious by just looking at the image.

  3. Dimensions:

  4. To help the reader ascertain the final size of the inlay, you should include the inlay's dimensions. The inlay's dimensions should be expressed as rows by columns of weave units. Real world dimensions of inches, millimetres/centimetres, or similar, should never be used, as the reader may use rings of a different size as originally calculated, which will obviously affect the piece's size.

    An important item to note is that when you list the inlay's dimensions in weave units, you should define what a weave unit is. That is, if you specify your pattern is 20 rows by 30 columns, you should specify what you define as a row and column. For example, when listing the dimensions of an inlay designed in European 4 in 1 in rows by columns, what do you define as a row and what do you define as a column? As most maillers know, European 4 in 1 has rings that lie in two opposite directions; some usually tend to consider a single set of rings lying in one direction as one row, while others consider two opposite sets of rings (a set of rings lying in one direction, and an adjacent set of rings lying in the opposite direction) to be one row. Similarly for columns, the way people define one column can vary.

  5. Ring Count:

  6. To assist material preparation, provide a listing of the number rings needed of each different type, size, and/or color. For completeness, it is wise to provide the total number rings for the entire pattern in addition to the number needed for each different type of ring. For example, if you design an inlay using Japanese 12 in 2, using 2 different ring sizes (say, a big ring for the horizontal rings, and a small size for the vertical rings), and three different colors, you could potentially need to list Six (6) different ring quantities (seven if you count the total of all rings).

  7. Images:

  8. Images are the heart of the inlay pattern article. Without an image to guide the mailler, creating the inlay would be very difficult indeed.

    Every inlay pattern article needs at least one decently detailed image; multiple images may be desired if the desired detail cannot be achieved with a single image.

    There are many ways to create suitable inlay pattern images. Popular techniques up to date have been CAD drawings exported to raster image format, images processed with IGP (Irregular Grid Painter) (Found in Downloads section - Ed.), and predesigned maille grid images colored with image editing applications. For the sake of brevity, I'll leave detailed explorations of these techniques for another article. Rather, I shall move on to a brief treatment of recommended image creation practices. A few simple considerations can really increase the legibility and usefulness of an inlay pattern image. Here are the ones believed to be most important.


  1. Ensuring Adequate Detail

  2. The single most important detail of an inlay pattern image is that each individual ring should be visible and distinguishable one from the other. This means that the image must be high enough resolution to allow this level of detail.

    Keep in mind that legibility of the same image can vary between on screen display and hardcopy print. It is likely that most users will print a hardcopy of the pattern to work with, so it is generally best to create the pattern images with that assumption. In most cases, an image that prints well, will also look good on screen.

  3. Outlining Rings:

  4. The best way to ensure that each individual ring of the pattern image is distinguishable from one another is to outline the rings in contrasting colors. How this is accomplished may vary according to the method used to create the pattern image. This is very easily accomplished using IGP grids, CAD applications, and many image editing applications. 3D rendering applications may need to use shadows to produce a semblance of separation among the rings.

    In some cases, it may be necessary to use colors different than those desired to achieve that outlining effect. For example, say you are creating a pattern image using a predrawn Euro 4 in 1 grid that had black ring outlines, and your inlay pattern requires red, green, and black rings. Clearly the red and green will contrast with the black outlines nicely and create a high quality pattern image; but what of the black rings? Filling the ring outlines with black would merely create a massive black mass in the image. In this case you should use a lighter grey shade to represent the black rings in the pattern. A medium charcoal grey color will contrast with the black ring outlines, but still provide a suitable appearance.

  5. Using Accurate Grids

  6. It is true that there is only so much a person can do when developing an inlay pattern to help the mailler produce a consistent, and accurate product. As an inlay designer, one thing you can, and should do to help maillers ensure the best final product when using your inlay pattern is to use the most accurate weave grid you can.

    Unless the mailler decides to create the inlay as a simple framed art piece, in most cases, the weave will not be stretched out to its fullest size, nor will it be compressed to its smallest dimensions. Ideally, the weave grid used should reflect the way the rings would lie if looked at from the top.

  7. Minimizing File Size

  8. (Ed - JPG/JPEG is now the only picture format that M.A.I.L. articles allow)

    At the time of the writing of this article, the M.A.I.L. website has a 100kB size limit on individual images. Despite this size limit, it is indeed still possible to produce high quality inlay pattern images. You need only consider a few things to do so.

    File fomat may be the most important decision you make in creating a high quality inlay pattern image under 100kB. The most popular image file formats inculde JPG/JPEG, GIF, and PNG. In most cases, the optimum file format will be the PNG (Portable Network Graphics) format. This web page, http://hackles.org/etc/png.html, provides some insight about why the PNG format is superior in many situations. After reading that page, it will be abundantly clear why PNG should be the format of choice for your inlay pattern images.

    The next important action to take is to reduce the color palette of your image to the bare minimum possible. In file formats like PNG, and GIF, the color palette can be optimized so that only the colors used in the image are saved in the file; you may see this referred to as indexing the color palette. This palette optimization can significantly reduce the file size, thus allowing you to have a larger more detailed image. Another space saving setting to look for is interlacing; make sure it is turned off.

    Avoid using reduction tools to downsize images. Most often these tools will interpolate the value of pixels based on adjacent pixels, resulting in an image with a significantly increased color palette, thus increasing file size. If you must reduce the image size, try to do so at initial creation, or reduce the image's color palette, in your image editing application, to the least number of colors possible prior to resizing; this will ensure that the color palette doesn't grow to ridiculous proportions and thus increase the files size beyond accepted limits.

  9. One image, or multiple images?:

  10. The decision to include a single image for the pattern, or to include multiple images is a judgement call. You must judge the quality of the image provided. If the image's detail adequately shows each ring of the pattern, then a single image is likely sufficient.

    If the overall inlay pattern image detail is not sufficient, or even if you're not sure if the detail level is sufficient, it is best to include additional images of portions of the inlay pattern in greater detail, in addition to the overall inlay pattern image. You can provide such detail images as blow-ups of specific elements of the inlay, or as sections of the overall pattern. In either case, the best way to go about creating detailed images is to create the image in the greatest detail possible in your application of choice, then subdivide the image created using an image-editing application.


Bonuses (Optional Information)

If desired, you can include a number of optional items of information in your article. They are generally not necessary, but can help a mailler achieve a specific result. Among the many different items of optional information you could include are:



  1. Aspect Ratio

  2. Depending on the weave for which the inlay is designed, you may desire to recommend certain aspect ratios for the rings. Most often, with European weaves, the aspect ratio (AR) desired will be the smallest possible AR without making the maille impossible to weave. For other more complex weaves, however, certain minimum Aspect ratios may be desired.

  3. Metals/Colors

  4. You can make recommendations of certain metals and colors if desired. Perhaps you know of metal/color combinations that aren't obvious to all, but look particularly good; or conversely, perhaps you know of combinations that don't look good, or don't work so well.

  5. Links

  6. You can, and should whenever possible, include links in your inlay pattern article. In particular if a gallery picture of a finished real version of the inlay exists, you are encouraged to link to that gallery submission to that people can see an example of the finished inlay. Links to other articles, such as weave tutorials, can be very convenient and helpful, especially for less experienced maillers.

    If you provide recommendations for specific metals or colors, you may wish to include links to websites that feature information about those recommendations. For example, you could link to a wire supply website if you are recommended a particularly unusual or rare type of wire; or perhaps provide a link to a site that sells a particular dye (or color thereof) for anodizing rings.

    Perhaps you've saved various bits of information into different file types such as word processor documents, or PDF files, or similar. You can easily provide links to these files also; in this case, however, you need to find some way to have the files hosted on a web server of some kind prior to linking to them.


Finishing Off

As you can see, there is much more to consider, beyond just a simple image of a colored maille grid, when designing a well-rounded inlay pattern article. At the very least, the article should provide the mailler with the pattern, and the minimum amount of information to prepare materials to produce the inlay. More than that though, a great inlay pattern article can be a one-stop reference point providing all the information necessary (be it through the text and images, or links provided) to create a spectacular inlay with a minimum of effort and preparatory work on the mailler's part.
Original URL: http://www.mailleartisans.org/articles/articledisplay.php?key=256