Where and how to get markers printed

If you don’t know yet, a marker is a tracing of all the pattern pieces needed to cut out a given style. The pattern pieces are either traced out by hand or printed with a plotter. The fabric is laid out, the marker laid over it and the cutter uses the lines to cut out the pieces. If you need more information, there’s a detailed section in my book (pgs 114-120) that explains what they are, how to figure out how much fabric you need and how to make your own. I will include links of other articles I’ve published on markers at close. Below is a photo of what a marker for a tie looks like on a computer screen.

And below (courtesy), is a photo of a marker being cut.

Today’s entry was inspired by a question via email. Previously I didn’t think it would be a worthwhile topic to write about being what I thought was a minimal issue but if I’ve gotten this question several times, I should probably write about it. I never know what you don’t know or what interests you. Suzy writes:

Can you recommend a marker maker? I need a more efficient cutting process. My contractor is making hardboard patterns from the CAD pattern print outs and then tracing those onto paper. The layout isn’t optimized with some wastage and grain lines aren’t always transfered as they should be. The other problem is obviously time, it takes much too long and they could actually spend that time taking on more of my work if they didn’t have to make the markers.

Anyway, I need to find someone quickly that can accept e-mailed Gerber pattern files, make the marker and print that for me. I do want to stress my contractor is working hard to get it right but my pattern maker and I agree that having the markers sent to me that they can just cut is going to be the best option. They have an amazing facility, extremely clean, and well staffed. They’re actually set up to do products dissimilar to mine and are trying to learn what I need so this solution may actually be a relief to them.

First of all, there’s several pieces of information Suzy included in her description that are critical if you’re looking for a similar solution. We need to know:

  • Do you have patterns? Don’t laugh, I’ve had many people want to order markers and they didn’t have patterns yet.
  • What is the format of your patterns? Hard copy or CAD? Hard copy patterns will need to be shipped to someone to be digitized.
  • If CAD, what is the software used? Suzy says hers are Gerber.
  • Details about your contractor’s facility (see pgs 133-137, How to hire a sewing contractor). Marker length depends on their table length.

Anyway, because she included all the information I needed, I knew she needed someone with an over sized (60″-72″) plotter who can print Gerber files. One of the things I do when someone joins as a member, is do a survey of their skills and capacity so I keep a tally of who’s got what equipment and what software. Suzy’s pattern maker has a 36″ plotter, not nearly wide enough although it can be taped together. In this case, she had three options. One is Kinkos, some have oversized plotters, you have to call around to find out and then your pattern maker will have to send the CAD file electronically in a certain file format that a generic plotter can read. Among garment industry service providers, I had two names for her. One is in the Southwest, she runs Gerber software and prints lots of markers. Another service provider I know in Los Angeles doesn’t run Gerber natively but I know that a lot of their business is actually file conversions so they have every kind of CAD software import and export utilities -along with the large over sized plotters.

In a case such as this, the costs are pretty minimal. The patterns are already made and graded so the only work is making the marker itself. Of the whole process, patterns to grading to marker making, the latter is the lowest cost. An additional benefit is keeping a copy of your marker file at the service provider because they can print them out on demand and ship them out. Any marker service ships a lot of markers, it is very common.

Previous entries that may be useful:
Marker questions and costs
Pet Peeve: Cutters and Mixed Markers
Lessons in calculating fabric use & pattern engineering
There’s quite a lot in the forum too; see the pattern and grading section.

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  1. Jimmy Hudson says:

    Another beautiful post. I feel like a kid in candy store.
    I have learned so much in the past couple of weeks
    just by being able to see and hear everyone on this site.

  2. Leslie Hanes says:

    I had no idea what a marker was, when I did my first factory cut and sew. We had always cut our towels by hand (stacking fabric, yes, but using chalk marks we measured, then cutting with knife)
    When I was asked where I wanted to get markers made, I was clueless. Why would my cutter need a marker to cut a towel that was square? But, he was gentle with me…didn’t even call me a dumb blonde. No marker-no cutting. Not like the 1800’s I guess!

    Oh, the things I didn’t (still don’t) know!


  3. Beth Laske-Miller says:

    I have found that very few Kinkos have even a 36″ plotter, and are not generally very knowledgeable about how to use it. You almost have to get in there and show them how to do it. It is a cost-effective option, however. I also had an issue with Kinkos where the software that they ran my files through automatically scaled the pattern down slightly for no discernible reason. Yikes! Nightmare of wasted money and materials until the error was realized. So, until I got my own plotter (36″), I worked out a deal with a local architectural engineering firm who would let me use their plotter at a very reasonable hourly rate, plus I brought my own paper (and occasional treats, coffee, etc . . .). They truly understood the need for pages to be printed in the correct scale. It’s always possible to come up with a non-traditional solution :)

  4. Leslie Hanes says:

    I was at a yard sale recently and a house builder was selling a plotter fairly cheap…he used to have his own house plans done but doesn’t bother now. Is this the same type plotter that is used for patterns? Are old ones worth getting? It’s probably a little over 10 years old, I could tell because the cord had a parallel port for the computer instead of usb. If it’s worthwhile,
    I will post details about price. I know he paid thousands of dollars and wanted only a few hundred, but shipping is always a problem.

  5. Dana says:

    Kathleen (or someone else who wants to chime in), perhaps we could take this a little deeper so that we all can broaden our technical language.

    A few more questions: In addition to Gerber, what other CAD programs are commonly used? Is there any program that is more common than others and thus has a wider audience? Or is this a file type issue vs a specific software? What questions do we need to ask of firms that we hire to do our patterns, grading, markers so that we are certain of compatibility when sending electronic files?

    A couple of operational questions are mentioned above and in the book such as pattern format (hard or CAD), table length, cuttable fabric width, matching issues, plotter size, but to take if from there a few more bits of info would be helpful. How about a mini checklist to add to the subject?

  6. carissa says:

    the candy store comment is correct, Kathleen does a great job giving us lots of juicy information.

    here in dallas is a great company – G&M services, inc., in fact in Kathleen’s book she refers to their predecessors. by predecessors i mean companies they have merged together to now have G&M. when i pick up our things i see that they mail markers all over the nation.

  7. Boaz says:


    My designer uses Optitex and my sewing contractor in a different country, uses Gerber. The simplest solution is for my designer to prepare the marker in Optitex and then email it to someone who can print it in Los Angeles, where my sewing contractor is.

    Can you recommend a printer who can open Optitex files and print them on a plotter at least 60″ wide (1.5m).

    Also looking for an employee with sports clothing industry experience in the South LA/Torrance area, Full or Part time. Administration/sourcing/sales/client liason etc….a multi-tasker who is not afraid of learning or trying new things. Our brand is very established in Latin America and is now launching in North America, based in South LA.

  8. Boaz: KJ Marking and Grading uses Optitex and can also work with Gerber files. Her plotting services are very reasonable and she can plot I believe up to 61″. Karol is at 9th and Santee in the Fashion District.

  9. Youcef says:

    When I use a virtual printer like dopdf,I can not print more than 327.61cm on my marker “optitex” how can I print my whole pattern? Is there any other virtual printer that I should use? Thanks

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