Repeating Patterns in Photoshop (Part 1 Creating a Repeating Pattern)

I love making patterns.  And I love using them to add texture and interest to my illustrations.  Quite a while ago, I posted how to create really quick repeating patterns in Photoshop and also how to create a quick and easy half-drop repeat in Photoshop.

Today’s tutorial is a variation on the same theme.  I’ll show how I create patterns and how I use them in my illustrations.  If you are looking for a simpler tutorial, go back and visit the other two tutorials mentioned above.

For this tutorial I’m using Photoshop CC 2017 but this technique will work with older versions of Photoshop (at least as far back as CS6 and probably even earlier)

I created the pattern above for a backdrop for book themed illustration.  Let me walk you through the process and then you can make patterns of your own.  I’m warning you though, once you start it’s hard to stop!

1. Create a new document the size you want your repeat to be.  For me, I made my document  400 x 400 pixels at 300 dpi.  When printed, my pattern will repeat approximately every 1.3 inches. You can make your pattern document any size as long as the width and height are an even number of pixels.

2. Create a new layer (the default name will be Layer 1) and, using the brush tool, draw something in the middle of this new layer.  Don’t draw to the edges of the document. Make sure there is some white space between your drawing and the edge of the document.  You can use colors but I like to stick with black lines (you will see why in Part 2)

3. So now you should have a totally white background layer and a black line drawing on an layer above it, called Layer 1. Create a duplicate of Layer 1 (In the Layers window open the options and select duplicate layer)

4. Now you should have 3 layers in your file, Background, Layer 1 and Layer 1 copy.  Hide Layer 1 for now (click on the eyeball next to Layer 1  to hide it) It will be easier to see what is happening in the next step if you are only looking at Background and Layer 1 copy.

5. Make sure Layer 1 copy is the active layer. In the top menu click on Filter — Other — Offest… Using the offset filter is my trick for making patterns repeat seamlessl

Here is what the Offset dialog box looks like…

Set the Horizontal Offset to one half of the total width of your image.   My image was 400 pixels wide so I set it to +200.  And set the Vertical offset to one half the total height.  Again my image was 400 tall so I set it to +200.   (Remember when I said to make your document height and width and even number of pixels?  This is why.)

Also make sure you check “Wrap Around” and then click OK.

By doing this, we effectively moved the book image to the corners of the document and it will repeat perfectly. Neat huh?

5. Now reveal Layer 1 again (click on the square next to the layer name to make the eyeball reappear.)  Now I could leave it this way and I would have a seamless repeating pattern.
All I have to do is go the top menu and click Select — All and then Edit — Define Pattern…  Name it something meaningful and TA DA! I created a repeating pattern.
To test it, I created a new test document that is between 2 and 3 times larger than the original pattern document.  I made mine 900 x 900 pixels because, as you recall, my pattern document is 400 x 400 pixels.  The test document has to be larger than the pattern so you can see if it’s repeating properly.
In the new test document, I clicked Select — All and then Edit — Fill.  In the Fill dialog box I selected Contents to be Pattern and clicked the drop down in Custom Patterns to find my new pattern and hit OK.  
This is what the pattern looks like: 
This works but I don’t like how the books are touching.  To fix this, I went back to the original pattern document and altered Layer 1.  I rotated the book image on Layer 1 and moved it down slightly so it fit the space better.  Just as long as I don’t touch the edges of the document, the pattern will still repeat seamlessly.

In fact, you could get even more creative.  You don’t have to keep Layer 1 and Layer 1 copy the same image.  You could get rid of the book on Layer 1 and drawing something completely different.  Just make sure your drawing doesn’t touch the edges of the document and you are good to go.
Have fun with it!  Next week in part 2, I’ll share how I add color to patterns and in Part 3 I’ll show you how I incorporate the patterns I create into my illustrations.