You are looking at archived content. The hot new stuff is happening at Veerle's blog 3.0. You should check it out!

Jul 31

Creating patterns in Photoshop CS2

2006 at 02.19 am posted by Veerle Pieters

Have you ever wondered how you create a seamless pattern in Photoshop? It’s easy and it’s fun. Let me show you how…

Step 1 - Create a Color Fill

Creating patterns in Photoshop CS2 - step 1

First of all create a vector illustration in Illustrator CS2. It might be just a simple dot or circle. Copy this object. Go to Photoshop and create a new document of 300 by 300 pixels. Select the Rectangle Selection Tool from the Toolbox and drag a squared selection (hold down shift) in the center of the document. Leave enough space around the square. Click on the Create New Fill or Adjustment Layer in the Layer's Palette and select Solid Color. Select a color you like and click OK.

Step 2 - Paste your Illustrator object

Creating patterns in Photoshop CS2 - step 2

Paste your Illustrator object. Select Smart Object in the Paste options. In the View menu, make sure that Smart Guides are active (Show > Smart Guides). Snap and Snap to Layers should also be checked.

Step 3 - Place your object over the border

Creating patterns in Photoshop CS2 - step 3

Drag your object over the border of the Color Fill. If you see the Smart Guide and feel the object 'snapping', release the object.

Step 4 - Drag a 2nd object on the other side of the border

Creating patterns in Photoshop CS2 - step 4

Duplicate the layer (drag the layer in the Layer's Palette onto the Create New Layer icon). Now drag the object over the bottom border of the Color Fill holding down the shift key. Again, when you feel the Snap effect release your mouse.

Step 5 - Drag other objects on the other side of Color Fill borders

Creating patterns in Photoshop CS2 - step 5

Repeat step 3 and 4 for the left and right side of the Color Fill.

Step 6 - Fill up the 4 borders of the Color Fill

Creating patterns in Photoshop CS2 - step 6

Make sure the border of the color fill is nicely filled. Play around with the shape by transforming it (command/control + t) and using different Layer transparency values. Just make sure that each shape on either side is still the same, so that in the end the pattern will match seamlessly.

Step 7 - Fill up the middle of the Color Fill

Creating patterns in Photoshop CS2 - step 7

Now fill up the middle of the Color Fill. Make sure you have enough variation. You might need to turn off Snap and Smart Guides. Once you're finished, click on the Layer Mask of the Color Fill Layer in the Layer's Palette holding down the command/control key. The Color Fill is now selected. Go to the Edit menu, select Define Pattern and give your pattern a name. If the option is greyed out, you just need to select another layer. Now do the test by creating a new document (make sure it's big enough to see the effect), hit command/control + a and go to Edit > Fill and select your pattern.

Step 8 - Play around and experiment

Creating patterns in Photoshop CS2 - example patterns

As you can see, my example with the flower is rather flashy. Because we've used Smart Objects, we can change the pattern in a rather quick way. Double click the Smart Object icon on one of the Layers. This will open the object in Illustrator. Now change the shape into something else, use other colors etc. Save it and close the document. Go back to Photoshop and you'll see that all Smart Objects will change to the new one. Change the color of the Color Fill. Go to Edit > Define Pattern and save your new pattern. Create as much patterns as you like, all in a rather fast and smart way :)

See? This is fun. Still, make sure to use patterns like the one I made here with caution, don't overload your design, make sure there is enough breathing space. Otherwise it could be too flashy and playful... unless that's exactly what you are looking for of course.

Want to learn more?

VECTORTUTS+ Vector Tutorials and More A good and not expensive source to learn more about Illustrator, Photoshop, or web design is by joining the Tuts+ sites. You get access to the source files for just $9 a month. So your ONE membership gives you access to members-only content for ALL the Plus sites. I've written a tutorial for the Vector Tuts section.




permalink this comment Kalle Mon Jul 31, 2006 at 02.49 am

Awesome tutorial! These functions aren’t in CS1 so I’d better get CS2. Actually, I haven’t even tried the CS2 bundle. Are Photoshop and Illustrator meant to be working side by side alot in the CS2 bundle, like you just did? Cheers!



permalink this comment Raanan Avidor Mon Jul 31, 2006 at 03.00 am

Great post!
For the first time I grokked how to create a pattern.



permalink this comment Pat Mon Jul 31, 2006 at 03.10 am

I actually use another technique to avoid bothering myself in order to align the different elements so they align perfectly when used as a pattern. The technique is the following:

1. create your document in Photoshop (e.g., 300 x 300 pixels)
2. copy some of your pattern object (in your exemple, your nice logo) over the document
3. go to Filter -> Other -> Offset
4. offset by an certain amount of pixels (e.g., 100 pixels) but be sure to choose the “wrap around” option.
5. repeat steps 2 to 4 until you’re satisfied with your pattern ;-)

Moreover, that technique enables you to create non-symmetrical patterns! I hope this tip is useful…



permalink this comment Matt Johnson Mon Jul 31, 2006 at 03.27 am

Ah, I have always wondered about how to make these, and though I can’t say I followed your tutorial step-by-step, the pattern-howto07.gif image showed me everything I needed to know.

Simple, yet “duh”.  Love it!

@Pat - I like your offset idea also, good find.



permalink this comment raZna Mon Jul 31, 2006 at 05.00 am

i’ve never made a pattern in photoshop, but i think i’m using your “offset technique” when creating loops in animations :)



permalink this comment Fird Mon Jul 31, 2006 at 06.54 am

Oh lovely tutorial, previously how I create seamless pattern is to mirror the image sideways (i.e, add another reflected version of the image to the side of it), and then add another reflection of the whole thing to the bottom of it.

I always ended up with reflectionish patterns, haha.

Thanks for the guide Veerle!



permalink this comment Ramon Bispo Mon Jul 31, 2006 at 08.00 am

Very usefull, Veerle!




permalink this comment Denis Mon Jul 31, 2006 at 09.29 am

Great post! I was wondering how to do it for some time so this will be very useful. Thanks!



permalink this comment Paul R. Redmond Mon Jul 31, 2006 at 10.27 am


Illustrator was definately made to work side-by-side with Photoshop CS2. Just make sure you have plenty of processing to run them both.



permalink this comment fatihturan Mon Jul 31, 2006 at 11.04 am

very nice tutorial. thanks veerle.



permalink this comment Bart Mon Jul 31, 2006 at 02.20 pm

As a regular visitor of your blog I hereby post my first comment ;-)

It’s a very good but still simple tutorial on how to create patterns. For a graphics n00b like me this is really helpful!



permalink this comment TipClique Tutorials - Drixer Mon Jul 31, 2006 at 03.00 pm

Thanks for the great tutorial Veerle, I have added a link from my tutorial site.



permalink this comment tuffijana Mon Jul 31, 2006 at 04.00 pm

hi veerle,
don’t know how i found your blog at least, but i love reading here. lot of inspiration and information - even though i have nearly the same job, i am so less talented in designing my own page and folio.
but after visiting your blog a few times, ideas came to me.
and now i am so undecided, to choose the rigth one *grmpfh*...
best wishes to you and your work,



permalink this comment Ksauce Mon Jul 31, 2006 at 10.25 pm

I have always had trouble with patterns it seems so simple now. Thanks.



permalink this comment Phil Balchin Tue Aug 1, 2006 at 04.00 am

The “Offset Method” is great as well if you want to use a photo as your pattern, e.g a brick wall. After offsetting, use the clone tool to remove the edges.



permalink this comment Thomas Edwards Tue Aug 1, 2006 at 06.30 pm

Brilliant! Never commented before, but this tutorial is so simple, just had to say thank you!

Better start saving for CS2…



permalink this comment carl Wed Aug 2, 2006 at 04.16 am

Fantastic tutorial. I’m going to post a link to it over at kirupa.

One thing Veerle, I wonder if there is a way to make something like this with a grunge background. That has always had me beat.



permalink this comment Grood Wed Aug 2, 2006 at 07.27 am

This tutorial was made in Adobe® Photoshop® CS2. It can be done in most earlier versions as well.

Hello there! How are you doing? Good? Good. So, I see you want to learn how to make perfect pixel patterns every time, huh? Well, you came to the right place! In this tutorial, I will show you how make seamless pixel patterns using Photoshop’s Pencil Tool and a little bit of imagination!

The first step is to, obviously, open up Photoshop.

Now, the next step is to create a new document with a transparent background sized 25px by 25 px. Why so small? Because this will only be one fourth of the final pattern.


Once created, you’re going to wan’t to zoom in all the way so that you can see what you’re doing. To do this, simply hold down the Ctrl key and tap the + key repeatedly until it won’t let you zoom in anymore. This should be 1600%. You can also use the Zoom Tool (Z), but you should really become acquainted with hotkeys as they save a lot of time and effort (because moving your hand from the keyboard to the mouse is just sooooo hard :-) ).See more



permalink this comment Ron Domingue Wed Aug 2, 2006 at 12.28 pm

This is a great tutorial. I see you used smart objects, is there any way to create the same results in Adobe Illustrator?

I like to be able to save my pattern swatches. The offsets are sometimes a pain to match up. Although I suppose I can just use the Photoshop way as long as you keep your smart objects file but I love to have a vector version in Illustrator.



permalink this comment jimy Thu Aug 3, 2006 at 06.37 am

Veerle, great step-by-step post (:
Tnx u



permalink this comment Dave Thu Aug 3, 2006 at 08.35 am

Great Tutorial! I’ve always wondered how that works. Thanks.

BTW - The Preview button is not working.. =)



permalink this comment WhereIsThatDeafGuy Fri Aug 4, 2006 at 06.29 am

Well, it’s time for me to “de-lurk” and start meeting people. :) Just wanted to say “thank you” for an awesome tutorial!

It helps, as well as your other tutorials, to improve my limited design. :)

Keep up the good work!



permalink this comment Kishore Sat Aug 5, 2006 at 07.53 am

Thanks. As always, a detailed, well guided tutorial.



permalink this comment René Kleizen Sun Aug 6, 2006 at 04.57 pm

nice post



permalink this comment Kamil Mon Aug 7, 2006 at 10.31 am

Oh, Interesting tutorial! It’s really easy and fun. Now I should try to make it.



permalink this comment Veerle Tue Aug 8, 2006 at 04.24 am

Glad you enjoyed my tutorial :)

Kalle said:

Are Photoshop and Illustrator meant to be working side by side alot in the CS2 bundle, like you just did?

It’s like Paul R. Redmond said indeed;)

@Pat: Hey thanks for the alternative technique! I knew there were other ways, but didn’t know exactly how. Thanks a lot for sharing this. I’ll try this out. :)

Ron Domingue said:

I see you used smart objects, is there any way to create the same results in Adobe Illustrator?

I haven’t tried this yet, I don’t really know. I guess if you save the icon you use in the pattern as a symbol (drag it into the Symbol’s palette) and you change that symbol, the pattern will change and you can save each new version as a new pattern ;) I’m just not sure if the snapping works that great as in Photoshop, I think it works differently even with Smart Guides on. Also I’m not sure about the square (background), how this works in Illustrator. Guess I (or you?) should check this out and experiment ;)



permalink this comment Rena Wed Aug 9, 2006 at 04.58 am

OK… this one has gotten me to de-lurk!

Thanks for sharing Veerle… this has demystified a design challenge I’ve been meaning to tackle for awhile. Can’t wait to try it out.



permalink this comment Antonio Sun Aug 27, 2006 at 08.45 pm

Great! Thanks for this Post. It has been really useful to me. Hugs from Germany!

Commenting is not available in this weblog entry.


buy something from my Amazon wishlist