Patterns have been around since the early years of web design, but they’re much smoother and less pixelated than in the past. A pattern is a tiled image, repeated over and over again until it fills the screen. Patterns can be geometric, stamps, textures and so on. They’re created in Photoshop utilizing tools such as patch tools and healing brush. If you’re a designer and haven’t tried your hand at pattern design yet, you may be wondering exactly how to make a pattern in Photoshop.
More than 90 percent of creative professionals around the globe use Photoshop in their designs. When it comes to creating a pattern design, Photoshop is the obvious choice. While there’s a handful of other software options out there, for the purposes of this article, the focus will be on how to make a pattern in Photoshop and wow your audience.
Patterns are all around us in nature, which may be why users respond to them. Think about the petals on a flower, the lines in a leaf or the honeycomb in a beehive. These repeating arrangements are familiar and comforting but can also be used to grab user attention or make a statement.
There are a few ways to make a pattern in Photoshop, depending on the final design you’re going for. Here are some of the best options:
1. Use Layers
One technique for how to make a pattern in Photoshop is through the Layers tool. Gather the elements you want to use in your pattern, such as different butterflies. Here’s the process of creating a pattern with three layers:
- Go to the layers panel and choose Filter>Other>Offset.
- Your settings for vertical and horizontal should be half of the width and height of your square. If your square is 300 x 300 pixels, set the parameters to 150 x 150 pixels.
- Add another layer with a different butterfly. Keep in mind that you want to place elements in different locations within the square so that they don’t overlap too much. Select Filter>Other>Offset and go through the process again, placing your image/icons where you want them to appear. Set the horizontal to zero.
- Add a third layer with your final butterfly. This time, set the vertical to zero.
- Merge the layers by selecting all the layers except Background, then hit Ctrl and E at the same time.
- File>Select All and then go to Edit>Define Pattern. Save your pattern where you’ll find it easily.
Using the layers tool is a great way of adding several similar elements to build a unique background for your design.
2. Try Rectangle Marquee
Another method some designers use to make a pattern in Photoshop is pulling up the Rectangle Marquee tool. Creating a custom pattern is as easy as utilizing the preset Photoshop patterns and tweaking them with your own image. Open the image you plan to work with, then:
- Use the Rectangle Marquee tool and choose the part of the image you’d like to use as your pattern.
- Navigate to Edit>Define Pattern and name your pattern.
- Open another image and choose Edit>Fill. Choose “Pattern” from Contents in the dropdown menu. Click on the pattern you saved in step one and apply it.
- Try out different blending modes for your pattern until you find the one that’s perfect for your project.
- Save your pattern.
Using the marquee tool along with Photoshop presets is a fast way of creating a unique pattern. Experimenting with blends may take a bit longer, but it’s well worth the added effort.
3. Hand Draw a Pattern
If you want a truly custom look, combine your drawing ability (or a hired illustrator’s) with Photoshop paint tools and create a pattern unlike any other:
- Draw the pattern digitally and upload the design in Photoshop.
- Enable the Paint Bucket tool and add splashes of color as makes sense for your design. If you want a muted design, use transparency and fade the hues a bit. Alternately, you can use any of the brush tools for a painted or colored pencil look.
- For print projects, you may just save a full page design. For online use, you’ll want to create a tiled pattern and perhaps utilize layers for a smaller file size.
Hand-drawn images work well for companies catering to the younger crowd. They show that the company is fun and young, attracting interest with their uniqueness.
4. Paint With a Pattern Tool
Another option for creating a stamped pattern is utilizing Photoshop’s Pattern Stamp tool.
- Go to the Enhance section in your toolbox and choose the Pattern Stamp Tool (the icon looks like a small stamp).
- A pattern pop-up panel should appear. Choose a pattern — you can use any presets you’ve uploaded to the library too.
- Set the pattern stamp tool as desired, defining the brush tip, size of brush, opacity, blending (mode) and alignment of the pattern (uniform or contiguous).
You can also drag an image into the screen and apply the pattern on top of it. The Pattern tool is a simple way of creating a quick, stamped pattern design.
5. Try Pattern Maker
Although the methods above for how to make a pattern in Photoshop are more common, you can also utilize Photoshop’s Pattern Maker filter. Pattern maker is a plug-in you’ll need to download. Then:
- Open an image you want to use as the base of your pattern.
- Make a rectangular selection and then go to Edit>Copy.
- Add a layer with the same dimensions you want your finished pattern image to have.
- Next, navigate to Filter>Pattern Maker. You already copied your image, so now you want to choose “Use Clipboard As Sample.”
- Move the marquee tool or broken lined box to choose the area you want for your pattern.
- Choose a tile size in pixels and click “Generate.” If you don’t care for the pattern, you can continue clicking “Generate” until you find one you like and tweak it to match your preferences.
Pattern Maker offers a quick filtering option generating random tiling patterns. It’s a good option for those just beginning to design patterns.
Create Beautiful Patterns
A seamless, unique pattern is the perfect background for a website or element in other design projects. Take the time to create a pattern in Photoshop, and you’ll likely find many additional uses for the file. Photoshop offers filters and add-ons to accomplish almost any pattern appearance you desire.
About The Author
Eleanor Hecks is the Editor-in-Chief of Designerly Magazine, an online publication dedicated to providing in-depth content from the design and marketing industries. When she's not designing or writing code, you can find her re-reading the Harry Potter series, burning calories at a local Zumba class, or hanging out with her dogs, Bear and Lucy.