How to Create Patterns in Photoshop

With anything from plain dots to ornate tigers, patterns always add a decorative flair. We’ve come up with a step-by-step guide for creating seamless and halftone patterns in Photoshop.

So many things look a whole lot better with a repeat pattern on them – think of birthday presents covered up all pretty in celebratory gift wrap, or of geometric ceramic tiles that make your kitchen all the more cozier. There’s something comforting in an illustration that repeats itself an infinite number of times, which is why we love patterns so much. The guide below is a step-by-step manual for creating two types of patterns in Adobe Photoshop – a seamless pattern and a halftone pattern – for all of your digital illustration needs.

How to create a seamless pattern

When a seamless pattern is really good, it’s hard to figure out where the illustration begins and ends, even after serious inspection. This kind of pattern seems to blur out the borders of its tiles, allowing it to magically repeat itself in beautiful harmony. In order to achieve this look, you should first draw all components you’d like to include in a separate Photoshop file. Then, you’ll need to rearrange them in a way that feels infinite. How? The trick here is to add elements at the corners and around the border to conceal and almost eliminate the square shape of the tile. Here’s how to do it right:

Start by drawing all elements you’d like your pattern to include, in a separate file.

1. Open a new high-resolution Photoshop file in square dimensions. We recommend 2000 x 2000 px and 300 dpi.

2. Place one of the elements you’ve created in the center of the file.

3. Go to Filter > Other > Offset. Then, offset your design to half of the file size, both

horizontally and vertically (This means that if your canvas size is 2000 x 2000 px, you should offset the image by 1000 px horizontally and another 1000 px vertically.) This will result in your image appearing in all four corners of your canvas size – divided by four.

4. Add another element and place it in the middle of your canvas. This time, go to Filter > Other > Offset. But, offset by only 1000 px horizontally and 0 px vertically. This will result in one image divided into two.

5. Place a third element at the center. Then, once again, go to Filter > Other > Offset, and offset it the other way around – this time by 1000 px vertically and 0 px horizontally.

6. Repeat steps four and five with additional images, if desired. But, don’t use up all of your elements just yet – leave some for the middle of the tile, too.

7. Now that you’ve taken such good care of the border and corners, add your remaining elements in the central part of the tile design. Arrange them in a way that works well with the shapes around the border. Keep in mind the spacing between the elements as well as the negative space.

Patterns are made up of a square tile that repeat itself many times. Add elements around the border in order to blur out the square shape of the tile and make your pattern appear seamless.

8. Your tile is now ready to implement! For it to become a pattern, first remove the background color to make it transparent.

9. Then go to Edit > Define Pattern. You can name the pattern you’ve created, then press ‘OK.’

10. Go to Layer > New fill layer > Pattern, or click on the ‘Create new fill or adjustment layer’ icon (the black and white circle) at the bottom of the Layers panel. Choose the pattern you’ve just created. You can also adjust its scale, meaning the size of the repeating panel.

There you go! You’ve created a seamless illustration pattern. Although you might need to go back and adjust the sizes, composition and spacing based on the outcome, for you to ultimately achieve something that you’re happy with.

How to create a halftone pattern

Developed for printing in the 19th century and carried on to modern day commercial printing, halftoning is a method that separates complex imagery into a grid of small dots to ease the printing procedure. We’ve gotten so accustomed to the visuals of the halftone or raster look, that reproducing this effect digitally, for nothing more than aesthetic reasons, can bring about a beautifully nostalgic vibe. You can create a halftone pattern with the traditional dots, but it can also be done with plus signs, crosses or any other shape of your liking.

Creating a halftone pattern in Photoshop is super easy, here’s how to do it in six simple steps:

Halftone patterns can be created with any shape you’d like, from the traditional dots to plus or cross signs.

1. Open a new high-resolution Photoshop file in square dimensions. We recommend 400 x 400 px and 300 dpi.

2. Divide the canvas in four by dropping two guides, one in the middle of the X-axis and one in the middle of the Y-axis.

3. In a new layer, draw two circles – or whatever shape you have in mind – on two opposing quarters of your canvas. We recommend drawing the two shapes by hand to make your pattern looser. You can also play with the sizes of your shapes to make your pattern denser or more spaced out.

Draw two shapes on opposing quarters of your canvas.

4. Remove the background color so that it becomes transparent.

5. Select the layer you’ve created your two shapes on, and Edit > Define Pattern. You can give your pattern a name, and press ‘OK.’ And voilà – you’re done!

6. To apply the pattern, go to Layer > New fill layer > Pattern, or click on the ‘Create new fill or adjustment layer’ icon (the black and white circle) at the bottom of the Layers panel, and choose the pattern you’ve just created.

For more professional illustration tips, check out our complete how-to guide for digital illustration.

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