I’m often asked about my design process. Both my illustrations and pattern designs start life as black and white pen and ink drawings - I generally only work in colour in my sketchbook. One of the reasons for this is to make my life easier when designing patterns! It also means I can tweak and recolour designs easily without having to recreate the original drawing.
I recently taught my students how to make simple repeat patterns using Photoshop and it’s been suggested that I share my method here. The tutorial below is based upon a combination of the versions of Photoshop and Photoshop Elements which I have access to in my studio and at college, but the terminology is the same regardless of the version you have - if you can’t find something I’ve discovered that a quick Google search will provide the answer!
In order to start this tutorial you will need to scan your original artwork (preferably this will be black and white). Aim to save every motif in your design as a separate .jpg file - this will give you a lot more freedom when it comes to placing your motifs and playing around with the arrangement.
Making a Simple Pattern
1. Open the chosen motif in Photoshop. Use the Background Eraser tool to delete the background. Save as a .psd file.
2. Create a new blank document the size of the repeat (aim for at least 2000px wide – at 300dpi (or higher if you intend to enlarge the image) and in colour. Return to the motif file, select all and then go to edit/copy merged and paste this copy into the new file.
3. To make the motif smaller select it then go to edit/transform/scale. Always start with the image at the largest size – if you make it larger than the original it may appear pixelated.
4. To copy a motif, select it from the layers menu on the right, right click and select duplicate layer. Once this layer is selected you can move it around using the move tool.
5. When satisfied with the arrangement the motifs can be coloured, and straight, brick or half drop repeats created in a new file by copying and pasting the pattern tile.
To Create a Seamless Repeat
1. Starting as before, make a note of the size of the new file (i.e. 2000px square) then arrange your motifs in the centre of the box.
2. Go to the filter menu and select the offset filter. Set the vertical offset to half the image size (so if it’s 2000px this will be 1000px) and the horizontal offset to 0. Ensure that the wrap around option at the bottom is selected then click “OK”. This will split the image leaving a gap in the middle.
3. Fill in the middle section with more motifs or rearranging the existing ones.
4. Return to the offset filter and set the horizontal offset to half the image size and the vertical offset to 0 (again ensuring that the wrap around option is selected) – once again fill in the gaps.
5. Keep applying and reapplying the offset filters, if necessary, to check for any remaining gaps in the pattern. Once satisfied return both offset filters to 0. The pattern will now repeat seamlessly however the offset is set.
6. Test the appearance of the repeat by creating a new file and copying and pasting the pattern tile in.
If you have any tips or encounter any difficulties using this tutorial please contact me. Look out for a second post in which I will show you how to add and change colours in your pattern design.