Thursday, 11 April 2013

Repeating Patterns for Painters #2

Last time, we looked at examples of the various categories of repeating patterns -

It’s not usually at all difficult to sort patterns into these categories. 

But there are other ways of grouping patterns that may not be as easy to see at a glance. One way is to look for the way the motif is repeated. Sometimes it’s easy to see how the repeat has been worked out. Other times you really have to search for the repeat. And making a repeating pattern like that requires a certain amount of skill and practice.

So what are the main ways of organising the repeats?

There are Block repeats, Half-drop repeats, Brick, Diamond, Ogee, Mirror and Tossed repeats . . . And the simplest of these is the BLOCK repeat.

A BLOCK repeat is made by positioning the motifs side by side and directly above and below one another.

It can lead to a very regular, regimented, even, effect and works well with geometric patterns. You can make a simple Block repeat quite successfully by dragging your motifs across to the work area manually but using Photoshop's 'Define Pattern' button will ensure greater accuracy and probably saves a lot of time in the long run.

The BLOCK repeat arrangement can also be used for the most complex patterns and this is where many hand-painted designs are likely to feature.

Whether your motif is simple or more complex, the method for making a BLOCK repeat is the same. But when your pattern is more complex, there will be some additional steps at the end.

So we’ll begin with preparation instructions that will apply to all types of repeats –


1. Scan your motif and clean/tidy it, using either the eraser or a paintbrush with your background colour (often white).

2. Make the background transparent: making sure that the layer is unlocked, use the Magic Wand to define the background area. (If there are light colours in your pattern, make sure the Tolerance of the Magic Wand is set low enough that it doesn’t select the pale colours as well as the white background!) 

Press Delete – this should give you a transparent background which appears as a chequerboard effect.

3. Adjust the size of the ‘tile’ if necessary.

4. Save either as a .png or a .psd and name it as xxxxx _tile.



1. With your saved ‘tile’ file open, click on Edit > Define Pattern. You can give the pattern a name when the dialogue box appears or simply let Photoshop name it for you with something like Pattern 45.

2. Open a new, much bigger file, at least four times as big as your ‘tile’.  Click on Edit > Fill. Choose the pattern you just defined: > OK

And, as if by magic, you should have a ‘sheet’ of repeating patterns.

HOT TIP! I filled the background with green before I added the rabbits as I've found from experience that it comes out more even that way.

2. A MORE COMPLEX BLOCK REPEAT – where the pattern fills most of the ‘tile’. 

This is the 'tile' for the pattern below

For this we need the help of the very clever

1. Prepare your ‘tile’ as steps 1 – 4 above.

2. Image > Image Size: write down the dimensions of your tile in pixels. Close Image Size.

3. Go to Filter > Other >Offset, make sure that ‘wrap around’ is ticked.

4. Halve the dimensions that you wrote down and enter them in the appropriate boxes > OK

5. What you will see are the horizontal and vertical seams as they will be when you repeat your tile and they will probably look an awful mess, something like this:

Now you need to spend some time tidying up the seams. There are various ways to do this:

a) Use the clone stamp and/or smudge tool and I’ve read that in CS4 ff. the ‘Content Aware’ fill is useful for this task.

b) Prepare some small individual motifs on a transparent background and ‘place’ them at intervals over the seam to hide the join.

6. When you are happy with your repairs, use the Offset Filter again to check them and if necessary, repeat steps 3 –5 until you are satisfied.

7. Layer > Flatten.

8. Steps 3 – 4 as above, in PREPARATION

9. Repeat Steps 1 – 2 above, in SIMPLE BLOCK REPEAT.

When I made this pattern, I didn't really know how to repair
the seams and you can still see faint lines where the tiles joined.

Good luck - and don't forget, if you have any difficulties following these instructions, please say so in the comments and I will try to find a solution for you!

Happy Pattern-making!

to download a .pdf of this post, 
condensed into 4 pages
 in case you want to print it out.

10 comments: said...

What a fantastic tutorial Judy. As soon as I have some extra time I am going to try this. :-)

Judy Adamson said...

Thank you, Crystal - but if you try, be aware that you might easily become addicted!

Sue Brown said...

Thanks Judy - great tutorial :)

Judy Adamson said...

Thank you, Sue - I hope it all makes sense :)



I just like your tutorials. I would like to learn baroque patterns with photoshop from u. Pls Ma'm Can you update a tutorial regarding this?

thanks and rgds
srishti pattern

Judy Adamson said...

Hi - I'm glad you like my tutorials but I'm afraid I don't know anything about baroque patterns. However I should think you can follow my intsructions for whatever era of patterns you wish.

Inkflo Chez Inkflo said...

Such a great tutorial Judy. I've never really "got" making a pattern, but I think this was so easy to understand that I'm going to try again. Thank you for taking the time to explain it so clearly.

Judy Adamson said...

Thank you, Inkflo - have fun with it and if you get stuck, just get in touch. If I can't solve your problem, I probably know someone who can! :D

cheryl hall said...

Nice work Judy. Cute bunnies! I use PSP even though I do have PS I learned PSP first and stuck with it but I do know how to do this with PSP so I will give it a go because it looks fun. What do you do/use your patterns for?


Judy Adamson said...

Hi Cheryl - thank you very much for stopping by. Good luck with PSP - I used to use but I had to get PS for the course I took last winter and I'm still learning to use it!

I use my patterns mostly in my Posh & Painterly Zazzle store: