Create a repeat pattern in Adobe Photoshop with Rachel

Create a repeat pattern in Adobe Photoshop with Rachel

Posted by Rachel Parker on 19th Aug 2019

Creating a repeat pattern for digitally printing on fabric shouldn’t be scary. So, Rachel Parker was the obvious choice to ask to put together a tutorial on creating seamless repeats in Adobe Photoshop for BeFab Be Creative. If you’re more of an Adobe Illustrator person, you can also find our tutorial on repeat patterns in Illustrator here too.

Rachel is one of our Printed and Co designers, who’s sophisticated repeats have always amazed us and are avalable to order by the meter. She was also one of the first designers we had the pleasure of working with at BeFab. With that, over to Rachel to demystify the world of pattern repeats below. 

I’m going to show you how I create a seamless repeating pattern in Photoshop using the Offset Filter; this is a method that I use all the time, and I like it because it’s very similar to how you’d do it if you were physically creating a repeat by hand ‘the old fashioned way’. The tutorial creates a pattern using one simple shape drawn using the brush tool – you could draw something in Photoshop as I did, or why not try scanning in some of your drawings to use as motifs? Photoshop is great for creating patterns with texture, which is why it’s my favourite thing ever. The possibilities are endless, but for now, let’s keep things simple.

1. Go to File>New and create a document that’s 30 x 30 cm, 300dpi, or 3543 pixels (we’ll be needing that number later). This means that our pattern will repeat every 30cm.

2. Next, we fill the square with our design elements – I started by drawing a simple yellow tulip.

3. Working from the middle outwards, fill the square – in this example, I have a different layer for each colour, and I’m naming the layers as I go.

4. The pattern’s taking shape! It’s important that you leave a gap around the edge so that none of your shapes spill over the side.

5. When you’re happy with the arrangement in the middle of the page, it’s time to fill in the edges. You’ve kept everything in the centre, but just in case let’s Select>All (Ctrl + A) so that you have the dotted line dancing around the edge of your document, and then Image>Crop. That means that if you did have anything lurking out of sight it’s gone and won’t interfere with our pattern.

6. OK, this is the clever bit. We want to shift everything in the middle of our design over to the edges so that we can work on filling in the white space, but to keep our file easily editable we have to do this one layer at a time. Make sure you pay attention to which layer you have selected; I’m starting at the bottom with my yellow layer and will be moving up from there. Go to Filter>Other>Offset which will bring up a box with sliders. We know that our document measures 3543 x 3543 pixels (you can check this by going to Image>Image Size or Alt+Ctrl+I). We’ll divide 3543 by 2 and type 1772 into both the Horizontal and Vertical pixels box. It doesn’t have to be precisely half; the important thing is that you use the same figure for each layer to keep everything aligned. Make sure Wrap Around is selected and press OK. This will move everything on the yellow flower layer 1772 pixels to the right and 1772 pixels down.

7. Click on the next layer up and go Filter>Offset or use the shortcut Ctrl+F. This has moved the blue flowers over to join the yellow ones.

8. Repeat this process for all your layers (Ctrl+F), and you’ll find you have a blank cross shape in the middle of your page ready to be filled in!

9. Fill in the gaps, still remembering not to go over the edges of the page. When you’re happy with how the middle’s looking, Select>All and Image>Crop to be sure.

10. We’re going to use the offset filter one more time to get to those final gaps; this time let’s move everything over by 1000 pixels. Again, take note of the order that you’re moving the layers, so you don’t lose track.

11. Just two more gaps to fill in...

12. And we’re done! Now it’s time to test the repeat. Select>All and Edit>Define Pattern. Name the pattern and press OK.

13. Now let’s open up a new, bigger document – it doesn’t matter what size as long as it’s big enough to show us how the pattern repeats a few times. Mine is 90x90cm so that will show the repeat three times across and three times down. Go to Edit>Fill, select ‘Pattern’ from the contents box, choose your pattern tile and click OK....

14. You did it, a seamless repeating pattern!

15. I couldn’t quite leave it like that though so here’s what happened. Now I just have to decide which fabric to print it onto...

Some things to keep in mind:

Remember to stick to the middle when moving things around!

Photoshop works in pixels, which can cause problems if you need to size up. Have a think about your end-use for the pattern and if in doubt, work big.

Save versions of your design as you go in case you make a mistake and need to get back! Always keep copies of your original design elements too.

Get into the habit of keeping your layers organised, labelled and in order, it’ll keep you sane as your patterns get more complex.

I think the most successful repeating patterns are ones that repeat without you noticing. If one element, in particular, keeps jumping out at you then you might want to go back into your design and play around a bit more. This tulips pattern uses relatively simple shapes but works well because it has a sense of movement.