Guide to Patterns in Photoshop

By Dr Diablo | Photoshop CS3 | Beginner

A pattern is an image that is repeated, or tiled, when used to fill a layer or selection. Photoshop comes with a variety of preset patterns which are displayed in pop‑up palettes in the options bar for the Paint Bucket, Pattern Stamp, Healing Brush, and Patch tools, as well as in the Layer Style dialog box. This tutorial will teach you how to create new patterns and save them in libraries for use with different tools and commands. The example below shows how a 10px pattern is used to fill a bigger fill.

Oman3D Photoshop Pattern Tutorial

Creating Your Sample Pattern

Patterns can consist of almost anything. While creating a pattern, you must keep in mind that whatever piece you want to tile is going to be repeated over and over again all over your selection in a constructive manner, which means all repeated slices will be placed exactly next to each other without any spaces between them. I have created some pixel and bitmap samples that could be used as effective patterns. I will explain them onwards.

- Diagonal Grid Patterns

Diagonal Patterns are created on a 10 x 10 px canvas with a single pixel dot, in a sequence of one dot, two empty pixels on its right, another dot and so on.

- Scanlines Patterns

Scanlines Patterns are created on a 2 x 1 px canvas with a single pixel dot on the left and an empty dot on the right.

- Large Scaled Background Patterns

Patterns created from images are the easiest to handle. They are simply defined and then filled across a desired selection.

- Text Patterns

The trick with text patterns is leaving some space around the text that you want to define as a pattern. In the sample above, i left 6 pixels from around the text I defined. Otherwise, when the pattern is defined without any spaces, when spread across a selection, the words will be stuck together every time the pattern is repeated.

Defining The Pattern

In order to be able to create a custom pattern in Photoshop you must define one as such. I will show you in this section how to define a simple pattern similar to the first example I showed you above.

Start off by opening a new 10 x 10 px document in Photoshop, with Transparent as Background Contents.

Select any color as your Foreground color, I used the #333333 grey. Once you have your colour, use the Pencil Tool draw dots on your canvas as shown below while making sure that there is a two pixel space between each drawn dot in vertical terms. You might need to use the Zoom Tool (Z) to have a closer look at the pixels.

Our pattern is now ready. Theoretically, we can create the same diagonal pattern using only a 7 x 7 px canvas by taking those 17 dots on the upper left corner of the illustration above. But I recommend working on your patterns on a larger scale to prevent any mistakes that may occur in plotting a pattern.

We are going to define this as a pattern and add to the Patterns Library. Press Ctrl+A to select the entire canvas, then go through Edit>Define Pattern to enter a name for your newly created pattern in the dialog box.

Your pattern is now defined and ready to be used with whatever tool you would like to use. The next part of the tutorial will explore some different ways for using patterns in Photoshop.

Patterns can be used with different tools and commands such as the Paint Bucket, Pattern Stamp, Healing Brush, Patch Tools, Blending Options, and the Fill command found under the Edit drop down menu. We will explain in more detail the use of some of these tools.

Filling a Selection With a Pattern

Using the Fill command is the easiest and simplest way to apply your pattern. To use it, open a new document of your desired size and content. Select the area you want to apply the pattern to using Marquee Tools found on the Tools Panel on the left side of your interface.

Once you have a certain area selected go through Edit>Fill, select Pattern as the Contents, then select the custom pattern you created as shown in the image below.

Your final fill results should look like this.

Paint With a Pattern

To paint using a certain pattern we will have to use the Pattern Stamp Tool that is found under the Clone Stamp Tool on the Tools Panel. Grab the Pattern Stamp Tool, select a pattern from the top Options Bar as shown in the image below. Select Aligned in the Options Bar to maintain the pattern's continuity with your original start point even when you release the mouse button and then resume painting. Deselect Aligned if you would like to restart the pattern each time you paint a new stroke.

Right click on your canvas while selecting the same tool to open up the Brush Presets picker. You are going to select which type of brush you are going to paint the pattern with here according to your needs.

Start painting normally on the canvas with your pattern. Here are my results.

Styling Layers With Pattern Overlay

You have most probably came across the Pattern Overlay check box in the layer Blending Options menu. This style allows you to apply a pattern across any type of valid layer in Photoshop from Type Layers to Vector Shape Layers and others. To apply a pattern using the Blending Options start off by accessing your Layers Panel and then right click your desired layer and select Blending Options.

The Layer Style window will pop-up. Click on the Pattern Overlay option from the side menu to bring up its options. From here you can adjust the pattern's attributes according to your needs by adjusting its blending mode with layers below it, opacity or scale ratio.

This concludes our tutorial, I hope that you have learnt something new from it, feel free to email me on for any comments or questions or alternatively post in the Oman3D Forum to get instant feedback.

- End of Tutorial.