Ever wanted to know how to create a repeat design for printing?  I figured this out on my own and have been doing it this way for a while, but I’m sure this is not the only way to do it.  Seasoned fabric and print designers may have secrets that makes the process simpler, but in wanting to create pattern cover backgrounds this is what I did.

Some notes:

  • This tutorial assumes some basic knowledge of Photoshop (selecting and using tools, changing brush sizes, picking colors, etc).  My version of Photoshop is NOT the latest, but it shouldn’t be a problem for other versions.
  • Shortcut keys are vital to making the process faster when going through this process frequently.  Shortcut keys are shown in parentheses.
  • If there is anything to highlight, I’ve done it on the screenshots in pink.
  • Click on any screenshot image to enlarge it.

Alrighty – are we ready?

1.  Open 3 NEW files in Photoshop:  (File>New).  Give them the following names:  Sketch, Split, and Final.  Each file will be identical:
Width: 6 inches
Height: 6 inches
Resolution: 300 pixels/inch (standard for printing)
Color Code: CMYK (standard for printing)

1. Open 3 NEW files in Photoshop: (File>New). Give them the following names: Sketch, Split, and Final. Each file will be identical: Width: 6 inches Height: 6 inches Resolution: 300 pixels/inch (standard for printing) Color Code: CMYK (standard for printing) For each file make sure that Snap is selected (View>Snap).

For each file make sure that Snap is selected (View>Snap).  This will make lining things around easier in later steps.

2. Start in the Sketch file.  Using the Brush Tool (B) draw numbers into the corners.  For this tutorial having the numbers as part of the picture will help to keep track of what will happen to the final canvas.

3. Using the Brush Tool (B) paint a pretty shape in the middle.

4. Click on the color picker tool and select a color for the background.  The reason for this is to make future steps of this tutorial easier.  I selected yellow.

5. Using the Paint Bucket Tool (G) pour the color onto your canvas.

6. Using the Crop Tool (C), set Width: 3 in, Height: 6 in, Resolution: 300 pixels/inch.  Crop from the top left corner.  When I say “Crop from the top left corner” I mean click in the gray area above the top left corner and slide your mouse down and to the right.  It will crop exactly half of the canvas starting from that corner.

7.  Press Enter to crop.  Select All (Ctrl A) and Copy (Ctrl C).

8. Go to Split file and paste (Ctrl V).  It will paste as “layer 1”.

9. Using the Move Tool (V), move the layer to the right side of the canvas,  lining up edges.  Lining up the edges in this step and subsequent steps will be easy because the layer will “Snap” into place.  It will also be easier to see it snap into place because the color of the layer is different than the background.

10. Go back to Sketch file and backtrack 2 steps in the history to the “Paint Bucket” step so that the file is again 6″ x 6″.

11. Using the Crop Tool (C), crop from the top right corner and press Enter to crop.  Select All (Ctrl A) and Copy (Ctrl C).

12. Go to Split file and paste (Ctrl V).  It will paste as “layer 2”.  Using the Move Tool (V), move the layer to the left side of the canvas, lining up edges.

13. Select both layers 1 and 2 (in the “Layers” box click layer 1, hold down Shift and click layer 2).  Right click on the highlighted layers and select “Merge Layers”.

14. Using the Crop Tool (C) set Width: 6 in, Height: 3 in.  Crop from top right corner.

15. Press Enter to crop.  Select All (Ctrl A) and Copy (Ctrl C).

16. Go to Final file and paste (Ctrl V).  It will paste as “layer 1”.

17. Using the Move tool (V), move the layer to the bottom of the canvas, lining up edges.

18. Go to Split file and backtrack 2 steps in the history to the “Merge Layers” step so that the file is again 6″ x 6″.  Crop from the bottom right corner and press enter to crop.  Select All (Ctrl A) and Copy (Ctrl C).

19. Go to Final file and Paste (Ctrl V).  It will paste as “layer 2”.

20. Using the Move Tool (V), move the layer to the top of the canvas, lining up edges.

21. Select both layers 1 and 2 (in the “Layers” box click layer 1, hold down Shift and click layer 2).  Right click on the highlighted layers.  Select “Merge Layers”.

22. This is where you can check to make sure the numbered corners are in the correct place.  Now that you can appreciate the image slicing and dicing that has occurred you can now erase the numbers using the Eraser Tool (E).

23. Using the Gradient Tool (G) fill in the white area with original yellow (you may need to click twice to fill the space completely).

24. Using the Brush Tool (B) draw a design in the middle empty space.

25. Now click on Edit>Define Pattern.

26. A window will pop up asking for you to name your pattern.  Name the pattern Doodles and click Okay

27. Open a NEW file (File>New).  Name it “Repeat”.  Width: 15 inches, Height: 15 inches, Resolution: 300 pixels per inch.  Color Mode doesn’t matter at this point because I will only be using this file to check the repeat tile on my screen.

28. Click Edit>Fill.  A window will pop up.  Under Contents, select Use: Pattern.

29. In the Custom Pattern drop down box, select your pattern and click Okay.

30. If all the steps were done correctly, the pattern should be repeating seamlessly.

Niiiiiice.  If I like what I see, then the only files I save are “Sketch” and “Final”.

Obviously more complicated designs take a little more work.  For my Sketchy Kids, border spacing was important so that the repeat wouldn’t be visible.  For designs that need to look random a little more work is necessary.  Some things to keep in mind:

  • Start off with a canvas size that is an even number so it will be easier to crop in half.
  • It doesn’t really matter what pixels/inch you use if you’re just playing around, but whatever you choose make sure it is consistent throughout your files.

Did this tutorial work for you?  If so, let me know!  If not, I’d love to hear your suggestions and can update the post as necessary.

9 Responses to “Creating a Repeat Design in Photoshop”


  1. 1 Lorena March 14, 2012 at 4:49 pm

    Great tutorial
    Thank

  2. 2 Andrea March 14, 2012 at 5:05 pm

    Hi
    This is fantastic! You have put so much time into this. I shall post a link to this on my blog tomorrow as I am sure that many would be interested in this. I am going to make a few notes and take them into work and have a play during my lunch break. I shall let you know how I get on but it could be a while.
    Best wishes
    x

  3. 4 Carmel March 14, 2012 at 9:28 pm

    Thank you – great tutorial! Planning to have a proper go at Spoonflower really soon, so this tutorial may come in very handy.

  4. 6 Susana from Best Sewing Friend Blog March 21, 2012 at 5:46 pm

    Wow! with this tutorial I just might might be able to do this. I will give it a try. Thanks.

  5. 7 House of KiKies July 18, 2012 at 10:13 am

    what a great tute.. thanks for posting it

  6. 8 chrissythehyphenated September 19, 2012 at 5:19 pm

    THANKS! I printed this out to learn. I’m almost done being kerfluzzled by facebook, so it’s time to tackle a new puter skill. Definitely been a while since I mastered a new Pshop tool so your tutorial was the perfect find for me today! :O)


  1. 1 Creating a Repeat Design in Photoshop « Craft Apple Trackback on March 14, 2012 at 4:17 pm

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Craft Apple

An apple a day keeps the doctor away, right? Well, crafting is my apple. It's what I do to maintain my sanity while taking care of my family. I homeschool my three boys, ages 10, 11, and 12), am a quilter, a bagaholic, and a pattern designer.
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