Creating a repeating pattern swatch

August 6, 2017

I've wanted to start a "Make Things Co." blog for a little while now, but have been too nervous to get started (some concerns that have been running through my head- how should I "start" it? I haven't written anything other than emails since college- what if I'm a terrible writer? Will people think I'm really self-absorbed/awkward/all over the place/all of the above? Would anyone actually read it/care?). I finally decided to just go for it, but to stick with a couple of ground rules: I will (try to!) only post about making things (or trying to make things, as 95% of what I do is a constant learning experience), I won't take too much time trying to edit it/make it "pretty" (so please bare with me!), and it will be a space where I am 100% open and honest about what I struggle with while making these things, in hopes that anyone reading this can learn from my mistakes. 


For my first post, I'm going to write about making a "seamless" step-and-repeat pattern (disclaimer- I am NOT an expert at any of this- I don't know the correct terminology for anything graphic design-related, and I've only been using Photoshop since January. This is almost certainly NOT the "right" way to make a pattern, and probably takes longer/is super inefficient, but it's how I've taught myself, and it works- well, sort of works- for me!) 


The difference between a repeating pattern swatch with one of the fun "pattern" swatches I used to make is that when you line up the same swatch over and over again, it creates a seamless pattern that can be applied to a template/etc. so that your artwork can be printed on things (boxes, wallpaper, etc.) I recently had to figure it out because I was working on creating packaging for a client (sometimes I do these things for fun, and sometimes it's out of necessity). Anyhow- I'm going to list step-by-step what I did below. I'll write another post soon on materials I use/painting with watercolors/the process I use to create the actual paintings, but for now, I'll try and keep it as short/to-the-point as possible!

1) First, I created three little floral bunch paintings by sketching some flowers with pencil, inking them with a waterproof pen, erasing the pencil, painting with watercolor, and re-inking. I tried to include some of the materials in the (poor) iPhone photo- I use Winsor & Newton watercolors, but more on that later. 

2. I scan the artwork at 400dpi with my Epson V800 scanner (I promise I'm not trying to sell you anything- a couple of people have asked, and so I just figured I'd put the product name in, on the off-chance that you were wondering!)

 3. Now that it's scanned, I open up the image in Photoshop, and use the Magic Eraser to erase the background/ any "white" space (side-note: sometimes, white scans as a really light gray, and so I like to always erase the background and add a new "true-white" background when I'm getting artwork ready to print or post) 

 4. After I've erased all of the background with either the Magic Eraser or the regular eraser, I open a new, blank document. I use the rectangular marquee tool (second icon down on the left-hand toolbar) to select the biggest flower chunk, "Copy" the selection, and "Paste" it into the new document.


5. Now that I've copied and pasted the floral chunk into the center of my new document (which has to be a square, by the way- you can experiment with the size of the square under "Canvas Size" (drop-down from "Image"), but it has to be a square), I'm going to create guides. I click on "View" (not seen in the screenshot- sorry about that!), drop down to "New Guide" and create a Horizontal guide at the 50% mark. I repeat and do the same thing for a Vertical guide at the 50% mark. 

 6. Now it's time to start moving things around. I'm going to select the right half of the floral chunk with the rectangular marquee, then go to "Edit > Cut." I'm then going to go to "Edit > Paste," which will paste the right half as a new layer. I'm going to line that half up with the left edge of the square. 


7. Now, I'm going to take the left side of the floral chunk and line it up to the right edge of the square.

 8. I go back to the original scan, and copy the entire floral chunk again, then paste it on the square again as a new layer. This time, I use the rectangular marquee to select the top half of the chunk, which I then align with the bottom edge of the square. I shift the bottom half of the floral chunk to the top edge. 

   Once everything is in place, I drop down from "Layer" to "Merge Visible" to merge the layers.

9. I then open ANOTHER document- my square here was 6"x6", so I opened a new square 12"x12" document to see whether or not my pattern seamlessly repeats so far. I copy and paste the whole 6"x6" square into the new document a couple of times to see whether the pattern is seamless when I line up three or four 6"x6" squares. This is super frustrating, because the first three or four times I did this, the pattern didn't line up (little bits and pieces were off, as you can see in the screenshot, and I had to keep going back- so annoying!) 

 10. I finally get everything to line up, and so now I go back to the 6"x6" swatch. I copy and paste the other little floral chunks from the original scan to fill in the white space. The trick is to use the "Transform" tools (drop-down from "Edit" to rotate/flip/etc. the little pieces so that they fill in the blank space without touching the edges/going over the edges.

11. Once I'm happy with how the space is filled in, I go to "Layer > Merge Visible" to merge the layers, then copy and paste the swatch a few times to make sure it repeats. It does! I then save it as a JPEG to use for some project down the road.

And you're finished! Thank you SO much for reading if you made it this far- I promise that future posts won't be so technical/word-y, and will be a little more interesting (hopefully!). This was one of those things that took me a long time to learn, but when I finally got it to work, I felt so proud of myself, and wanted to show someone else how I did it!

Let me know if there's anything you'd like for me to post about- I'm hoping to do some fun things/how-tos (like pulling out my old printmaking supplies, or refinishing furniture- who knows) down the road, and am open to any ideas. Thanks so much!!












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