Shop Talk

Creating Seamless Patterns with Traditional Media

When working digitally, creating seamless patterns is made easy due to the endless array of tools and plugins that are available. With just a few clicks and adjustments, that new pineapple illustration will repeat into a tropical paradise.

We’ve previously shared how to make repeat patterns in Adobe Illustrator, but with the help of Redbubble artist Barbarian, we have some tips on how to create repeat patterns from traditional works of art.

"Tribal Watercolor Pineapple" by barbarian

Step 1: To get started, grab a piece of paper, your medium of choice, and start laying down some color. You don’t want to fill the entire piece yet, as this will be done in a later stage. The main goal here is to lay down the main elements, and bring your painting to roughly 40-50% completed. You can see in the studio pouch by Barbarian above, how a finished pattern will look, and how it applies to a product.

Start of the painting.

Example of offset cutting/taping.

Step 2: Once you are done with the first stage of your painting, it’s time to cut it down the middle horizontally and vertically. Flip the paper over—so you are looking at the back—use a rule to make sure you cut down the middle for both cuts. This will make it easier later when you cleanup the pattern in your image editor. Once you have your four cut pieces, offset (rotate) them two spaces clockwise, then tape the back so you have one solid piece of paper again.


Step 3: Flip your newly taped painting over. As you can see in the image below, the flowers that Barbarian painted above are now cut and don’t appear to be right next to each other as they did in the beginning. You can now start to fill in the blank areas with new elements. As the painting has already been cut and offset, these new additions will give the pattern a more full look and feel.

Step 4: It’s time to add the finishing touches. In this painting, Barbarian decided to paint the background and give the painting more texture. As this new background is being painted all over, even being painted to the edges, there will be some areas that don’t quite match if you try to tile the pattern. This is an easy fix however, and once you scan the painting and bring it into your image editor of choice these areas can be touched up.

Step 5: During the final stage of cleanup the main tools you will be using are some healing tools (healing brush, content aware), masks, and an offset filter. The first thing you are going to do is use the offset filter to rotate the four quadrants of your painting, as you did previously when cutting. This way those newly painted edges can be fixed with the healing tools.

In order to digitally offset your piece (example using Photoshop), make a note of the pixel dimensions of your image. Then, go to Filter>Other>Offset. In the popup window enter half the width of your paper in pixels for “Horizontal _ Pixels Right”, and then half the height of your paper for “Vertical _ Pixels Down”. If you have preview checked, you will see your painting offset and return to the state it was when you first started. You can now cleanup the hard edges that will appear horizontally and vertically down the two lines seen in the gif below. Use your healing tools and layer masks to clean up these hard edges.

Example of offset filter in Photoshop

Finish: You may need to repeat the offset filter a few times, cleaning up edges when you see them appear and moving elements around until the pattern looks as seamless as possible. Save your new pattern and then export the recommended sizes for the products you wish to enable. When you enable a new product, such as A-Line Dresses, you will notice turning on the repeat function in the uploader creates a beautiful seamless pattern. All made using traditional materials.

Barbarian also has a great time-lapse video showing her painting process. You can also read more about Photoshop’s healing and content aware tools here.

Did you find the tutorial helpful? Please let us know in the comments below, and share any tips you might have.

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Art historian, burrito enthusiast, and Email Marketing Specialist here at Redbubble.