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pattern doodle
How To

How to design fabric if you’re not an artist: Part One

One of the most asked questions when it comes to designing fabric is how to make a repeating pattern.  A quick search on the internet for “how to make a repeated pattern” turns up over 162 million results with hundreds of examples for the ‘perfect’ seamless pattern. I am here to simplify this for you and break it down into just a few easy tutorials.

Today we’ll be looking at the pattern feature in Adobe Photoshop. If you do not own Photoshop you can purchase the entry level Photoshop Elements to achieve the same result for around $70. Or, use your favorite photo editor and use these steps as a general guide to pattern making. Once you have the basics down it will become second nature and you may find yourself spending countless hours at your computer, designing, drawing, and feeling exceptionally creative!

I started my pattern with a doodle which I scanned at 600dpi.

pattern doodle

Next I always create a duplicate layer so that I can maintain the integrity of the original scanned image. Right click on the background later and choose Duplicate Layer to do this. You can safely turn off your background layer now.

Photoshop scan

Now, let’s remove the white background. With the new layer selected go to the tab for the Channels Palette. Ctrl+click on the RGB channel. You will notice all of the white sections are now selected in your image. Hit delete to remove those white areas.

With the selection still chosen (notice the dancing ants around your image) go to Select/Inverse. Create a new layer and fill your selection with a color of your choosing. For this exercise I chose white.

Photoshop seamless pattern tutorial

Now it’s time to start coloring my flowers. To do this I created a new layer for a background color. I chose pink and then colored in the flowers on another layer. Make sure to color your images on layers below the artwork.  Of course if you’d like to start with a completed graphic or one on your computer already you may do so.

Coloring your seamless pattern in Photoshop.

If you are satisfied with your design then you can go ahead and flatten or merge your layers together. Again, here I will usually make a duplicate of my layers in case I need to go back and adjust anything.

Now, we need to make a new file to place our pattern in. I choose a file 600 x 600 to work in @ 300dpi.

Create a new file

Using your marquee tool draw a square around the pieces to copy over to the new file. Choose copy and then paste into the new file.

Define your seamless pattern in Photoshop

Now we will define our pattern – be sure that no parts of your image are touching the edges. You should have clear space all the way around the frame of the file. If something is touching move it over. To define the pattern press Ctrl+A – this will select the entire image.  Now go to Edit/Define Pattern. Type in a name for your pattern.

Define and name your pattern

To use the pattern, or double check it, create a new file using the size of fabric you want to output to. I chose a yard of Basic Combed Cotton and so the file I made was 56” wide by 36” tall.

Select Edit/Fill and choose Pattern from the drop down menu. Find the pattern you just made, click on it and then click okay.

Check your seamless pattern

Viola! Your pattern has been made!

Testing the pattern in Photoshop

Now that you know your pattern is seamless take your final patterned 600 x 600 file and upload it at MyFabricDesigns.com and choose different repeating options to create an entirely different look for your custom printed fabric.

My Fabric Designs tiling option

Visit MyFabricDesigns.com and print your pattern on any of the 26 high-quality fabrics available and get a discount of 20% off your order. Just use coupon code repeat20.

This article has 3 comments

  1. Terri

    My dream is to design fabric. Thanks for the tutorial

    • My Fabric Designs

      This is just one way to do it. We’ll be covering many other methods to create your own fabric so stay tuned! And, once you start designing your own fabric you will be hooked – we are 🙂

  2. Jennifer Friedel

    Love the idea of adding your own personality to a sewing project using fabric. I will be watching for more ideas from the blog and after the holiday maybe I will have time to create my own.

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