Free Materials For Teachers
Image©2020 ABS Fill pattern of tiling elephants
Make It Tile Perfectly

Filling with a pattern is a PhotoShop® option that you probably use often. Instead of filling a page or a selection with a solid color, many copies of a sample picture or design, the motif, are joined edge to edge to fill the area. Around the edges of the pattern fill, you often find partial copies of the motif, with parts of it cut off by the outline.

Besides the patterns that come with PhotoShop, you can define your own images as Pattern Presets by selecting the image and choosing Define Pattern... from the Edit menu.

Natural textures such as stone, rust and water, and man-made textures like brickwork, wallpaper, and fabric are all good candidates for fill patterns.

However, there is a limitation: in order to function properly as a fill pattern, a motif has to tile well. By tile well, I mean that the edges of the motif match up so that you can use it as a repeating unit to make a bigger swatch, and you won’t see obvious seams

Image©2021 ABS Blue Marble texture with arrows marking edge features that differ on the opposite side.
This Marble Texture ALMOST Tiles

For example, the edges of the marble textures that you create with the White Marble Action almost match. But if you look closely, you’ll see spots on the left margin that don’t quite join up with the right margin, and veins along the top margin that don’t join up with what’s on the bottom margin directly below.

If you defined that marble texture as a fill pattern, those mismatched spots would stand out, making the edges of the motif painfully obvious.

There are many tools (patch, clone, healing brush) that you can use to make small changes so that the edges match up, but that’s difficult to do with the mismatches on opposite edges. Luckily, there is a filter in PhotoShop, the Offset Filter, that makes patching across the edges much, much easier.

Image©2021 ABS Screenshot of the PhotoShop Filters menu, showing location of the Offset Filter
Find The Offset Fliter

Probably, the Offset Filter is not a familiar tool. For one thing, it’s hidden away at the bottom of the Filter menu as the last item in the submenu you open by choosing Other. If somehow you have found it and tried it, you might have been puzzled by the result and wondered what the Offset Filter is good for. The basic effect can be seen with this illustration of a strawberry.

The filter slides the left margin, and/or the top margin of an image, so that they meet the right and bottom margins respectively. The Offset Filter doesn’t really do anything useful to the strawberry, but it’s a great tool to have if you are trying to make an image tile. It immediately sets the sides of your motif so that they tile perfectly. It does this by joining the original edges together in the interior of the image. Then it’s easy to spot mismatches and do the patching, cloning, or healing needed to hide the seams.

Image©2021 ABS On the left, a very large strawberry in the palm of a hand. On the right the same photo has been offset top to bottom and left to right, cutting the strawberry into four sections.
Effect Of The Offset Filter With Wrap Around Active

Download this short and easy tutorial and example file. Learn how to use the Offset Filter to create motifs that tile perfectly. Included are tips on the effect of scale and suggestions on how to optimize your motifs. Define them as fill patterns and use them again and again for beautiful backgrounds!

Bonus: Put Fill Patterns On Images
Besides constructing backgrounds, use those perfect tiling fill patterns as Pattern Overlays. This layer effect enables you to put any fill pattern onto an object by adding a Pattern Overlay to its layer. If the object you want to decorate is part of a scene, duplicate the layer and mask out the background around it before adding the Layer Effect, so that it only effects the target item.

Image©2021 ABS Bas relief wall ornament with blue marble veining
Pattern Overlay on A Photo

Experiment with the Blend modes of the Pattern Overlay and the layer itself (they are separate) to get the effect you want. Download the and check out the blend modes of both the Pattern Overlay and the duplicate layer to see how the blue marble texture, now a fill pattern, was added to this wall ornament.

Applications needed: Acrobat Reader, PhotoShop.
Subject area: Tips, Resources.
Level: Author.


Tutorial (17.1 MB) UsingOffsetFilterForTiling.pdf tutorial to print, plus example .psd file. Acrobat Reader, PhotoShop.

Downloads-Resources (2.6 MB) Example .psd file showing how to use the layer effect Pattern Overlay to put a texture onto an image. PhotoShop.

June 15th, 2021 at 8:12 pm


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