« Barcode Stripes | Main | Mish-Mash Grab-Bag Catch-Up »

This morning I had an email message asking about tips for creating tiles, and I thought it might be useful to publish the information here. These are the main tools I use: Many of Photoshop's regular plugins, but especially the "Distort" set; Sandy Blair's unspeakably useful Simple Filters; VanDerLee's "Unplugged" collection; Cybia's Alphaworks; and a set called "DSB Flux" from a group called "Digital Showbiz" that no longer seems to be with us. You can see the various Flux effects illustrated here, and if you search "DSB Flux download" you should be able to find it on the web (if not, drop me an email). I use other plugins sometimes, but these are my stalwart companions.

I also play around with any and all pattern generators that I find. Several of them are listed on my linkblog. Often I begin with a portion of an image that I like and then try to create some sort of pattern using that; some typical sources for these sorts of images would be botanical prints, illuminated pages, fabric swatches, and vintage illustration. Sometimes I spot some sort of pattern in real life that I try to duplicate digitally, and for fun I will often begin with blobs or strokes of colors that I happen to like together and see if I can make a pattern emerge from that randomness. I also use dingbat fonts as source material; something like "Pict Swirl", for example, (which you can find on this page can be very useful. I play around a great deal with layer transparency, color inversions, and sizing. I will frequently impose one pattern over another using layer transparency or the Alphaworks transparency filters. I often use PhotoShop's difference clouds to try to create a more nuanced effect when I don't want flat colors - this is usually how I get what I think of as the "silk" effect.

To risk being a little too poetic about the whole thing, for me, the process feels very much like I'm trying to "release" the pattern that I can almost see in an image. I have found that if you do it a lot, certain aspects of pattern design become like a second nature and you really don't have to think about it very much. In my early days, I would work very hard to force an image into a repeating concept, while these days it feels more like I just float along with it, following some more natural flow, which is why it's so very relaxing, and, in fact, quite meditative. Kind of "surfing the pattern", really. If I were starting this whole idea up fresh today, I would be tempted to call it something like "ZenPattern". Or something much more clever.

At any rate, if anyone has any specific questions, I will do my best to answer them; I'm sorry that my information so often has to do with Photoshop, but I'm sure just about whatever graphics program you use will have similar functions. If patternmaking intrigues you, I urge you to keep playing until you find your "voice", so to speak. Also, of course, I really want to put together a guest tile gallery, as I've mentioned before, so go on and get to work!

Posted by taz on August 20, 2004 at 02:34 AM in Patterns, Photoshop, Tips | Permalink


TrackBack URL for this entry:

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference A Tip or Two on Making Patterns:


I love your tiles! Style, pattern, use of color and such wonderful design... thank you for sharing them and also for the wonderful articulation of your creative process.

I am eager to explore.

Posted by: Doris | Aug 20, 2004 11:40:49 PM