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How to Apply Pattern Overlays Using Photoshop Layer Styles

This post is part of a series called Intro to Photoshop Layer Styles.
How to Apply Gradient Overlays Using Layer Styles in Photoshop
How to Properly Add a Stroke Using Photoshop Layer Styles

Photoshop layer styles are a popular way to add effects, such as drop shadows and strokes, to layers in a non-destructive way. With the right knowledge and experience, any effect can be achieved. To achieve these effects, however, you need to understand what each setting does and how they can be combined to create a certain look. In this series by John Shaver from Design Panoply, we will explain every aspect of Photoshop's layer styles feature and show you how to unlock their potential.

In this article, Part 10: How to Apply Pattern Overlays Using Photoshop Layer Styles, we will explain the settings behind Pattern Overlay and the ways it can be used to create different effects. Let's get started.

The Uses for Pattern Overlay

Pattern Overlay is used, as the name implies, to add a pattern to a particular layer. Using Pattern Overlay in conjunction with other effects can help you create styles with depth.

The Layer Styles Pattern Overlay Dialog Box

Pattern Overlay doesn't have a ton of options, but that's because it's more of a "On/Off" effect, unlike some of the others that can be manipulated to drastically change the way they look.

Blend Mode

The Blend Mode allows you to set the blending mode for your Pattern Overlay. The default setting is Normal, which simply displays a pattern on your layer. If you are unfamiliar with how all the different Blending Modes work, I highly recommend checking out the Blending Is Fun Basix tutorial.

In the following example, you can see how changing the Blend Mode from Normal to Linear Burn makes our striped pattern turn from solid white and red into transparent and dark red.


The Opacity sliders controls how see-through our Pattern is. A smaller number here makes your Pattern Overlay more transparent, while a higher number is more opaque.

In the following example, you can see that a lower Opacity makes our pattern slightly transparent, with the black color of the text showing through.


This is where you choose your pattern. Photoshop comes with a lot of default patterns, but you can also create your own.

To create your own pattern simply open an image in Photoshop, press CTRL + A to select the entire canvas, and click Edit > Define Pattern. You will then find it in the list of patterns within the Pattern Overlay dialog.

The small icon next to the pattern swatch will create a new preset using the currently selected pattern.

Additionally, the Snap to Origin button will allow you to align your pattern with the layer it is applied to.

You can also click and drag in your document while the Pattern Overlay dialog is open to manually position your pattern.

In the following example, you can see how changing the Pattern while leaving other settings unchanged affects our style.


You can resize you pattern by increasing or decreasing the Scale slider. Photoshop doesn't do a very good job at resampling patterns within the Layer Styles dialog, so it's usually best to use numbers like 10%, 25%, 50%, etc.

Checking the Link with Layer checkbox locks your pattern to the layer so that if you move your layer around later, the pattern follows. If you uncheck this box and move your layer, the pattern does not move.

In the following example, reducing the Scale of the pattern gives it more detail, because more of the pattern is showing. The effect is more prominent when using more detailed patterns.

Saving And Loading Default Settings

You can save and load default settings for each effect in the Layer Styles dialog box. By clicking "Make Default", Photoshop will store whatever settings are currently active as the new default settings for that effect.

By clicking "Reset to Default", Photoshop will then load whatever settings were last saved. This allows you to experiment and simply reload custom default settings if you want to start over.

One for the Road

Until next time, this free, exclusive layer style and accompanying .PSD will show you how to use Pattern Overlay to add some grunge to your styles.

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