Ever wanted to sleep in bed sheets designed by your own hand? Or to sew a dress from fabric with an absolutely unique pattern? Then pick up your stylus pen, and let's make a beautiful, flowing, fantasy floral pattern in Photoshop.
1. Shape Your Flowers
The first thing we want to do is to work out the style we want to use for this pattern. I decided on a bold graphic treatment and a soft pastel palette to make the piece feel summery.
Play with some flower designs and roughly sketch out one or two blooming branches. For the sake of variety, it’s best if you draw a mixture of buds, half-opened flowers, and flowers in full bloom. Your sketch can be light and rough, since you will be inking over it soon.
You can start by taking your favorite flowers for reference, but your pattern will turn out more fun and surprising if you forget about botany and make up some weird, lavish blooms.
your sketch at 300 dpi and open it up
in Adobe Photoshop. Set your file size to at least 5000 x 5000 px to make sure you have enough image quality to work
Pick a nice, natural-looking hard brush and start to draw over your sketch, fleshing out the shapes of your flowers. Let the petals twist and fold, and make sure your flowers have some volume, so they're not lying too flat on the page.
Once you've inked over your sketch, you can discard the sketch layer and assess whether your lines look balanced. It's good to have some unfinished strands branching off from your main piece, so you can easily add new elements to the pattern later on.
This is also the best stage to make sure your flowers look as three-dimensional as you'd like. As you can see in the image below, even though I'm only using a single line color at this stage, you can tell which flowers are facing towards us and which are facing away by the way the petals are curving and folding.
Once your lines look good, lay in some finer detail. Start to add the heavy shadows under folded petals, or in the deep places where petals meet or overlap. Add some grooves to the leaves, and some veins to the petals and stems.
Adding hard shadows helps your flowers come to life, because they give the illusion of volume.
When you're happy with your lines, select them by Control-clicking the line-work Layer thumbnail on the Layers panel. Now create a new layer above and paint in parts of the selection with a Hard Round Brush Tool. I decided to make the petals a different color to make the blooms more striking.
You don't have to use more than one color on your line-work, but making sure the line color complements the fill colors of certain sections of the design will make those sections seem more cohesive and help them stand out against each other.
2. Pick Your Colors
We will be using the elements we've made so far a few times over, so before we start duplicating them we should first apply the colors we've chosen for the piece, so we have less coloring work later on.
Create a new layer under your line-work layers and start painting in your base outer petal color. My recommendation is to set the layer color through the Overlay function (click the Fx button on the bottom of the Layers panel, choose Color Overlay, and then set your color). This helps you to always know which layer you are on, because the color you chose is locked to that layer. No more accidental painting on the wrong layer!
On a new layer, set the color to a slightly darker tone compared to the outer petal base color, and paint in some shadows with the Hard Round Brush Tool. You can also use a softer or textured brush if you prefer a more painterly look.
Paint in the inner petals with a gently contrasting tone. When choosing a color palette, it helps to keep the overall number of colors low, but it's also important to represent cool, warm, and neutral tones alike.
I've chosen to keep the stems and leaves of the flowers in neutral beige tones that don't stand out too much from the background, while the blooms have cool blue outer petals and warm pink inner petals, for more impact.
Now we'll add one more color group for the pistil of the flower—I chose a chartreuse green to preserve the balance between warm and cool tones. Browns, greens and purples can often walk the edge between warm and cool tones.
Since we've already shaded the pistil with the line-work color, we can add a yellow highlight to it to give it more dimension.
To make these flowers even more fun, let's give their outer petals a sweet polka-dot pattern. Use the Hard Round Brush Tool to draw evenly spaced polka dots on the outer petals.
If your polka dots have crossed over the edges of the petals, select the petal base color layer by Control-clicking its Layer thumbnail on the Layers panel, and then click Control-I to invert the selection, and delete any excess dot parts.
Now we need to make our polka dots blend in a little better, by giving them shadows in the same places where the outer petal base is shaded.
Control-click the outer petal shadow Layer thumbnail on the Layers panel, to make a selection. Then, without releasing the selection, duplicate the polka-dot layer by using the command Control-J.
Now you have a new layer that contains only those parts of the polka dots that overlap with the petal shadow areas. Change their color to a darker tone to make them match the shadows.
Paint in any remaining details, like highlights on the leaves or a faint shadow layer behind all of your other layers, to help the flowers and leaves stand apart from the background.
I suggest you always paint in the shadow instead of using Photoshop's Drop Shadow option. It will take a little more time, but the results will look far more natural.
3. Create the Vertical Repeat
Now we have created a lovely branch of flowers, so let's see how we can get it to repeat in a seamless pattern.
First let's combine all of our pattern layers except the background, by using the Merge Layers option. Then we'll use the Free Transform Tool to rotate our blooming branch to a random tilted position. Click Control-J to duplicate the branch, and then use Edit > Transform > Flip Horizontal on the copy, to create a reflected version.
Move the new reflected version of your flower branch below the first one. Play around with its placement, testing out what looks best. You can try overlapping sections or rotating them further until you find a good flow between them.
Now that the two branches are in place, fill in the missing gaps and details between them so they flow seamlessly together.
Now you have a combination of two branches that look good together, and you're ready to start working on your vertical repeat. Merge all your layers together once again and click Control-J to make a new copy.
Move the new copy down while holding Shift to ensure you're dragging it in a perfectly straight line. Find a place where it seems to overlap well with the bottom part of the original copy.
If the overlap point feels more sparse than the rest of the design, draw in some new buds and leaves to flesh it out. Ideally you want your pattern moving in such a way that it doesn't leave major gaps when repeated sideways. If there is something sticking out on the right side, you want to have a similarly sized dent on the left side, so those two things can fit together.
Touch up all the loose branches so that every branch and flower connects smoothly into the design. Once everything fits neatly, delete the bottom copy you used as a guide.
Now we're ready to create the vertical repeat, so drag a Guide from the horizontal Ruler and place it randomly somewhere in the top third of your design. Drag the Rectangular Marquee Tool over the part of the design that's sticking out above the Guide.
When you feel it stick to the Guide, Shift-drag the selection straight down until its top edge seamlessly aligns with its bottom edge. Your vertical repeat is done!
4. Create the Full Seamless Repeat
Now our pattern repeats vertically, like a ribbon. But we want to create a free-flowing, all-over print, so let's keep moving.
If you've created any new layers, merge them all into one again, except the background. Now make a copy of your artwork using Control-J, and Shift-drag it in a straight line over to the right, until its far left edge meets the far right edge of the original artwork.
Slide the copy left and right until you find the place that feels like the best fit. If you've managed to keep your artwork balanced (i.e. things sticking out on one side are balanced out by equal-sized gaps on the opposite side), you shouldn't have many gaps to fill. Add a small leaf or bud here and there to make sure everything flows.
Be sure that, if you're adding new elements, you merge them all with the original artwork, and not the copy you were using as a control.
When you're happy with how your original artwork is matching up with the copy, delete the copy.
Now merge all the remaining layers once again, without the background, and drag a Vertical Guide randomly somewhere into the right half of your design. Drag the Rectangular Marquee Tool over the part of the design that's sticking out to the right of the Guide.
When you feel it stick to the Guide, Shift-drag the selection straight left until its right edge seamlessly aligns with its left edge. You've now successfully folded your pattern into a seamless pattern tile!
Use the Zoom Tool to inspect the pattern closely and make sure things aren't overlapping where they shouldn't be. Check for small glitches and omissions before you drag the Rectangular Marquee Tool around your tile to select it. Then go to Edit > Define Pattern, name your new pattern, and save it.
And There You Go!
Isn't that really pretty?
You’ve made a beautifully flowing seamless fantasy floral pattern. You can use it by clicking the Paint Bucket Tool, changing the little drop-down menu option from the default Foreground to Pattern, and picking your pattern from the menu.
You can use your new design as digital paper for your scrapbooking projects, or you can test out how it looks on a bunch of great products and put it up for sale on Print on Demand sites like Society6 or RedBubble.
You can also have it digitally printed on fabric at a place like Spoonflower and use it in your DIY sewing or home décor projects! Thinking up all the potential uses for your patterns is half the fun. Be sure to share what you make!