The Beauty of Simple Patterns

I’ve been on a real online design education kick lately and I wanted to continue that by taking some Skillshare courses. To start off my Skillshare learning, I found a course called ‘Creating Organic Abstract Patterns in Photoshop‘ with an image thumbnail that absolutely made me want to take the course.

The hour and a half class is taught by Evgeniya & Dominic Righini-Brand and teaches students to used a combination of smart filters in Photoshop to generate abstract patterns. Then the class details how to make your pattern repeat seamlessly and how to then use your patterns.

The lessons are broken up into 17 small videos of about two to nine minutes each. The student projects are actually pretty impressive looking so I’m excited to get started learning how to make organic abstract patterns.

organic abstract patterns skillshare course

Making A Pattern

To begin we’re shown how to create clouds with some default Photoshop filters layered on top each other to start making the pattern effect. Using clouds is a great way to make unique textures or patterns without using any imagery. Photoshop lets you simply go Filter > Render > Clouds to produce a simple texturing effects from the two main colours you have selected as your foreground and background.

FYI, I’m not going to go into too much detail about the actual pattern-making process here because you should really take the class yourself if you’re interested.

organic abstract pattern - using filters

Adding Colour

Next, the lessons go into how to add colour to your pattern. First, we’re adding colour to only the black areas of the pattern using a solid colour adjustment layer, then doing the same to only the white areas.

I may have to go back through this process a few times because I’m learning new stuff here that I will probably forget tomorrow, though I know it will be super useful if I can remember it. This is what I have so far.

organic abstract pattern - adding colour

Adding More Pattern & Colour

At this stage, my computer started to become angry with me. It simply wasn’t happy with my large 300 dpi file using so many filters. I was hoping it would let me finish the class before crashing, but we’ll see.

Next, we’re adding more pattern and colours by duplicating everything we’ve done above, then re-rendering the clouds and changing the colours. Pretty simple actually. Depending on how many colour/pattern layers you want, you can duplicate everything again. That was my plan, so here goes.

organic abstract pattern - adding more colour

After the pattern is fully rendered, I went back in to adjust some of the filters on each layer and some of the colours I was using. And that’s pretty much it. Next, we’re going to learn how to make the pattern repeatable, which is a somewhat difficult process.

organic abstract pattern - making adjustments

Preparing the Pattern

For this abstract design to actually function as a pattern, it need to be repeatable. In other words, when we place it next to and below itself, there should be no seams.

At this stage in the class, I am completely lost. We’re asked to make a new document that is smaller than the original document and create more clouds within it. No idea why though, so I’m just trying to follow along until I understand.

At this point, my computer decides that I’m asking too much of Photoshop and it crashes. Of course it does.

Next, students are told what they can do if there is a specific area of the pattern they want to remove. I’m mostly ignoring this part because I’m happy with my pattern, although I do go in to change the colours again.

Now we’re actually going to get into how we can make the pattern repeat, and I have no idea why we did the stuff right before this.

Anyway, next we’re asked to have only the first layer of our pattern selected and visible. Then we divide our canvas into four even quadrants, then take each quadrant individually and move it to its diagonal spot. After that, we merge the quadrants and fill in any mismatched seams in the middles. Next, we do the exact same thing for each of the pattern layers above, but this whole part is sped up and I can’t remember what we did before because there were so many steps. Ugh.

organic abstract pattern - confused

Twenty years of using Photoshop and I am completely lost.

I watch and follow for a few minutes, but the layers in the video don’t look like mine anymore but everything was sped up to gloss over the steps we did before and I am so lost. Some layers are merged, others not, and I can’t keep up with this tutorial at all. I also can’t help but think there must be an easier way to do this. So I abandon the tutorial… for now.

Repeating the Pattern My Own Way

I still want to make this pattern repeatable, so I go back in my history states to a version where the pattern was exactly how I wanted it to look, before things got complicated. Next, I flatten the whole pattern via Layer > Flatten Image and divide the whole canvas into quadrants again, this time using the whole design, not just individual layers.

I fix all the unmatched areas in the design using the brush tool, making sure not to touch the outer edges which should be matching at this point. Once that’s done, I test the design to see if I’ve actually make it seamlessly repeatable or if I actually have no idea what I’m doing.

organic abstract pattern - confused

Testing the Pattern

To test my pattern, I’ll make sure my guides are showing to show the four quadrants of the pattern. Then I’ll shrink the pattern down to fit precisely into one of the quadrants. I’ll copy it and fill the other three quadrants, and if they are seamless, the pattern works.

organic abstract pattern - testing the pattern

organic abstract pattern - testing the pattern

The pattern works! Hooray! When the pattern is next to, on top, and below itself, there are no seams. Well, that was so much easier than in the video.

To summarize, to make the pattern repeatable, I flattened the image (ideally do this after saving your original layered file elsewhere), divided the design into four quadrants, with each quadrant a separate layer. Then I had the layers switch places diagonally; so the top left layer goes in the bottom right, the top right goes in the bottom left, the bottom left layer goes to the top right, and the bottom right goes to the top left. I duplicated the four layers into a new group, then went back and merged the previous layers together into one flattened layer. I fixed the mismatched seams in the design, ignoring the outer edges. That’s it!

Creating A Pattern Preset

Making a pattern in Photoshop, one that you can use on and in your future designs, is actually really easy. With your pattern selected, you just go to Edit > Define Pattern and then name your pattern. Pretty easy.

At this point, I’m pretty much done. I’ve also realized that this Skillshare class was previously doing its best to make a pattern that you can go back and adjust at any point, where with my method, the pattern and colours are set in stone. I can’t go back and edit the individual layers because I flattened everything. But for me, that works.

organic abstract pattern - defining the pattern

Using the Pattern

Now that my pattern is done and set in Photoshop, I can make a new document with a new design that will use my pattern. So that’s what I do. I create a new document and make a simple circle. Double clicking on the circle layer brings up the Layer Styles menu. Here, I go to Pattern Overlay near the bottom, and apply my newly created pattern to it. Ta da! The pattern is there, and I can adjust the scale to make the pattern inside the circle smaller or larger.

I can do the same to any shape, including a letter.

organic abstract pattern -using the pattern

organic abstract pattern -using the pattern

The rest of the video lessons go over how to change the pattern slightly to create new patterns, how to manage your pattern presents in Photoshop, and how to experiment with the pattern using other Photoshop tools, like liquify, to make even more interesting designs.

The last few video lessons go into how to save the pattern for print and web, then there’s a bonus speed art video of using a pattern with distorted type.

Creating Organic Abstract Patterns in Photoshop – In Summary

Overall, this was a cool tutorial to learn about how to create one specific looking type of abstract pattern that you can customize. The actual pattern making process was very easy to follow, though the part about making the pattern repeatable was really difficult to follow. I prefer my method, which was straightforward, though didn’t allow for changes to be made later one. But I’m okay with that.

Now that I know how to make any pattern repeatable, I think I’ll use this technique often in my design work. Despite the issues I had in the middle of the tutorial lessons, this was a worthwhile Skillshare class because I did learn a lot; although, for a beginner, it might be a bit hard to follow.

organic abstract pattern -final pattern

Discussion

Have you taken any pattern-making Skillshare classes? Have you taken this one? If so, did you find it easy to follow? Let me know in the comments below!