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Making Seamless Background Tiles
Part 2: Examples & instructions for creating seamless tiles
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When I am making seamless tiles, sometimes I start with an existing photo and use various filters or Photoshop actions on the image. Other times I will start with an existing pattern or tile and paint on top of it, adding layers to it. Sometimes I just start painting on a blank canvas with the default brushes or custom brushes and image sprays. It all depends on the type of tile I am trying to create.

The two most important tools for creating seamless tiles is your image editor's offset filter, and the clone tool. If your image editor does not include an offset filter, I suggest you download the free simple filters which includes the "half-wrap" filter. This filter performs a similar function to the offset filter, but with some limitations.

The offset filter basically shifts your image in the canvas horizontally and vertically, by a numerical value that you can specify. It may be a number of pixels or a percentage. By activating the "wrap edges" option in the offset filter, you are essentially turning the image inside out... where the outside edges of the image get wrapped around toward the center of the image.

The images below should make this more clear to you. Or you can experiment with the offset filter to see for yourself how it works.

Original Image Offset 25%, no wrap Offset 50%, wrapped edges Offset 25%, wrapped edges

The first image above is the original. The second image is offset 25% with no wrap. The third image is offset 50% with edges wrapped. Notice how the bottom right corner wraps around to the top left. The fourth image is offset 25% with edges wrapped.

The difference between the free "half wrap" filter compared to a full-fledges offset filter is that it will always wrap the edges of the image, and it will always offset your image by 50%. In other words, the results will always look like the third image above. This is the most common setting used when creating seamless tiles, so often using the simple "half wrap" filter is faster then using offset because there are no controls to adjust.

Now that you know how to use an offset filter to wrap the edges of your image to the center, the simplest way to make a seamless tile is to paint on your image, wrap the edges, and then paint over the seams to conceal them. The seamless tile below was created using this method.

Original Image Step 1 Paint Step 2 Offset Wrap Step 3 Paint over seams
The first image above is what I started with. Next, I painted on it to produce the second image. The third image is how it looks after using the half wrap filter. Do you see the vertical and horizontal seams down the center? And the fourth image is how it looked after painting over the seams to hide them. The background behind this text is how the image looks tiled. If you're not seeing the image tiled, click here to open a new window with the tiled image.

The second method for creating seamless tiles uses the clone tool. The clone tool is used to erase a way the seams of your image. The seamless image below was created using the clone tool and the half wrap filter.

AOriginal Image
BOffset Half Wrap
CClone tool to hide seams
For this one I started with an existing image that is not seamless. I cropped out a portion of the image (A), used the half wrap filter on it (B), and then used the clone tool to cover up the seams (C). If you're not seeing the image tiled, click here to open a new window with the tiled image.

When using the clone tool, be sure to feather the edges of your brush and use some transparency to get a better blend. You also want to avoid clicking and dragging with the brush. Instead, click with the brush once, move the brush slightly, click again, and so on. Resetting the source of the clone tool often helps too.

The next example I will show you uses a custom brush with the offset filter. (For some free custom brushes you can download, visit my free stuff page.)

Original Image Custom Brush Offset Half Wrap Repeat Custom Brush
I started with a simple solid fill. Next, I used a custom brush to place a swirly thing in the center of the square. The third image shows how it looks after applying the half wrap filter. For the final step, I placed another swirly thing with the same custom brush in the center of the image. The background behind this text is how the image looks tiled. If you're not seeing the image tiled, click here to open a new window with the tiled image.

Below is the same technique, only this time I used two different custom brushes.

Original Image Custom Brush Offset Half Wrap Custom Brush #2
If you're not seeing the image tiled, click here to open a new window with the tiled image.

More: Software and Tutorials for Making Patterns and Textures

Some images from Nova Development's Art Explosion 600,000.

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