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2/25/15Repeating Pattern tutorial


If you follow me on Instagram you know I’ve been pattern crazy lately. Since I started to post the patterns, a lot of folks have asked about my process and how I’m creating them. I thought I’d demystify the process and share how I make them with you here. I’ve never taken a course in pattern design, this is just my method that I came to after playing around with making patterns over the years.  I’m not sure if this is how everyone else does it but it works for me. If you’ve got some Photoshop skills, this will be pretty easy to replicate, if not, this will seem hella complicated so you may wanna head over to Design Sponge who has a pretty great tutorial by the wonderful Julia Rothman on repeating patterns that doesn’t require Photoshop) Read on to get the scoop on my meathod>>



1. I start off by doing watercolor sketches in my notebook. Simple enough, right?
2. Next I scan the page into the computer at 300DPI.
3. After I import the scanned jpg into photoshop, I cut out each shape/sketch using the Magic Wand tool or the Magnetic Lasso tool and paste them all onto separate layers.
4. Then I create a new document and make a square or rectangle shape from the Guides.

How to Create a repeating pattern




5. Next I start cutting and pasting the shapes into the square. I move them around until I like the way they look. I may tweak the colors at this stage to get the right tones. It’s OK if the shapes go outside the lines.

Repeating Pattern Tutorial

5. Once I’ve filled up the square, I turn it into a clean tile. And this is the trickiest part of the whole deal. You see how that grey feather on the left is poking outside the Guide? Well, using the Rectangular Marquee tool I cut the part that’s outside the box. I add a new Guide to mark the top of where the piece is going outside the line (as shown above) and paste it at that exact same place, but on the opposite side of the square.

Repeating pattern how-to


6. Now you’ll notice that the part of the feather that was over the line, is now on the opposite side of the square. Next, I repeat this step with all of the pieces that are coming outside the square even a little bit. So if you look at the orange leaf in the upper left corner, you’ll notice the top of the leaf is now down on the bottom, left corner of the tile. Now be sure to save a version of your tile in PSD format, so that the layers remain in tact before moving to the next step.

Repeating pattern how-to

7. Hide the background layer and Merge Visible Layers so that your tile is now all on one layer. Now you just select all, copy and paste your tiles to line them up together and to start the repeat.

Repeating pattern how-to


8. Keep on adding pieces on all sides and make the repeat as small as four squares or as large as your computer will allow…

Repeating pattern how-to

9. Next I like to play with background colors and see how it changes the look and feel of the pattern.  reef2-copy2

10. And that’s it! It really just takes some practice, but once you get it down it’s actually pretty amazing how fast and easy it can be to make a repeating pattern…watch out though, it’s addicting!

Once you have your repeat pattern done, you can use companies like Spoonflower or Fabric on Demand to design your own wallpaper, fabric or gift wrap. Wouldn’t it be fun to make fabric and upholster a chair or make curtains with your own watercolor sketches?! I can’t wait until I get to start to see my patterns appearing in jungalows around the world–and hopefully that will be happening soon–but more on that later

Let me know if you have any questions!


Justina Blakeney Justina Blakeney

Designer, artist, stylist & mama. Founder and CCO at The Jungalow. Crazy for color, pattern and plants!

52 responses to “Repeating Pattern tutorial”

  1. Anna says:

    thank you so so much for posting this, Justina!! I looove your patterns and was about to ask you which program do you use to make them )))) I am going to try it today itself! :)

  2. Greeeeeeeeeeeeaaaaaaaaaaat!!!!! Thank you, Justina


  3. Silvana says:

    Ahh, this helped me out SO much! I was wondering how you made these beautiful patterns repeat. Going to give it a try very soon. (:

  4. Emily says:

    Loving your pattern series soooooo much! Can’t wait to see where they end up! Do you know your way around Illustrator? The newer versions make pattern making really easy and it might be fun for you to play with because you can toggle the way they are gridded, etc with the click of a button and it’s super simple to save them and apply them to new documents, images, etc.

    • Justina Blakeney says:

      Hi Emily!
      Yes I’m decent at illustrator but I’m kinda more agile in photoshop so/because I use it more often–but this is a great tip and I will be giving this a try too! Thanks for the tip!

  5. […] 23.  How To Create a Repeating Pattern in PhotoshopA simple guide into making digital repeating patterns.By Justina Blakeney […]

  6. Manu says:

    Ohhhh love it, thank you for the tutorial Justina! But I’m afraid to start making patterns and become addicted :S

  7. Maggie says:

    Thank you so much for sharing this! I also loved Julia’s tutorial, but got held back feeling like I needed to stay within a square with hand painted items, so this is hugely helpful! I love your designs, they are lovely!

  8. such a good tutorial.
    i love the idea of having your own sketches in your home.
    thanks justina!

  9. cecilia says:

    Long time reader — first time comment…I love how organic your process is, but there is a much less time consuming way to make a repeat in Photoshop:

    -Build your composition in a photoshop file (no clipping, make it fill but not break frame and it can be any size or ratio)

    -Then select all layers, right click and make it a smart object (non destructive and still editable). Then, go into Filter > Other > Offset. This Filter will tile your pattern.

    -Divide the composition equally (if your composition was 1600x1600px, offset by 800px and 800px) Now you have a perfect repeat.

    -Then I fill in the center of the composition with more elements.

    …And you have a lovely repeat with no grid-based cutting or hassle.

    • Justina Blakeney says:

      Oh I’ll have to try this! I love to hear how many different roads there are to take to get to the same end! Thanks for sharing!

  10. Danni says:

    I love that you hand paint the elements first. It adds such an organic feel. The offset tool is soooo incredibly useful for making repeat patterns. Cecelia explained it perfectly. I learned through skillshare.com (thank you for opening my eyes to such a helpful website BTW). If anyone is interested:
    “Pattern Design: Creating Repeat Patterns From Your Illustrations & Paintings” by Kristi O’Meara

  11. Sarah Kaggwa says:

    have you heard of spoonflower? you should upload these patterns so people could buy fabric with the patterns on them! i would TOTALLY buy that fabric! LOVE!

  12. Rosa says:

    This was so so helpful! I’ve been wanting to know how to do these kind of patterns using watercolor drawings for such a long time. Thank you so so much, I’ll put for sure this tutorial into practice!

  13. Chelsea Jean says:

    another tip, you can save you finished single tile to your swatches palette and then you can draw any shape that you want and simply fill it with the repeated pattern!

  14. […] My A + S partner in crime sent me this handy blog post tutorial on how to create patterns in Photoshop. So great, thanks Jungalow for the tips of the […]

  15. […] finally, a tutorial on creating a repeating pattern for graphic designers and home studies […]

  16. Kya says:

    This is fantastic! Thank you.

  17. Nathalie says:

    Justina, I really love the color combination of your pattern!
    It is so nice to see your process and how everybody has his own way to do things!
    I also made my own tutorial on how to make repeat patterns, if you want to check it, I would be very honored!

  18. Heather says:

    Thank you!

  19. Siljeplante says:

    Wow wow wow. I totally just did this! I have almost no experience with photoshop, so finding all the tools as well as understanding how the layers work(damn layers…) took forever, but somehow I managed to make a pattern! Even with the objects outside the lines that continue into the next square and all that. Thanks for a really inspiring and understandable tutorial!

  20. Mary says:

    Thank You!! I knew it had to be simple but am so grateful someone finally spelled it out. (And Love your designs!)

  21. Wow Justina thank you for sharing – this is so awesome and helpful!!! Your patterns are gorgeous. I can’t wait to give it a shot :)

  22. Mimai says:

    Thanks for sharing! This is awesome! 😀 Can’t wait to try it!

  23. Jennifer says:

    This post brought me to your blog. Thank you for taking the time to write it! What a great creative self – homework assignment. I am teaching myself photoshop and need good projects to work on. Great site.

  24. Jen says:

    This is soooo fabulous! Thank you!

  25. This is so helpful! Thank you so much! Can’t wait to give it a try. :)

  26. Kelly D says:

    Love this post – what a beautiful pattern!
    I have a (silly?) question about scanning, hoping you can offer insight since it was watercolor you were scanning.

    I do a lot of rendering with chartpak markers, and have started watercolor more recently. Any time I try to scan my work into the computer to use in Photoshop for projects, the color/contrast gets super blown-out! My once beautiful/subtle color looks nothing like it did on paper. I tried scanning at different resolutions/pixels but that did not help my problem, unfortunately. Can I ask what your trick is or what kind of scanner you have? Even when I have taken work to a copy store like FedEx-Kinko’s it seems to distort beyond what I was expecting.

    Any advice would be deeply appreciated, as I am mystified!!!
    Your work is beautiful, thank you for sharing!

  27. Bee says:

    Thanks for posting this, Justina! Really glad to read this and stumble across your work.

  28. […] I cannot wait to try this! Also, I’m convienced Justina can do anything (got a major girl crush going on right […]

  29. […] Use your own paintings to make a pattern digitally like this tutorial from The Jungalow. […]

  30. […] This tutorial on creating a repeating pattern on Photoshop at thejungalow.com (can be used to design your own fabric or wrapping paper) is very enticing, but I definitely need to work on my Photoshop skills.   […]

  31. Lisa says:

    There is a great online class at BurdaStyle Academy on creating fabric designs using photoshop and illustrator. Its $129 to take. It’s a fabulous class. It starts soon, but does run frequently.

  32. sandra says:

    Lovely work!! And this is a wonderful tutorial; i just have a question; are there any special tips for selecting the shapes when you are planning to use them on another color background? i was wondering also if it might be best to use something like gouache instead of watercolor in this case.

  33. […] weeks ago I came across and shared this tutorial for taking your original art and using it for wrapping paper, scarves, etc…  Since […]

  34. Anonymous says:

    Can’t wait to try this! Thank you so much for posting! Wonderful!

  35. […] my ideas come to life–It’s like magic!  You may remember a few months back I made a repeating pattern tutorial that demonstrates how to make a pattern from little sketches and […]

  36. Johanna says:

    Justina; Just discovered your work on apartment therapy… ran to find your Jungalow blog.
    Ooooh. Now THAT’s what I’ve been dreaming to do to my teeny apartment .. if I knewhow I will be living on your site.
    One Q I hit on your Guides and zip,I lost them. Could you pls guide me back, no pun intended.
    I also fell in love with your family portrait. How great is that! . Johanna (Yohanna)

  37. Juilee says:

    I do not have a scanner at my place. Will it still work if I click a really nice and clear picture of my sketches and import and then use to do the same ?

  38. […] that I’ve been playing with patterns for years. I was self taught in this arena and have unorthodox methods of creating patterns so I was VERY intimidated at the thought of putting my patterns to use on […]

  39. […] I shared my method for creating repeating patterns (and this was one of the most popular posts of the […]

  40. […] a tutorial on how I make these repeating patterns, go here. For a tutorial on how to make these kind of room renderings, go […]

  41. Thank you! When I first try, I will probably become an addict 😉 I “discovered” your blog just a short while ago. Love it!

  42. Great internet site! It looks very professional! Maintain the good job!|

  43. Margaret says:

    This is incredible! Do you sell your fabric? I make handmade pillows and curtains and love to feature other artists work in my designs.


  44. […] Teaching myself something new. […]

  45. Jillian says:

    Awesome tutorial, Justina! I can’t wait to try this.

  46. […] I was scrolling through my Instagram feed and saw a post by Justina Blakeney leading to a blog post tutorial she had written on how to turn your doodles into a repeatable pattern. I thought, I could do that! […]

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