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Creative Composites Using Your Own Photo Stock

Lesson 9 of 12

Create Continuous Photoshop Patterns And Pattern Brushes

Karen Alsop

Creative Composites Using Your Own Photo Stock

Karen Alsop

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Lesson Info

9. Create Continuous Photoshop Patterns And Pattern Brushes
Create reusable patterns and brushes from common textures such as cracks, grass, foliage and branches.

Lesson Info

Create Continuous Photoshop Patterns And Pattern Brushes

I love to keep a whole range of textures available in my Photoshop library. I saved them often in the library directly so I can drop them in. But there's also a way of creating repetitive patterns that can be used without having any edges. So I'm going to show you how to do that Now. We went out on location earlier in the class and I photographed a whole range of these textures that I am going to now go in and show you how you would convert them for use. So let's head over. So to start with, we photographed the bricks on location and they had some really great textures. Now, some of these bricks, as I explained when we photographed them, we're in a position where the sun was shining through trees and so we wouldn't want to use this necessarily although you never know it might work for something. So, I'm gonna go ahead and pick this texture here which has no particular sunlight on it. It's still got all of the greens of the brick there. And we're going to turn this into a texture, first...

adding it to our library and then turning it into a repetitive pattern. So let's head over to Photoshop a few tips when you're editing your textures. One of the things I like to do is turn my textures into black and white. You can always add color later on using adjustments But starting out with a black and white texture means that it's not going to cast a particular Hugh onto what you're placing it on. So we're going to do that and we're also going to make it 50% great approximately because then we can use all of the blending modes in that overlay section and drop out the grays and be left with the textures. So let's go into camera raw. So in camera raw, let's just adjust this until it looks like it's about 50% gray. Now we can see this. If you have a look at the instagram at the top there, we want to get that in the middle. So we move it around. All right. And if we set that right in the middle, that's at about the 50% gray mark. Now, we also can adjust our highlights and shadows. If we want a bit more detail we can adjust our whites and blacks. It's completely up to you how much of that texture you want to highlight. But then we can pull our saturation down so that this is completely black and white. There's no color tinge to it. So now that we've got the texture in Photoshop, we want to make it so that it's available in our library. I'm going to create a new library and I'm going to call this one Creative Live. So anything that we use for this class, I'm going to put into this library. Now remember what happened last time when you try and drop a raw file in. It doesn't work. So what we need to do is restaurants it and then we can drop that in without a problem. Now that that's in there. I can go across to any of my images and I can drop that in. So let's drop it onto homeless penguin just to give you an example of what will happen because it's a texture. We're not too worried if it goes out of proportion. So I'm going to hit shift and resize there. So it covers the whole canvas and I now can add a blending mode to this layer. This section here is not really what we'd use for this kind of texture. Darken takes away the light areas. So all of these particular blending modes take away the light areas. And this section here that we used when we did the steam and the atmospheric haze that takes away the dark areas, the black. It is actually this third section that takes away the grace and gives you more flexibility with textures that have that balance of darks and lights and in between. As with anything, it's a matter of playing with the different blending modes until you get something that you really, really like and different images will suit different blending modes. One of the most common ones to use though is overlay and soft light. If we turn overlay on. The other thing that you would often do with a texture is just pull down the opacity. Don't want it to be over the top. Now this texture would work quite well on something that has less detail and I don't often put textures like this on my very very detailed work because these there's so much going on in this particular image. So I'm currently working on another series called Australian Wildlife Adventures. And it's all about one Australian wildlife animal interacting with a tourist destination, like the puffing billy steam train and I for this one and creating a more painterly look. So if we head into Photoshop and drop the texture that we created onto this particular image which doesn't have as much detail as the penguins, you'll find that it really does work a whole lot better. So I resize that to fit again. We're not too worried if it loses a little bit of its detail because it is only a texture. And whereas an element that you really need to see clearly, you wouldn't want to expand that much. So we're just going to pull that down. So we put overlay mode on for a start. Okay, so you can see that this texture just had something to the image. But often with a texture, just a heads up your main element or subject, especially if it's a person or even if it's an animal, You want to have less texture on them. So you would often paint that off. So if I use a lower flow brush. So let's get that at and a soft edge. So it blends and we just paint that off for masked that area. So it's not as obvious on the kangaroo. And that particular texture is showing up more on the train and on the background. So how much you put that texture on there and have it show up. Really depends on how you want it to look. It's about your style. So for me, I don't like too much texture, but for an image like this, it can work. Now. One of the benefits of turning this particular texture into a pattern means that you can use it across anything no matter how big it is and it will be repetitive. So there's no edge or end to it. I'll show you how to achieve this. So at the moment if we placed this into an image, it has an edge, an obvious edge. Now if we want to make a pattern out of it. The first step is to do the offset filter which we did do earlier. So we're trying to find that crossover and put it somewhere in the middle. Now you can see here that we've got the edges here and here. So what we're trying to do right now is to get rid of that so that it's just completely repetitive. Uh So what you do need to do is do make sure that it is rast arised and we are doing destructive editing when we're doing this and this is not something that I normally do in a composite. Keep in mind we're working destructively. Just because we're creating a pattern. But if you're wanting to go backwards on something, this is not the ideal scenario because once we've done this it's locked in. But it is the best way to create a repetitive pattern. So what I'm doing here is I've got the patch tool and I am just circling around the joints and using the patch tool. That one didn't work very well using the patch tool to try and hide those joints. So I just continue to work my way around the image until I don't really see any edges. You could sort of join up where those lines are falling. If you work carefully, can kind of really make this work now in doing this, you may need to lighten off areas so everything is even you can see this middle area is quite dark compared to the rest. So on what you can do this is circle around the area that you want to make blend better and create a levels adjustment layer. Now it's only going to show up where we circled it and that's okay. What we're trying to do is match it and then we can mask and blend it off. So I'm adjusting this, looking at this section here and trying to match it so that's a little bit closer and then we'll blend this. Now you could feather the edge or you could just use a brush and a low flow and just mask it until it looks even ID then advise probably flattening again. Again, this is very, very destructive and not a way I would normally work. But in creating a pattern or a brush I would All right. So now that we've got that to a point where it looks quite continuous, we go ahead and check again. So we're going to other offset. We move around our edge another time. We might see some discrepancies when we do that. So I can already see one just there. So again, I'm going to grab that patch tool and fix that section there. And are there any other spots looking pretty good. I'll offset it one more time to make sure now that we've made it continuous so that there's no edge. We're going to edit define patterns and we're going to call this brick texture. All right. That is now can be found in our patterns in a couple of places. So the first place that you'll find it, if you go to adjustment layers and you go to pattern it will be at the bottom there and you can put these into folders, you can organize them as you need to. Now the cool thing about patterns is they can be used in a variety of different ways. If we go back into kangaroo. I'll turn that texture off. I'm going to add a pattern adjustment layer. Not the grass. That's another one I've created though. All right, so there we've got it now. We can actually resize this pattern. It's scaled at 100% at the moment. You can go bigger. You can go smaller. So you can change the size, which is really great to be able to create a flexible pattern. And maybe you want finer details. Maybe you want larger details. So you can do that even once you've made the adjustment on the blending mode, you can adjust that as well. So a press. Okay? And have a look at the different adjustments. So you can see it's a bit tighter of a pattern than when I placed it in and it's just repeating. So there's no edge to it. If I go back into it and I want to make it bigger. I can do that too. And I can see the effects straight away. Now, what else can we do with the pattern? Well, maybe we just want to feel a section with the pattern. So we draw the area that we want to fill and then we create a pattern and then we choose a pattern. All right. What if we want to use the pattern as on a brush? So you can actually go to the pattern stamp tool. So, have a look at this. There's the clone stamp tool and there's the pattern stamp tool. So the pattern stamp tool, you need to have a blank layer ready to go and you can choose a pattern that you've created. What happens if we want to actually use a different shaped brush. So not a regular shaped brush with our pattern. So this is the regular shaped brush. We can use that and paint with our pattern with that one. What happens if we want to use the brush that we created? Well, one thing that you need to keep in mind if I go into brush settings on this brush when you create the brush and make sure that this brush doesn't have include tool settings. If you include the tool settings when you create it, you will find that it's locked to the paint. It's not able to be used as a pattern brush. But if you don't include tool settings then you can use it as a pattern shape brush. One of my favorite brushes that I've created in a set is a foliage brush. Now the foliage brush has the pattern of foliage that I photographed and I can actually use it because it also has the shape of foliage attached to it. I'll show you what I mean. So this is my magic brushes set and there's a few different ones in here. I'm going to use the light foliage and the brush was first created from college in terms of its shape. So you can see the shape that it gives when I tap with it. But if we then start drawing with it or painting with it. It's creating foliage with the shape but also with the texture of foliage complete folded. Real real pixels and you can do so much with this. I'm gonna take you through the steps again this time a little faster than the previous time. I'm providing this grass for you so that you can work through this as I go through it and see if you can do the same thing. So let's go into the grass that I captured while we're on location. I'm going to double click that and open it up. And now I'm going to just make the adjustments that I need to. Now you want to make sure that all of the repetitive elements and I've already done this to speed things up are hidden. So I'm using the healing brush just to hide any repetitive, obscure leaves and things like that. We're going to open this. And the first thing that we can do now is have a look at this and see is there going to be any issues with a repetitive pattern? And I can see there's some longer darker grass on this right hand side. So perhaps if we make this a square that will give us a better start to begin with to create this repetitive pattern. All right. I can see some odd areas here and there. But what I'm going to do next is filter other and upset. And okay, now, now we can see where it's crossing over. Now remember what I said here that I don't normally work destructively, I normally keep rose but we're going to re asterisk this because we're creating a pattern and that way we can just really quickly and efficiently edit this with the patch tool. So we want to patch this longer area of grass and make it look more like the shorter grass. Fortunately I photographed this on a golf course so it's pretty decent grass. Now, one of the things you'll notice, uh there is some color changes in the grass as well. So a quick fix for that might be to create a layer above solid color, choose the green that you want the grass to be, change that to color blending mode and then perhaps pull that down and adjust. You can change the colour after you've done this too. So you can see how it looks. So having a more uniform color with the grass is probably a good idea to create a pattern, flatten it down. We're working destructively when we're creating a pattern and again, don't do this when you're actually doing your composite. Alright, so we are going to now edit and define pattern and we call this one grass and now that is in our pattern area. So if we go back into another image just so I can show you and I'm going to go new patent layer and I'm going to go down to the grass that I just created and there it is now if you wanted to make this so that it was the perspective that grass might be. You could do that. So you could create a section of grass. I don't probably not on a kangaroo, but let's just show you this. Go to pattern, fill it with your grass, make it the size that you want. Now what you need to do at this point is if you change this, the perspective doesn't change because it's just a pattern fill. But if you rest arise this, you could then change the perspective of the grass to paint with a pattern brush. You go to pattern stamp tool, you choose the brush that you want and I want the reeds and then I want the grass to apply to the read brush. If I make this really big, you'll see the effect so you can see that I'm actually painting grass with a grass brush that has the texture of the grass in it. I hope that's open your world to the possibilities of brushes and patterns. I'm going to show you a couple more techniques. One of them is to add cracks to a scene and the other is to create a tree brush. So let's go to the cracks. So I'm going to grab the shot of the cracks that I photographed and I'll open it in camera or which will then take me into Photoshop for this one. I want to really accentuate the cracks themselves. I don't want to see the texture of the ground. So for this one, I'm going to emphasize the blacks pull out as much as I can of that mid tone. So there are still a few little divots and things in there. But this is just emphasizing the cracks themselves. You can increase the text show which might bring a bit more of that out and once that's ready, I am going to pull that saturation down so it's just black and white. The final thing that I'm going to do in camera raw is just a crop it. So I've got the fine details in the image so I can create a pattern just out of the cracks, open object and then we go to filter and offset. Move it until we can see the two edges and already it's looking quite consistent. It is hard to see where the edges set. There's edges there so I don't need to do much to it. So I press OK and I'm going to use the patch tool just to join some of these areas. So they've got extra cracks, Better Restaurants at 1st. And then I'm going to grab a little bit of a crack from here and pop it there. We don't want any blurry bits. So just watch out for that with this kind of texture. If you change the patch to content aware, it will not do that blur. So depending on what you're doing, you might want to on normal content where you may get a cleaner result. There's more cracks on this side than there is on this side. So what I could do is sell it an area there and grab a cracked area from there just to add to the texture of this section. Looking pretty good. One more upset. All right, I'm happy with this as a pattern. So we go to edit two phone pattern and we call these cracks and now we can apply that over an element. So, I'll go to this this one here and show you how it looks on the train itself. So we can go pattern. She's the one that we just created which is the cracks and we can make them bigger. We can make them smaller. But remember the blending mode that we need to use here is multiply or darken or color burn now, all of those will drop out the white and leave the black. So, if you're wanting to have cracks on a part of a train for example, you could use that. You can change the blending mode and the opacity to suit and then you could mask in and out the area that you want. So, I am going to mask back in this side of the train here with the cracks. And of course we wouldn't want cracks on the pole. So control where the cracks are applied. If your composite is fully layered, you can clip these adjustments to the different areas of your composite at the moment, I'm just working on a flat version of it for demonstration purposes. So that is how you create a pattern that you can use again and again and again. One of the final things I'm going to show you now is how to create a brush that is the shape of a tree or a branch. These can be really handy for masking, especially when you're trying to fix branches or take away halos around trees that you've cut out. So let's head over to bridge and here in bridge, you can see the images I took. It was so windy when I was photographing these branches and you can see this one, the wind is blowing. But this one here is reasonably still. We'll still, as I was going to get it on the day, so we're going to take that into Photoshop. The first thing we want to do here is again, we're looking for a very highly contrasting black and white. This is to create the shape. This is not to create the texture. So we're going to play with our exposure are blacks or whites. Turn the saturation down. We want a really strong contrast between the branches and the sky. Now, we can get rid of all of this in Photoshop pretty easily too. So once we've got it to the point that we think we can work it. We're going to Photoshop so now that we've done that we can create a brush. Now remember the brush needs to be black on white, not white on black. So we've got that correct? Now if we go to edit and we go to up see what happened to find, brush preset is grayed out. Do you remember what it was that we needed to do to make this a brush? It was to ensure that the images under 2000 pixels. Now first step might be to crop this in a little bit because there's areas that we don't really need right now that we've done that it's still going to be too big. So if we go to image image size, It's actually 6000 wide by 4,438. So let's make that longest side 2000 pixels and press. OK? All right now we can go to edit, define brush preset and this is our tree. Now if you remember the steps that we made before we do need to now adjust our brush and create a variable brush that moves that changes and does what we wanted to in brush presets. So let's go to window brush settings and you can see these are all really close together. If we go to brush tip shape, the first thing we're gonna do is spread that out so that if we're drawing with this for some reason it is spread out now we may want this brush to rotate but we may also want to control the rotation with our pen. So I'm gonna show you how to do it that way because this is gonna be a brush that we use to mask in with. So we actually want this to be highly controlled as to what direction it's facing. The first thing that I want to do is just have this upright to start with. So now our brush is upright. The next thing that we want to do is control our angle. So before we used angle did adjust to randomize the angle but we can control it with a number of different things here. And one of the ones that I use often is pen tilt. Now the pen tilt means that your pen, your wacom pen when you tilt it, it actually rotates your brush and that is what I want to be able to do. So if I'm tilting you can see the brush is tilting and I can have complete control about the angle and I can see it right now exactly where it's going to sit, angle. Pen tilt, you can try a few of those other settings if you want to control it in a different way, particularly if you're using a mouse, you might need to use something else to control the tilt so we need to save this. This is our tree creative lives. So tree cl I'm not going to include tool settings in this because I might want to add a pattern to it later on. I'm not going to capture the brush size in the preset either because I may not want it to start at a particular size. So let's just save that. Now now we have our tree, we'll go down to our brushes and we'll drag this final one into my collection. Okay, so now you have read fog and tree and tree is able to be just a normal mask entry. So if we want to actually mask with this, if I go to the background layer and create a mask on it, it will mask. That's what I would primarily use that with. But you might also want to make this brush into a brush that has a pattern of a tree in it. Now obviously the branches will still have that pattern in it but they're so skinny, it might not be as noticeable. So let's do one final thing where we make this into also a tree with foliage in it. So we need to get the leaves into this tree. So we need to create a repetitive pattern of the leaves themselves. Now there's a few captures that we could use but for this just to demonstrate, I'm actually going to use the captures of this foliage. And yes, it's going to have some flowers in it which could well be quite pretty in the tree, so I'm going to double click that and let's try and balance everything out. We want to keep the color for this one and we don't really want this part of the branch either. So we really sort of want this area that looks repetitive. Already there are some holes that we will need to fill that. So let's open in photo shop and let's rast arise that again like we have been and I am going to use the patch tool with content aware as my option and just feel these particular holes here. Now that should be more consistent. So if we go back to offset, there's still some variants there. So we're going to try with our patch tool and see how much of that we can fix. Alright, that's looking quite repetitive. Now we're ready to turn it into a pattern. So edit to find patent and foliage C. L. Now that we've got that we can go back to our tree and we can go to klein pattern stamp tool and choose the tree that we created which is tree cl and change the pattern to the foliage. Now you can see that we've got the tree and a pattern within the tree showing through one of the things you'll notice when you're doing this. Is that the pattern always stays the same as the original and in this case we've got some weirdness happening with the flowers in this particular pattern and the tree. So a way to rectify that is to do a new version of this that's a little bit smaller and it doesn't have the flowers in it. So a quick way to fix that would just be to patch the flowers out and then make this smaller. So if we go to image image size At the moment this is at 100%. I'm gonna make it 10 pixels by whatever it ends up at. And press. Ok, that's going to create a tighter textured pattern. This will be a new pattern. So we define pattern small foliage ceo. And then if we go back to our tree and change that brush to have this tighter foliage in it And go ahead and stamped with that one. That works a whole lot better for that particular tree and makes it look really realistic. So, I'm going to save that as a new brush. So we want to include the tool settings for this one and include the pattern for this one. Because then whenever you choose this particular brush which will call tree cl pattern. It already contains all of that foliage for you. Let's press Okay? And so now we have two versions of this brush. The masking one and the pattern one. I want to encourage you to try this yourself. Don't just use the brushes and the patterns that I've created but go out and photograph your own stock to create your own patterns and brushes. I mean that's what this class is all about. It's not about just using what I provide, it's there for you, but I really want to encourage you. There is so much potential out there just at your doorstep. So get out there, photograph and create.

Class Description

Short on time? This class is available HERE as a Fast Class, exclusively for Creator Pass subscribers. 


  • Photograph textures, atmosphere and elements that you can use in composites.
  • Easily manage your own photo stock library.
  • Shoot miniatures and focus stack.
  • Supersize phone photos and use them in your composites.
  • Create photoshop patterns and brushes.
  • Photograph costumes and dress your subjects in Photoshop.
  • Find creative ways to make anything possible.


There is nothing like the feeling of creating art from your own images. Purchased stock can be a valuable resource, but it shouldn’t be the first solution when you are working on a creative composite.

Learn how to creatively photograph elements that become other elements in a composite. Turn miniatures into life sized elements. Photograph incredible costumes and dress your subjects in Photoshop. Create brushes, textures and patterns from photos that you can use over and over again. Be resourceful and creative in your hunt for elements, and take your compositing to the next level.

These techniques will open up a world of possibilities for your image creation, where anything is possible.


  • Composite Photographers who would like to expand their creativity
  • Photographers that would like to take a leap into the compositing world
  • Anyone that is looking for fresh and unique ways to bring their imaginations to life


Adobe Photoshop 2021 (22.5.0)
Lightroom CC (4.4)
Adobe Bridge 2021


Karen Alsop is an internationally acclaimed Melbourne, Australia-based photographic digital artist. Expanding on two decades of photographic and graphic design experience, Karen brings photography and art together to create stunning artworks that tell a story and take the viewer into another world.

Specializing in Portrait Art, her digital portraiture captures the personality and character of her subjects by placing them within a visual story highlighting their interests. Karen uses the power of Photoshop to composite multiple captures together, making the impossible possible within her art.

Karen's latest project sees her using her compositing skills to give children with severe disabilities the wings to fly. The Heart Project, a joint partnership between Story Art and The Sebastian Foundation is bringing hope worldwide to children and families through the power of photography.

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Charlene Mitchell

WOW! I'm not familiar with Karen's work so this was a wonderful surprise! Loved the detail she included in her instruction and her passion shows through in every topic! So many tips and tricks to help 'sell' the finished piece as believable - details I wouldn't have thought of. Going to check out her other class on CL and also her website!

Melissa Helland

Can’t tell you how much I appreciate all I’ve learned from this teacher. Wonderful classes here on Creative Live and her site has even more learning opportunities. Worth every penny of my Creative Live membership just for this class alone!

Cristina Menor

Karen is an excellent teacher. Her lessons are always very well explained and very easy to understand and to follow. You will learn lots of valuable tips. I absolutely recommend this class if you want to learn how to create incredible compositions very near to reality.