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Learn how to create a seamless repeating pattern in Adobe Photoshop. In this guide I will show you how to create a fuzzy polka dot style pattern. For this tutorial we are going to look at using a displacement map in Photoshop to help create this effect.

Setting up your polka dot pattern

Open Photoshop and click to create a new document. For this tutorial I use the dimensions 400 x 400 px with resolution set to 300 dpi, RGB color mode and transparent background.

First you need to create a simple polka dot pattern. Using the ellipse shape tool create a circle. The keyboard shortcut for the shape tools is – U. To toggle between the various shape tool you will want to hit Shift + U.You can click to drag or just click on the canvas a dialogue box will appear. For this example I used the size 100 x 100 px.

Once you have your circle go ahead and center your object.

To center an object you can click and drag and Photoshop will give you guides to center it. Another option is accessing the Marquee tool (M – keyboard shortcut) and then selecting all (Cmd or Ctrl + A). Next access the Move tool (V – keyboard shortcut) and use the align tools in the top menu to align your object both vertically and horizontally to the center. Finally you will want to deselect everything (Cmd or Ctrl + D). To make this process even quicker I created an action to easily center an object. Check out my Photoshop Actions for Pattern Design.

Next you want to create your polka dot pattern. In the video I demonstrated using the offset filter, but you can now use the pattern preview tool. Go to View > Pattern Preview and this will cause your circle to repeat in all directions. To make a polka dot style pattern duplicate your circle with the keyboard shortcut Cmd or Ctrl + J. Drag the circle to one of the corners and you should see it repeat in all corners to create the polka dot style pattern.

To save your pattern go to edit > define pattern and this will save a copy on your pattern in the patterns panel. To access your patterns panel go to Window > Patterns.

Create a fuzzy polka dot repeat pattern using a displacement map

To create the fuzzy polka dot effect we are going to use a displacement map. A displacement map is a black and white document that you can use to distort your pattern. Create a new document with the size of 3600 x 3600 px, 300 dpi with a white background.

Make sure your foreground and background colors are set to default. The keyboard shortcut is D. This will cause black to be set as the foreground color and white as the background color.

Next go the Filter > Render > Difference Clouds and this should create a cloudy look on your canvas. You need to apply a second filter by going to Filter > Render > Fibers. A dialogue box will appear. You can adjust the variance and strength of the this effect. For this example I used a variance of 19 and a strength level of 18.

To use this as a displacement map save the file as a .PSD document.

Next, create a new document 3600 x 3600 px, 300 dpi with transparent background. From the bottom of the layers panel click to add a pattern adjustment layer and select your newly created polka dot pattern.

Right click on this layer and convert to smart object. This is always a good idea before apply a filter to your layer.

To create the fuzzy polka dot effect go to filter > distort > Displace. A dialogue box will appear where you can set the horizontal and vertical displacement settings. For this example I used 10 for vertical and horizontal. Click ok and then you will be prompted to select you displacement map file that you saved. Once you have selected your file you should see it applied to your polka dot pattern.

If you want to change the degree of displacement just click on the displacement filter in the layers panel and it will allow you to change the values. When you do this is will also prompt you to reselect your file.

Changing the Color of Your Pattern

To change the color of your pattern I like to use a Color fill adjustment layer. In the bottom of the layers panel click to add a color fill adjustment layer. Position this layer below your pattern fill layer. This will be the background color. Duplicate this layer (Cmd or Ctrl + J) and drag the duplicate layer above your pattern fill layer. Right click on this layer and select – Create clipping mask. Your pattern should now take on the color of this layer. If you want to change the color double click on the color fill layer and make a new color selection.

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