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30 August 2012

GIMP Tutorial: How to Make a Rectangular Pattern

Introduction


One of the definitions of pattern is "an artistic or decorative design". Throughout history humans have created patterns to decorate buildings, objects, and clothing. There are many different types of and structures to patterns. I find patterns that repeat in some form and that can be tiled to cover any size area to be endlessly fascinating.

Making patterns from pieces of photographs can be lots of fun. I'm often surprised at the beautiful images that result. I'm especially fond of making patterns from feathers. In this step by step tutorial I will show you how to cut an image from a photograph and create a basic rectangular tile with it that you can then use to make a repeating pattern.

How to Create a Tile Piece


First, load the picture of your choice into GIMP. (I'm using version 2.6.11.) I've chosen a picture I took of a turkey.

Turkey

Using the Rectangle Select Tool [1] (shortcut R), drag a selection box around the part of the picture that you want to use to make your tile.

Rectangle Select Tool
Rectangle Select Tool

When you're actively moving the edges of the selection box you can see its current size in the status field at the bottom of the window [2]. You may need to zoom in (CTRL+Scroll Wheel Forward) to be able to adjust the selection to a precise size.

Selection Box
Selection Box Size

Choose Image > Crop to Selection [3].

Crop to Selection
Crop to Selection

You should have a rectangular image.

Tile Piece
Tile Piece

You now need a place to do your tiling. Choose File > New, enter a width and height [4], then click on Advanced Options [5] and choose Fill with: Transparency [6].

New Image
New Image - Setting width, height, and transparency

Click on the window containing your tile piece and type CTRL-C to copy the image. Click on your new empty file window and type CTRL-V to paste it. Note that the tile shows up as a new layer called Floating Selection [7]. Until you anchor this layer as a new layer you'll be very limited in what you can do with it, so right-click on the layer and choose New Layer [8].

Floating Selection New Layer
Floating Selection - New Layer

To name this layer, double-click on its name and enter Original Piece. You could also right-click on the layer and choose Edit Layer Attributes to open a dialog box where you can change the layer's name.

Before you start tiling, it's best to clean up your work area and save your new file. Close the file containing the original cut-out image by clicking on the X in the upper right corner of the window. Then save your new file by selecting File > Save As and choosing a name and location for it. When you enter a file name, don't include an extension — .xcf will be chosen automatically.

How to Create a Tiled Pattern


Now the fun begins. Right-click on your original piece layer and choose Duplicate Layer. This will create a new layer named Original Piece copy directly on top of the original layer [9]. Do this one more time. You'll get another layer named Original Piece copy #1 [10]. Layers must have unique names, so GIMP automatically numbers new layers. You can always change a layer's name to whatever you want.

Click on the eye next to Original Piece to hide it [11]. It's a good idea to keep a copy around in case you need to duplicate it again.

Duplicated Layers
Duplicated and Hidden Layers

Click on the Move Tool [12] (shortcut M), left-click on the tile and slide it over. Flip the currently selected tile horizontally by clicking on Layer > Transform > Flip Horizontally [13].

Flip Horizontally
Move and Flip Horizontally

Line the two pieces up next to each other. Zoom in closely so you can see when they just touch and make sure the edges match [14]. Right-click on the top-most piece layer and choose Merge Down [15].

Merge Layers
Merge Layers

Zoom out (CTRL+Scroll Wheel Backward). You should see one joined image. Duplicate this layer and choose Layer > Transform > Flip Vertically. Move the two pieces until they are butted up against each other and merge the two layers. Duplicate the merged layer, name one of them Tile, and hide it. You now have a rectangular tile that can be tiled easily with copies of itself without any more flipping. This is a good time to save your work by hitting CTRL-S.

Here's what my turkey feathers tile looks like.

Turkey Feathers Tile
Turkey Feathers Tile

Continue duplicating, aligning, and merging to create a pattern as large as you want. When you're ready to create a raster file, click on Image > Merge Visible Layers, select Clipped to bottom layer [16], and press the Merge button.

Merge Layers
Merge Layers Dialog Box

The hidden layers that are still left must be deleted. Right-click on each one and select Delete Layer [17].

Delete Layer
Delete Layer

Choose File > Save As and change the file extension to your preferred raster image type, such as .png. Voila! You've just created a cool pattern.

Examples of Rectangular Tiled Patterns


Here are many of the patterns I've created using this method or similar. Clicking on any of the links will take you to one of my store pages that shows products that use that image.

Electric Blue Stripes
Electric Blue Stripes
Hibiscus Leaves Pattern
Hibiscus Leaves Pattern
Indian Spot-Billed Duck Feathers Pattern
Mallard Feathers Pattern
Mallard Feathers Pattern
Chilean Flamingo Feathers Pattern
Chilean Flamingo Feathers Pattern
Red-Breasted Goose Pattern
Red-Breasted Goose Pattern
Water Lily Stripes
Water Lily Stripes
Wood Duck Patterns
Wood Duck Patterns
Yellow Mum Stripes
Yellow Mum Stripes
Young Flamingo Feathers Pattern 01
Young Flamingo Feathers Pattern 01
Young Flamingo Feathers Pattern 02
Young Flamingo Feathers Pattern 02

I used an extra step on the following pattern, which involved making a block of tiles, then copying a strip off the edge and adding it to both sides to extend part of the pattern.

Caribbean Flamingo Feathers
Caribbean Flamingo Feathers Pattern

Here's the turkey feathers pattern I eventually created.

Turkey Feathers Pattern
Turkey Feathers Pattern


Related GIMP Articles


How to Make a Hexagonal Pattern
How to Make a Pinwheel Pattern
 

4 comments:

  1. Beautiful! is this what they would call a repeating pattern?

    ReplyDelete
  2. Yes, these are all repeating patterns. As you can see, there are many different ways to create them. It's lots of fun to experiment.

    ReplyDelete
  3. thank you so much for those pattern tutorials, so imaginative, love it! :)
    NathL from France

    ReplyDelete
  4. I'm glad you enjoyed them. :)

    ReplyDelete