Updated in July 2017 for Adobe Photoshop CC
This tutorial will show you how to make a polka dot pattern in Photoshop and how to use it to create a background. I will use Photoshop CC, but you can make the same background with an older version of Photoshop or using GIMP which is a free alternative to Photoshop.
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I’m very new at this and very nervous, so please excuse my mistakes 🙂
Here’s how to create a polka dot pattern in Photoshop. Scroll down for the written tutorial.
How to create a polka dot pattern
Create a new canvas by going to File > New. Set the width and height to 100px and from Background Contents select Transparent. This way you will have a transparent background instead of the normal white one.
If you want to print the pattern, set the resolution to 300ppi and the color mode to CMYK. Otherwise, if it’s only for the web, set the resolution to 72ppi and the color mode to RGB.
Let’s add a couple of guides that will help us align the polka dots. These lines will be invisible in the final image.
Go to View > New Guide, select Vertical and add 50px. This will add a guide in the middle of the image. Next, add a Horizontal guide at 50px.
Let’s draw a polka dot. I’m going to use the Ellipse Tool. You can also use the Brush Tool.
Select the Ellipse Tool and click on the canvas. Enter the width and height of your circle. I’m going to create a polka dot that’s 30 x 30px.
Place the polka dot in the middle of the image. The guides will help you center it, and if you have the Snap option checked (View > Snap), you will feel it snapping in place in the middle of the canvas.
You don’t need the guides anymore. If you want to clear them, go to View > Clear Guides.
Duplicate the layer by right-clicking on Layer 1 in the layer panel and selecting Duplicate Layer from the menu. This will create a second circle that’s on top of your first polka dot.
With the layer copy selected, go to Filter > Other > Offset. Make sure Wrap Around is selected and add 50px to the horizontal and vertical boxes. Select Preview to view the changes in real time.
As you might remember, our canvas is 100 x 100px. The Offset Filter will move the polka dot 50px to the right and 50px down. With the Wrap Around option selected, the polka dot will be split into 4 equal parts that will cover the corners of the image.
If your canvas is bigger or smaller than 100px, just add half of your image’s width into the horizontal box and half of your image’s height into the vertical box.
This is your polka dot pattern tile. To save the pattern as a Photoshop swatch, go to Edit > Define Pattern.
How to create a polka dot background
Let’s apply our new pattern to a new image and create a polka dot background.
Create a new canvas from File > New. Mine is 800 x 800px and I’ve set the Background Contents to white. Double-click on Layer 0 in the Layers panel to unlock it. Now fill the layer using the Paint Bucket Tool and the color you want.
Make a new layer by pressing Ctrl+Shift+N (or Command+Shift+N) or by pressing the New Layer icon that’s at the bottom of the Layers panel. Add the polka dots to the new layer by going to Edit > Fill. From Contents, select Pattern and search for your new pattern in the Custom Pattern list.
This is how your background will look like:
If you want smaller or bigger polka dots, or if you want to change the spacing, you will have to create new pattern swatches.
How to recolor your polka dot pattern
You can change the colors as many times as you like, you just have to make sure that the background and the pattern are on two different layers.
If you want to change the color of the background layer, just select Layer 0/Background by clicking on it in the layers panel, and fill it with whatever color you want using the Paint Bucket Tool.
To change the color of the polka dots, we are going to use an adjustment layer and a clipping mask.
With the polka dot layer selected, click on the Create new fill or adjustment layer that’s at the bottom of the Layers panel and choose Solid Color.
Use the color picker to select a new color or choose a color from the Swatches panel.
This will fill the whole layer with a solid color. Use a clipping mask to colorize the polka dots. Just select the solid color layer and go to Layer > Create Clipping Mask.
Here’s the new pattern:
If you want to choose another color for the polka dots, just double-click on the solid color layer in the Layers panel and choose another color.Learn how to make a polka dot pattern in Photoshop and how to recolor it (video tutorial)Click To Tweet
Tip: Instead of a solid color layer, you can choose Gradient from the adjustments layer menu. Create a new gradient or use one of the predefined gradients. Then add a clipping mask to recolor the polka dots.
Save the image when you are done:
- Save as PSD so you can make other backgrounds
- Save as JPEG or PNG to use on your website or other projects
- Tip: Use Save for Web, the files have a smaller size and are better for your website