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Learn to Create and Work with Seamless Textures

Learn to Create and Work with Seamless Textures

Often unsung heroes of the designer’s toolkit, seamless textures have a multitude of uses for web, print, and 3D design. 

Here, you’ll learn how seamless textures can help you bring your design A-game, adding realism and professionalism to a range of layouts. You’ll also find a quick and simple tutorial for creating pro-standard seamless textures—from stock images or your own photos.

Website Layout Using Seamless Texture
A website layout using a green marble seamless texture by contributor Amelia Austin.

What Are Seamless Textures?

Seamless textures are images that have no visible boundaries or edges, allowing the image to be tiled invisibly across a large area. Designers will often seek out or create seamless textures to act as consistent backgrounds or overlay textures.

Shutterstock Library Textures
A range of high-resolution seamless textures on the Shutterstock library.

While commonly referred to as “textures,” these images tend to be flat, 2D images (such as JPEGs), which can be used on their own (as in web and print design) or layered with other JPEGs or texture “maps” for photorealistic 3D renders. The images can be plain or patterned, but generally have elements that can be easily repeated without the risk of the image looking artificially enlarged. 

You can make your own seamless textures by editing a source image in software like Adobe Photoshop, or find ready-made seamless textures on the Shutterstock library.

When Should I Use Seamless Textures?

3D artists and users of CAD are familiar with the benefits of seamless textures for creating ultra-realistic renders of products, furniture, and environments. Print and web designers, however, will also find seamless textures indispensable for large-scale layouts. They can bring realism and a seamless, professional look to websites, posters, signage, or CAD designs. 

Textures that can function as seamless backgrounds are useful for any design that requires an image to extend across all or most of the layout. They really come into their own on responsive websites and apps that need to adapt to different screen widths.

Website Layout with Seamless Textures
Responsive web layouts really make the most of large-scale, seamless textures, which can be adapted for various screen dimensions and can also give scrolling layouts a uniform background from header to footer. Background image by contributor Amelia Austin.

You can also find a use for seamless textures in other types of design that have particularly wide or tall dimensions, such as magazine spreads, posters, infographics, web banners, book covers, menus, or event banners. Once you discover how easy it is to pull a layout together with a seamless background, you’ll never look back!

Below, discover how to create your own seamless textures in just six simple steps using Photoshop

How Do I Create My Own Seamless Textures?

Seamless textures are easy to create using a source image and access to image-editing software, such as Photoshop. You can use your own photo, or start with a stock image that you’d like to extend. 

Here, I’m going to use this photo as a basis for creating a much larger, seamless texture. We’ll need to even out the lighting and make sure the image is completely straight, before tiling the image in a way that suits the particular pattern of the stones. 

Seamless Textures Example
Example image used in this tutorial. Image by contributor Fedorov Oleksiy.

You can follow the same process for any source image you want to use, or download this image to follow along with the steps exactly. 

Step 1: Straighten the Image

After opening the image in Photoshop, duplicate the Background layer to preserve a copy of the original image. 

Duplicate Background Image
In Photoshop, duplicate the background image.

The first stage of prepping your base image is to straighten it. This tip applies to images that contain any visual lines running vertically or horizontally, such as patterns or images of bricks, wire, or woven fabric.

Use the guides pulled out from the rulers (View > Rulers) to mark out vertical and horizontal points across the image before rotating the image to make sure it perfectly aligns to these. 

Align the Points
Align vertical and horizontal points in the image.

Step 2: Crop the Image

Some images, such as this one, will have elements that cut across the edge of the image. In this case, half-cut stones won’t allow us to tile the image seamlessly, so identify the area of the image that can be repeated without losing any bits of elements. Use the Crop Tool (C) to crop out any outlying edges.

Crop Tool
Use the Crop Tool to crop out any unwanted edges.

Step 3: Create Consistent Lighting

Even out the light and shade in your source image to create a consistent result. Even better, aim to eliminate any strong differences between light and shade across the image. The border areas of your image are particularly important to even out, as these are the touch-points for the tiling of your texture.

Go to Image > Adjustments > Shadows/Highlights.

Adjust the Shadow/Highlights
Even out light and shade by adjusting the Shadow/Highlights.

Adjust the Shadows/Highlights sliders until the amount of light and shade evens out across the whole image. 

Adjusting Shadow/Highlights
There are several options to choose from when adjusting Shadow/Highlights.

Step 4: Enlarge the Canvas

Use the Crop Tool (C) to extend the canvas horizontally and vertically, tripling the width and height of the artboard overall. 

Utilize the Crop Tool
Utilize the Crop Tool
Extend the canvas horizontally and vertically.

Step 5: Tile the Image

Select the image’s layer in the Layers panel and duplicate the layer, moving the copy over to the right. Rather than placing the copy at the right edge of the original, look for the natural place where the image will fit to create a seamless effect. This is more important for images that feature patterns, bricks, or other repeatable elements. 

Here, I slot the bricks into the place where they would naturally fit, aligning the copy seamlessly over the original. 

Aligning the Copy
Aligning the Copy
Aligning the duplicate copies.

Select both image layers in the Layers panel and duplicate the pair. Move these along to the right and, as before, map the copies seamlessly over the originals.

Map the Copies
Map the copies over the originals.

Select all of the image layers in the Layers panel and duplicate these, moving them above the original images, then slotting the texture into place.

Slot the Textures
Move the textures into place.

Repeat until the whole canvas is filled. 

Slot the Textures
Repeat this process until the entire canvas is filled.

If you have any areas that appear a little out of sync, use the Spot Healing Brush (J) to drag over the areas and patch up any odd spots.

Step 6: Adjust the Whole Texture

In the Layers panel, create a new folder and place all of the image layers inside this. 

Layers Panel
Create a new folder in the Layers panel.

Then, switch the blending mode of the folder from Pass Through to Normal. This will allow you to add an adjustment layer above the other image layers and apply the effect to all of the layers, treating them as one seamless image.

Switch Blending Mode
Switch the Blending Mode from Pass Through to Normal.

Try using a Curves or Levels adjustment layer to bring more depth and tone back into the image. 

Curves or Levels Adjustment Layer
Bring additional depth and tone into your image with the Curves or Levels adjustment layer.

When you’ve finished working on your texture, you can File > Save As the image as a JPEG, ready to use in a print or web project. Great job!

Conclusion: The Transformative Power of Seamless Textures

They’re one of the best kept secrets of professional designers, and for good reason—seamless textures unify large layouts, giving them depth, interest, and an immersive feel. 

Website Layout with Seamless Textures

Now that you have the know-how to create your own seamless textures, you can use your images as backgrounds or overlays for a wide range of designs, from websites to posters. 

Still looking for that perfect seamless texture to bring extra edge to your layouts? Discover thousands of high-resolution textures and ready-made seamless backgrounds in the Shutterstock library.

Find more Adobe Photoshop tutorials, as well as top tips for working with backgrounds: 

Cover background image via Amelia Austin.

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