Super Quick Plaid Patterns in Photoshop or Illustrator

In this earlier post I showed how to create a tartan plaid pattern in Photoshop.  That method simulates the weave characteristic of a real tartan plaid, with the distinct diagonal twill pattern, like the one shown here.

As an alternative, here’s a really quick way to create a seamless plaid in Photoshop Elements.  This technique doesn’t create the effect of the diagonal twill weave, but does create a nice repeating plaid design.  The same method works for creating seamless plaids in Adobe Illustrator (details below).

Here are the steps for creating the plaid in Photoshop Elements

Step 1.  To start, I’ll create the vertical stripes which correspond to the warp if this were a woven plaid.  In Photoshop Elements, create a new file of the size you want for your repeating pattern.  This should be a square file.  In this example I’m using a 5 inch by 5 inch file size.  Then, using the rectangle tool, draw a vertical rectangle and fill it with the color of your choice.

Step 2.  Continue drawing rectangles until you’ve filled the space.  Usually each stripe will end up on its own layer.   When you’re done drawing the stripes, put them all together in one layer with the command:  Layer ==> Flatten Image.

Step 3.   In the layers window (shown below on the lower right of the screen), right click on the layer and select “Duplicate layer” from the menu.

Step 4.  This brings up a small window (shown here).  Click the OK button to create the duplicate layer.

Step 5.  Now there are two layers in your file.  Making sure that the top layer is active in the layer window (see picture below), go to the menu and select:  Image ==> Rotate ==> Layer 90 Left.

Step 6.  Now the stripes in the top layer are horizontal.  With the top layer still active, change its opacity to 50%.  You can do this either by typing in 50, or using the slider from the drop-down (see the picture below).  Now you can see what your plaid pattern will look like.

Step 7.  To save your plaid as a seamless fill you can use in other projects, first combine the two layers by selecting:  Layer ==> Merge Visible from the menu.  Finally, save the pattern by selecting:  Edit ==> Define Pattern from the menu and then giving the pattern a name in the pop-up box.

This plaid pattern is now a seamless pattern that you can use to fill objects or layers in any Photoshop project.

Here is a comparison of the two different methods for creating plaids, starting with the exact same stripes.

An example of using the plaid pattern as a fill:

Here are the steps for creating the plaid in Illustrator

Step 1.  Start by creating a new square document in Illustrator.  The size isn’t important, but the length and width should be the same.

Step 2.  Using the rectangle tool, create vertical stripes, filling the artboard space.

Step 3.  Select all the objects (Select ==> All) and group them (Object ==> Group).  Then make a duplicate (Edit ==> Copy and then Edit ==> Paste.)

Step 4.  Select the new group of stripes and rotate it 90 degrees to get horizontal stripes (Object ==> Transform ==> Rotate, and set the angle to 90).  Make sure the horizontal stripes fully cover the artboard.

Step 5.  In the Layers window (see below) make sure the top group is active and then set its opacity to 50 percent.  The plaid pattern appears.

Step 6.  To make this a repeat swatch, draw a square (with no fill) that is the same size as your artboard.  Move the square to the bottom of the layer (Object ==> Arrange ==> Send to Back).  Select all the items — horizontal and vertical stripes and the square — and from the menu choose Edit ==> Define Pattern and then give it a name in the pop-up box.  It will now be in your swatches, ready for use (as shown on the right).

Here’s an example of using the plaid swatch as a fill for an image.

A chameleon on plaid.

Herbert Hoover, referring to his opponent Franklin D. Roosevelt

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8 thoughts on “Super Quick Plaid Patterns in Photoshop or Illustrator

  1. a nice tutorial….very ec to catch….thanks alot…..did a trial on both PS and AI….successfully created a swatch…..

  2. Great tutorial! This was exactly what I needed to figure out how to quick-design a Holiday-color plaid pattern for my Christmas cards! Thanks!

  3. Pingback: Tips and Tricks: Plaid Patterns | GCU Community

  4. Thanks! I’m playing with this right now. Have you ever used these files to print fabric? Or know if you can? Curious to hear how that would turn out!

    • Thanks for the comments. Yes, I’ve printed this type of design on fabric. I usually use Spoonflower.com for fabric printing since it’s cheaper and more consistent than trying to do it on my home printer.

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