How I Made This 90's Slang Pattern In Photoshop

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Making patterns is one of my passions because with so many things to look at, there is less pressure to make everything perfect. As artists, we tend to be our harshest critic, which can ruin the fun of making if you listen to that asshole in your head too much.

So next time you are feeling inspired to create something new, but don't want the pressure of perfection, try making one of these doodle patterns. Pick a theme, right down all the phrases that come to mind, add a few icons for pizzazz, and get to work.

Since some people missed my Sunday Lettering Workshop making this piece, I thought I would write up a tutorial for those of you who weren't able to make the live stream last week. I won't always be making these tutorials available to the public, so if you are interested in learning new techniques for drawing and lettering consider supporting me for $15 a month on Patreon for weekly live stream workshops and monthly lettering workbooks. 

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My process for making patterns in Photoshop

After you've done a massive brain-dump of ideas and words for your design, start off by making a rough sketch of each piece in a square ratio. The key to a good pattern is filling up the space in a way where each drawing fits together like a puzzle.

Focus on the initial sketches first while keeping in mind what kinds of doodles could fill up the background to help rid yourself of any awkward negative spaces. Don’t bother filling up the background quite yet; we have a few more steps before we get to that part. 

One thing to keep in mind while making your pattern is that the smaller the design will be seen, the fewer objects you want inside it. So if you are making something like an iPhone wallpaper, you don’t want your illustrations so small that no one can read them. 

Adding color to your pattern

Once you have all your objects in place, go ahead and ink them up and add color. You usually don’t want to add too much detail in your pattern, or you might end up wasting your time making something no one can see. So sticking with a thick line weight can help keep your artwork simple to read from a distance. 

I flatten and merge all my inked layers so I quickly add color behind it. I always like to pick my color palette first to ensure it conveys the right tone of my piece. In this case, I decided to go with an early 90’s neon vibe almost as if all my doodles were colored in with highlighters. 

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Using a limited color palette, I begin to color in the parts of my illustrations that make the most sense. Like all the screens being yellow along with the clouds, and melty letters. This trick helps me visualize if the colors I picked will work with what I drew. Most times you can make things whatever color you want, but with simple illustrations, you need to be careful that the colors you pick don’t confuse what you drew. 

When doing this, I’m also putting everything in yellow all on the same layer. That way if I decide to change that color, I can easily edit it without having to modify each of my layers individually.

I’m all about efficiency, but if you are worried about flattening all your layers, remember, you can always lasso tool the doodles and colors out if you want to switch things up. 

I repeat this step with each of my colors will limited editing. Sometimes you have to play around with what colors work best so it not only it makes sense, but so you don’t have too much of the same color all in the same spot. We are trying to avoid eyesores, so any pockets of the same color that might draw in the eye in a way that you don't want.

Making your artwork an actual pattern

Right now you have what looks like a completely colored piece, but it’s not quite a pattern yet. You need to cut up this piece, move things around, and add in more background doodles for this pattern to have that seamless look you want. 

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Take a second look at your piece and make sure everything is in the right place. Make a copy, and merge everything together. I know it’s scary, just do it. Now add some guides in the middle of your composition both horizontally and vertically. You’ll be using these guides to cut your work in half twice. 

First, cut your pattern vertically using the Rectangle Marquee Tool then right click and hit Cut. Switch the places of your artwork putting the right side on the left and the left side on the right. Pay extra attention that the image touches the ends without any background showing along with staying in the same place by hitting Shift as you move each side. 

Merge those two layers and feel free to cut out any icons using the Lasso Tool to move closer to the center. You’ll notice you have a bit of a gap so you’ll want to fill those spaces by moving your doodles towards the middle. This only works with objects that aren't cut off, so even if a little piece is missing, do not touch it. 

Now repeat this process by merging again together your layers to cut in half horizontally. At this point, this is the foundation of your pattern. From here you can add more doodles if you like to fill up any weird gaps or merely add things like dots or confetti. 

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To make it official, go to Edit > Define Pattern to name your pattern and for to add it to your list of Patterns in your Layer Styles panel. Then next time you want to use your pattern, fill up any layer with a solid color, double-click the right of that layer in your menu to open your Layer Styles Panel. Then go down to Patterns, and you’ll find your newly created pattern there to adjust the scale. 

As an extra hint, Photoshop isn't perfect so when using the scale tool be sure to adjust it in 25 increments like 25%, 50%, and 75% to retain clarity. For some reason when it’s something random like 12%, it gets all blurry. 

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How to use your hand-lettered pattern

You now have an awesome new pattern, now what in hell are you going to do with it? Here is a list of things you can do with your impressive piece of art to wither giveaway, use to brand yourself or sell to make some extra money. 

  1. Add your pattern on RedBubble to put on all kinds of products. 
  2. Create a desktop and mobile wallpaper as a giveaway to your followers.
  3. Sell your pattern and each of the doodles you made as a graphics bundle.
  4. Use the design as a background image to add some pop to your website. 

Download your free mobile wallpaper on Instagram

If you dig my 90’s slang pattern, you can download it from my Instagram right now. Just go to my story highlights to Wallpapers and screenshot it from your phone. You’ll notice that I have a few phone wallpapers available there, so feel free to download your favorite. 

Dina Rodriguez