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Create an Abstract Design with Patterns in Photoshop

just finished up another little digital art experiment where I set out
to build something cool and abstract out of Photoshop patterns and
simple shapes. Follow this walkthrough as I take you through the steps I
took to recreate this detailed design with nothing more than gradient
and pattern effects.

design itself is made up of a range of concentric circles, with each
group varying in size. Each circle is given a base colour from 6 core
swatches, then gradients and pattern fills add detail and depth.

getting into the main design, we’ll need to create our pattern fills.
In my design I’ve used a dotted pattern and a repeating square pattern,
but there’s many more possibilities to explore. Create a Photoshop
document at 40x40px and zoom right in. Position guides to mark the
centre of the document, then draw a circle. Hold Alt and drag outwards
from the centre to ensure it’s aligned perfectly.

ALT while clicking the dragging the circle to make a duplicate. Move
this duplicate so that the centre of the circle sits exactly on the
corner of the canvas.

Make three more copies and move each one to the remaining corners of the canvas. Then go to Edit > Define Pattern.

a new document, but this time draw two black squares that take up a
quarter of the canvas. Define this graphic as a pattern.

get to work on the overall piece of artwork. Create a new document at
your desired artwork size. I’m creating an A3 poster at 300dpi.

the background with a light colour swatch, then go to Filter > Noise
> Add Noise to rough up the clean canvas with some texture.

Import a suitable colour palette, this particular one is sourced from ColourLovers. Draw your first circle on the canvas and fill with one of your colour swatches.

click the circle’s layer in the Layer Palette to access the layer style
options. Add a Gradient Overlay, leave the default black to white fill,
but change the blending mode to Soft Light. This will allow the black
and white to interact with the underlying colour to give lighter and
darker tones.

a Stroke to the circle, using a lighter blue colour picked from the
canvas. Keep the position to the outside, but adjust the size according
to your personal preference.

add a subtle Drop Shadow. Adjust the Distance to zero, but increase the
Size until the shadow spans beyond the stroke. Tune down the Opacity to
maintain a subtle shading effect.

some detail to the shape by giving it a Pattern Overlay. Choose one of
your pattern swatches from the drop down menu and change the blend mode
to Soft Light.

CMD/CTRL while clicking on the layer thumbnail of the circle to load
the selection, then with the Marquee Tool selected, right click and
choose Transform Selection. Scale down the selection while holding Alt
and Shift.

this smaller circle a fill using one of the other swatches from the
colour palette, then continue to add the various layer styles, including
Gradient Overlay, Stroke and Drop Shadow.

the selection of this smaller circle, then scale down the selection
even more. Fill this circle with another colour swatch and add the layer

the collection of circles together, then start work on the next. Use a
contrasting colour from the palette to fill a new circular selection.

the Gradient Overlay, Stroke and Drop Shadow to the circle to give that
illusion of depth and dimension. Randomly change the direction of the
gradient fills between circles so each one runs in a different

Instead of a circular pattern, this time add the square repeating fill.

the blending mode to Screen to allow the orange tones to interact with
the pattern. Adjust the opacity to tone down any harsh contrast.

Load the selection of this new circle from the layers palette, then right click and Transform Selection.

light blue is used on the smaller circle, then the range of layer
styles are added to mix up the design with various details and patterns.

the step by step process of drawing circles, filling and adding layer
styles until the design begins to take shape. Overlap groups of circles
of varying sizes to fill out the canvas.

we’re only using two pattern fills, you can mix up the appearance by
adjusting the scale of the fill to give a larger pattern effect, or a
tighter and more detailed smaller pattern.

of circles later and design is beginning to develop multiple layers.
Overlap the groups so each circle masks and hides another for more
visual interest.

Draw a few basic circles of various sizes and fill them with the blue swatch along with the gradient fill.

a few orange circles across the design and give the same gradient fill.
These smaller particles help add yet more detail to the design.

all (CMD+A), then press CMD+Shift+C to Copy Merged. Paste this clipping
onto a layer at the very top of the layer palette, then go to Filter
> Other > High Pass. Adjust the slider so the details become
visible from the grey noise.

this grey layer to Color Burn at 35% to allow the High Pass highlights
to interact with the original colours of the design, giving much more
vibrancy. Add a layer mask and erase out random sections with a soft
brush to give the design variances in tone and colour.

good old vignette will finish off the design nicely. Draw a frame with a
soft black brush, then scale it up so the soft edges just creep onto
the canvas. Change the blending mode to Multiply at 15%.

grab the Elliptical Marquee tool and draw some circular selections on a
layer at the bottom of the layer stack. Keep the Shift key held to
continuously add to the selection.

the selection with a swatch from the colour palette, then use the Dodge
and Burn tools to lighten and darken the shapes. Reduce the opacity to
around 50%.

final design is simply made up of basic circles, with nothing more than
gradients, shadows and pattern fills, but together they combine to
create a cool looking abstract piece of artwork.
Download the source file

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