In this GIMP Help Article, I’ll be showing you how to easily create your own custom dot patterns! You can create patterns of any size for any composition, and this technique covers making your patterns seamless so that they evenly cover any document. Finally, I show you how to export the pattern and save it to GIMP so that it can be used with GIMP’s paint tools like the Bucket Fill tool. Let’s get started!
You can watch the video version of this tutorial below, or skip over the video and read the help article version (available in over 30 languages).
We’ll start this tutorial off by creating a new composition – which you can do by going to File>New.
The composition size will be the size of each tile of your pattern – so you can make it any size you want. If you plan on using your patterns on HD composition frequently (i.e. 1920 x 1080 px compositions), I recommend going with a 60 x 60 px document size (I typed 60 for both my Width and Height values in the Create a New Image dialogue pictured above). Of course, if you want your pattern to be larger, simply create a larger document to start (just make sure it’s a square). Click OK to create your new document.
The simplest dot pattern involves adding a circle to the center of your composition. To make sure your circle/dot is centered, I recommend adding center guides. You can do this by going to Image>Guides>New Guide by Percent (red arrow in the image above).
I’ll create a “Horizontal” guide first (red arrow in the image above) and set the location of the guide to “50.0” – or 50% (blue arrow). This will create a horizontal guide on my composition exactly halfway down the composition.
I’ll repeat this step to create another guide, but this time will choose “Vertical” from the dropdown (red arrow). This will create a vertical center guide. There will now be a horizontal and vertical center guide on my composition.
Now that I have center guides (denoted by the red arrow in the image above), I’ll zoom in on my composition (using either ctrl+mouse wheel shortcut or using the zoom dropdown in the bottom left corner of the image – denoted by the blue arrow).
Next, I’ll grab the Ellipse Select Tool from my Toolbox (red arrow in the image above – you can use the shortcut key “E”).
I’ll click and drag with this tool on my composition. If I hold the “Shift” key, the ellipse selection will have a 1:1 aspect ratio – or in other words will be drawn as a perfect circle. When I release my mouse, a circle selection area will be drawn on the composition.
I’ll now click once inside the selection area to select it. I can then click and drag the selection area towards the middle of my composition. The middle cross-hair of the selection area (red arrow in the image above) will snap to the center guides of the image (make sure snapping to guides is turned on by going to View>Snap to Guides).
If you have an exact size you want for the circle, you can adjust it inside the Tool Options for the Ellipse Select Tool under the “Size” field (red arrow in the image above). For example, I’ll change my circle to a 30 x 30 px circle (make sure both measurements are the same to keep the selection area a circle). Re-center the selection area on your composition if you change the selection area’s dimensions.
Next I want to fill this selection area in with a color. However, before I do that I need to create a new layer so that I don’t paint on my current background layer. So, I’ll click the “Create New Layer” icon in the Layers panel (red arrow in the image above). I’ll name this layer “Dot” (blue arrow) and make sure the “Fill With” is set to “Transparency” (green arrow). I’ll click OK to create the new layer.
I want my dot to be black in this particular case, so I’ll click and drag the Foreground color swatch until it hovers over my selection area, then release my mouse (red arrow following the green dotted line in the image above). This will fill the circle in with black.
I’ll deselect the circle by going to Select>None (red arrow).
Finally, I’ll hide the background layer of my composition by clicking the show/hide icon for that layer in the Layers panel (red arrow). This will ensure that my pattern has a transparent background so that I can paint the pattern on any color background or photo in the future.
We now have a simple dot composition that we can use as a dot pattern. I can test this dot pattern out by hitting shift+ctrl+c on my keyboard (this is the “copy visible” shortcut key). This will copy my dot pattern to my clipboard.
I’ll then create a new composition by going to File>New and setting my dimensions to 1920×1080.
Finally, I’ll navigate over to the “Patterns” tab (red arrow in the image above) and will click on the very first pattern listed here (green arrow). This first pattern is the “Clipboard Image” option, which is the pattern we copied with shift+ctrl+c.
I can now grab my Bucket Fill Tool (shift+b on the keyboard or click on the icon in the Toolbox – red arrow in the image above) and, under Tool Options, set the “Fill Type” to “Pattern Fill” (green arrow). I’ll now click with the Bucket Fill tool on my composition. This will fill the layer with my dot pattern.
If I wanted to make a more complex dot pattern, I can navigate back over to my pattern composition and add some more elements.
First, I’ll create a new layer (red arrow) and name this “Dot 2” (green arrow).
I’ll grab my ellipse select tool (red arrow) and will draw an ellipse on my composition – holding the shift key to make sure it is a perfect circle. I’ll release my mouse, and will change the size to “10” (blue arrow) to make a smaller circle (this is the same process I used earlier in this article, so feel free to revisit the earlier steps). I’ll center this circle on the center guides (green arrow).
Finally, I’ll fill the circle in with black, and will go to Select>None (red arrow) to deselect the selection area.
I now have a smaller circle in the middle of my Dot 2 layer. What I want to do with this smaller circle is place is around the corners of my image so that it creates a repeating, seamless dot pattern. To do this, I’ll go to Layer>Transform>Offset (red arrow).
I’ll click the “By width/2 height/2” button (red arrow), which will automatically offset my layer to the corners of the composition. I’ll click OK to apply the changes.
Once again, I’ll hit shift+ctrl+c to copy the visible layers.
Then, I’ll come back over to my test composition (hit ctrl+z to undo the previous pattern fill from earlier). I’ll then grab the bucket fill tool and will click to fill the composition in with the new pattern (you should still have the Clipboard Image pattern selected and the Fill Type set to Pattern in the Tool Options from earlier).
You can now see we have a more complex dot pattern!
So what if you want to permanently save your pattern so you can use it in a future session? Don’t worry – this is very easy to do!
Navigate back to your dot pattern composition. Go to File>Export As (red arrow). This will bring up the Export dialogue box.
Select a folder location on your computer where you’d like to save the pattern. Then, name your pattern file to whatever you want, making sure the name ends wit the “.pat” file extension (red arrow). This is the filetype GIMP uses for patterns. Hit Export (blue arrow).
A box will pop up asking you for a “Description” for your pattern. This is the label that appears inside GIMP’s pattern dialogue when you click on the pattern. You can keep this the same as your Dot Pattern’s name or set it to something different. Click “Export” again (red arrow).
You’ll now need to drag this pattern you created into GIMP’s User Patterns folder. First, let’s locate this folder. Go to Edit>Preferences (red arrow).
Expand the “Folders” section (red arrow) and click on the “Patterns” folder (blue arrow). Click on the file directory that has an “x” next to it (green arrow). Once this directory is selected, click the filing cabinet icon (yellow arrow) to open this file location on your computer (on Windows it’ll open in a File Explorer window, on MAC it’ll open in a Finder window).
Double-click on the “patterns” folder to enter it (red arrow). This is where you’ll drag and drop your .pat file you just created.
Open a new File Explorer or Finder window.
Navigate to where you saved your pattern file on your computer. Once you’ve located your pattern file, drag and drop it into GIMP’s Patterns folder (red arrows following the green dotted line in the image above).
Navigate back to GIMP. Exit out of the Preferences dialogue by clicking the red “x” in the top right corner (green arrow). Navigate back over to the Patterns tab and click the green arrow icon to refresh your patterns (denoted by the red arrow in the image above). Your new dot pattern should now be in your Patterns tab and ready for you to use!
That’s it for this tutorial. If you liked it, you can check out my other GIMP tutorials, or get access to more content including premium courses by becoming a DMD Premium Member.