How to paint a seamless texture in Photoshop

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This requires Photoshop Extended, since the 3D tools are only available in the Extended Version of Photoshop. It also has (at least in my current version, CS5) some serious shortcomings, i. e. forget about layers. Kiss them goodbye. Also, performance-wise, this is not something that works without waiting between every second brush stroke.

  1. Lay down the base of the texture in a new file, using the final size of the texture. Create most of the stuff you want, leaving out the edges.
  2. Select all the layers that should be part of the texture and choose 3D > New Tiled Painting. You will see your texture repeated 9 times, in a seemingly smaller resolution.
  3. You can now paint on your texture, crossing the texture’s edges, and your paint strokes will be seamlessly replicated on all 9 copies. This is rather processor intensive, so expect lag …
  4. In order to change the layer you’re painting on, go to the 3D panel, choose Materials (third button from the left in the top row), and choose in the File drop down besides Diffuse Open Texture. The original file will open, allowing you a) to paint directly and without lag onto the image and b) to choose the layer you would like to paint on back in the 3D mode. Choose the layer, close the .psb file (with saving), and any further paint strokes will happen on the previously chosen layer.
  5. In order to save your texture, do the same as before (3D panel > Materials > Diffuse: Open Texture) and Save as ….

Clearly, the process is not exactly simple or straightforward. It’s no wonder that Adobe does not seem to advertise this feature a lot, nor is it simple to find – most tutorials to be found on the internet are still just replicating the “shift and repair” method for creating seamlessly tiling textures.

This feature seems not to have been updated since CS5, and should still work in a similar (clunky) way in CS6.

While this is a functionality I considered only to be available in Corel Painter, I’m not really satisfied by its execution … it seems rather tacked on and clunky. But then again, even Painter’s execution, while better when it comes to performance, has some rather counterintuitive steps you have to take to get the seamless painting mode to work. Together with the Mixer Brush (another feature I previously thought to be available in Painter only), this might persuade me to stay with Photoshop for a while longer.