Replacing a Background with the Pattern Stamp

Let’s take a look at this image:

Feel free to download this image and follow along by clicking this link:


Clearly, this image has been damaged over time. There are many problems we need to fix, but one of the major problems is the background. Besides the man’s left side, he’s actually in pretty good shape. The background is the major problem here. We could use some healing tools to fix each area individually, but there is an easier way to accomplish this. We can use a pattern to replace the entire background with a texture.

We ‘ll use Photoshop’s Pattern Maker to accomplish this. The Pattern Maker can be used to create a simple pattern that will fill the image. But we can also use it to create textures that we can apply with the Pattern Brush.

NOTE: In Photshop CS4, the PatternMaker is no longer included with the standard Photoshop install.  It is now a separate download.

It can be downloaded for free here. To install the files, extract the downloaded files (once as a zip file, and again as an .exe), and move the file:

Photoshop Content\English\Goodies\Optional Plug-ins\Plug-ins 32-bit\Filters\PatternMaker.8BF


C:\Program Files\Adobe\Photoshop CS4\Plug-ins\Automate

And then restart Photoshop.

Creating the Pattern

Our first step is to create a clean texture out of the current background.

Step 1

Activate the Rectangular Marquee tool, and press and drag a square selection (hold the shift key) on a relatively undamaged portion of the background.

NOTE: It is essential that this area is square. Since we will eventually be creating a repeating pattern, all the sides need to be even to match up.

Step 2

Zoom in on this area, and activate the Spot healing brush tool. Click each spot or problem with this area of the image. The goal is to create a texture that we would find acceptable to the entire background.

Close up of selected, clean area.

Step 3

Once this is complete, open the Pattern Maker, by clicking the Filter Menu, and selecting Pattern Maker.

The Pattern Maker dialog box.

In the Pattern Maker, we will create the pattern that will eventually cover the background. Since we have a selection active, the Pattern Maker will use that area as the selection.

Step 4

Click the Generate button to create the pattern.

The Pattern Maker with a pattern created.

Don ‘t worry about the image being covered up.

Step 5

Continue hitting the Generate (now the Generate Again) button, until you have a good pattern. Look for a pattern that looks smooth, and doesn’t have any dramatic changes in tone. The pattern above is acceptable.

Now we need to save the pattern. Do not hit the OK button at this point! That will turn your image into the image in the preview area, and that would be bad.

Step 6

To save the pattern, look at the lower right corner of the dialog box, which has a preview of the exact pattern.

The current pattern

Step 7

To save a particular pattern, click the small save button on the left side.

Pattern Naming dialog box

Step 8

Name your pattern something you will remember, click OK, and then click the CANCEL button on the pattern maker.

Step 9

Now we need to make a selection of the background. You can use whatever method you choose.

Portrait with a selection active around the background

In this case, I first cropped the image border, and my selection is pulled back slightly from the edge of the man, since there is little damage in that area. This selection is also feathered slightly, to make the transition more gentle. (Select->Refine Edge, and set the feather between 1 and 5).

Now we can use the Pattern Stamp tool in order to apply the pattern.

The Pattern Stamp tool is located under the Clone Stamp tool:

The Pattern Stamp Tool ‘s location

Step 10

Select the Pattern Stamp tool to continue. Once it is selected, we will need to select the Pattern from the Options Bar to apply it.

Click here in the Options bar to see the Patterns available. Your most recently created pattern will be the last one listed.

Step 11

Click the Pattern list in the Options Bar, and then click your pattern to set it as the current pattern.

NOTE: The Healing Brush can also make use of patterns. The advantage of using the Healing Brush instead of the Pattern stamp is that the Healing brush will take tonality into account when applying the pattern, and adjust accordingly. Try out both, to see which gives a better result for this image.

At this point, you can apply your pattern. The Pattern Stamp works exactly like a brush, and since we have a selection active, you can freely paint over the image, and replace the pattern.

Step 12

Press and drag over the image to replace the pattern.

Step 13
Once that is complete, deselect (CTRL-D on the keyboard), and examine the edges. If there are any problems, zoom in with a small brush and carefully replace the pattern along the edges to make a complete image.

The Pattern is replaced

There you go, you’ve replaced the pattern quickly and easily, and now you can focus on the left corner of the image, which will need a lot of work(or does it?). But that is for another day.

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