Photoshop Elements 11; convert a picture to a tile

If you do 3D modeling, either for a practical purpose such as home design or as an artistic medium, you’ll probably want to “paper” a surface or “wrap” an object with a material or texture based on a real-world photograph.  The challenge is to make the photograph repeatable in a way that looks continuous.

Arranging copies of a photo in a continuous way is called “tiling.”  So it’s tempting to call such a photo a “tile.”  Even tho what you’re after is something that resembles wallpaper–not a bathtub wall.

You might make a photo of a homogenous surface, such as stucco, into a good tile with a bit of copying and cloning.  A tile of something with internal complexity, like hardwood, is a different challenge.  Here’s the method I use.  Overview; I surround the original picture with flipped copies of itself that are half as wide again as the original picture, such that the left edge will blend with the right edge and the top edge will blend with the bottom edge.

Starting photo

It’s harder than you’d think to get a picture of a floor sample that’s uniform enough to make into a tile.  It needs to be taken straight down with even lighting, no shadows, etc.  We made two trips to the showroom and still couldn’t do it, due to reflections.  Instead I grabbed a sample image from the manufacturers’ web site.

tile 05 start

Adjust for symmetry

I discovered that this image wasn’t very useful.  The problem was that the diagonal boards prevented it from having any symmetry, so I couldn’t “flip” it.  So my first step was to rotate the image to a horizontal position.

Photoshop Elements has a “straightening” tool for this job; it’s neatile 10 nobaser the bottom of the tool bar.  But it’s disabled for the background, which is what the picture was.  So my first step was to convert the background into a layer.  In the Layer window, left-click on the background, and select Layer From Background in the floating menu.

I activated the straightening tool, and set it to adjust the canvas size automatically so the parts of the image that stuck out wouldn’t get clipped.  I drew a line on the image, tracing a line that I wanted to be horizontal (the crevice between two boards).  That was easy!tile 15 straighten

To get a usefully orthogonal shape, I cropped away the excess.  The crop tool is just left of the straighten tool.  Here the option doesn’t matter.tile 20 crop

Horizontal cloning

Hmm, not much of it left!  But it’s going to grow back now.

The next thing to do is to copy all of this image to a new image.  Unlike most programs, where the Edit menu has a Select All choice, Photoshop Elements has a special menu just for selecting things.  Click the Select menu and pick All; a dotted line appears around the edge of the image.tile 25 allNext I used the Edit menu to Copy what was selected to the clipboard.tile 30 copy

I created a new image, which Photoshop Elements automatically makes the right size and shape to hold the clipboard contents.  Click the File menu and select New,  image from clipboard.tile 32 new image

This created a new image that only held what I’d copied.  It has its own tab at the top of the work area.tile 33 new tab

Now I needed room to add stuff to the sides of the original image.  I clicked the original image’s tab (to the left of this tab).  Then I doubled the canvas size horizontally.  Click the Image menu and select Resize, Canvas size.tile 35 resizeI changed the units to percent, and made the canvas 200% as wide as it was.

tile 40 resize hGoing back to the new image, I flipped it horizontally.  Select the Image menu and pick Rotate, Flip layer horizontal.

tile 45 h flip

Now it’s ready to occupy the original image’s newly spacious canvas.

tile 50 alltile 54 copy

Notice that the Paste is to the original, leftmost image (left tab).  The image landed right on top of the original one, which was momentarily confusing until I glanced at the Layers window and saw that pasting automatically created a new layer.

tile 55 pasteUse the Move tool (top left in the tool bar) to drag the pasted layer to one side.  Adjust it so it abuts the original layer; the keyboard cursor keys will “nudge” it precisely.

tile 60 drag

Notice that the part of the layer that hangs over the edge of the canvas is invisible.  This takes care of trimming to fit the canvas with no fuss.  Paste again, creating a third layer; and drag it to the other side of the original.  Now the image will tile horizontally (the left and right edges will blend).

Vertical cloning

This step goes pretty much like the last one, so I’ll just touch on the differences.

I wanted to copy this whole image to another new image for flipping purposes.  But unlike the first time, it had three layers.  When I did a Select > All I only got the current layer.  Instead, Select > All layers.

tile 75 all layersWhen I clicked the Edit menu I discovered that it had a new choice; Copy merged.  That’s the right choice!

tile 80 copy merged

I used the File menu to make a new image from the clipboard contents, as before.  I stretched the canvas again, this time vertically.

tile 70 resize vI flipped the new image vertically, selected it all, and copied it to the clipboard.  This I pasted twice in the original image, dragging one to the top and the other to the bottom and making seamless joins.

Save the result in an image file format

Most other programs can’t read the proprietary Photoshop file format.  So I used the File menu to Save as.  I set the format to JPEG (First check the 3D modeling software you’re planning to import the image into, to make sure you use a format it will accept.)

tile 85 save asTiling test

Le’s see how we did!

tile 90 test

tile 91 test 2


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