Textile Design Lab

Creating Mandala Patterns with the Symmetry Tool in Photoshop CC 2019

Hello everyone, this is Chelsea von Hasseln, and in this tutorial I’m going to show you how to create beautiful mandala designs using Photoshop’s symmetry options that are new in Creative Cloud 2019. You will also learn how to put this type of design into a seamless repeat. Let’s dive right in!

So you want to start this process off with a square canvas. I’ve chosen to work with an 8 x 8 inch canvas size, but you can use a smaller or larger canvas if you prefer.

Now you can choose to work with the brush tool or the pencil tool. Let’s start off with the pencil tool so I can show you some basics before we get more creative with it. I like to turn on “smoothing” up here, which helps control the lines I will be drawing and keeps them from looking wobbly or shaky. Here you can see a quick difference between a flower I drew with smoothing off…and one with smoothing on. You can also play with the amount of smoothing, anywhere in between 0-100%. I like to set mine somewhere around 75%. One thing to note is that the smoothing setting does not add extra pixels or anti-aliasing to your artwork so if you are trying to keep crisp colors for the wet printing process, don’t worry, you can use smoothing!

Another setting I like to use is this little icon up here, which adjusts the size of my line based on the pressure I am putting down with my Wacom pen. The firmer I press, the bigger the line…here you can see I started pressing down lightly and applied more pressure toward the end of the line. If you use a drawing tablet I recommend playing with this setting as it will make your lines more natural looking.

Okay now it’s time to try out this new symmetry tool! It’s found under this butterfly icon, and as you can see there are lots of options to play with. Let me show you just a few, but I encourage you to experiment with all of them and see what you can come up with!

Let’s first try the vertical symmetry. Click the check mark here to accept. Now you can start drawing and Photoshop will automatically mirror the image for you. This is nice if you want to draw something that is symmetrical on either side, for instance a butterfly, or an animal’s face. If the guideline bothers you, you can choose to hide it here.

Let’s try another option. How about the wavy line? If I want to resize it I can just click and drag from one of the corners. It took me a second to get used to this in Creative Cloud 2019, but they’ve made it the default for transforming objects to keep the same proportions, whereas with past versions of Photoshop you had to hold down shift to keep the proportions the same. Now in CC 2019, holding shift is how you free transform an object. You can also use any of the usual settings for transforming an object on these symmetry lines, by going to Edit > Transform Path, and then you can play with any of the items in this list. I find the wavy line is a nice option for drawing leaves…here’s a quick sketch! When you’re done drawing, just turn the symmetry off. If you want to return to edit the design using the same symmetry, you can go to your Paths window and click on the symmetry and then choose “selected path” to re-activate the symmetry. Any symmetries you use within a document will show up as their own paths here in the Paths window.

Now let’s get to the mandalas! When you select Mandala, it will give you the option to choose your number of segments, from three to ten. For today’s example I’m going to go with 6 but I encourage you to experiment with as many or as few as you like!

I’m going to make a new layer above my background, and then draw with some different paintbrushes to make this a fun and colorful mandala. I love using Kyle Webster’s brushes that now come with Photoshop. If you don’t have them installed you can click this dropdown menu and select “Get More Brushes” and you will be brought to a page at adobe.com to download the brushes.

Let’s try one of these nice gouache options. I again like to adjust the smoothing and set it so that the pressure of my Wacom pen dictates the size of the line. As you can see here there is some nice variation throughout the shape so it’s a little more natural and not as digital looking.

Once I get a feel for where the symmetry lines are I like to turn them off so I can see what I’m doing. Now I’m going to layer up some different colors and maybe try out a few different brushes to see what effects I can get. I’ll make a new layer for each color to keep things organized in my layers panel. You also may need to adjust the smoothing and other settings for each new brush you use.

You can play around with re-ordering your layers to see if you like certain colors layered over others, and you can also play with blending modes to get different layered looks as well.

While you’re experimenting, I say play with any brushes you like! But for a more cohesive look to your final pattern, sticking to a couple brush styles rather than lots of different ones will probably give a cleaner, more polished looking result. These mandalas are so fun to create that it can be easy to get carried away and create something that’s super busy or overwhelming to the eye, so a good idea is to save the design then step away from it for a while and look at it later with fresh eyes. When in doubt you can also try toggling different layers on and off to see if you like the look with a few less layers. You can also use the eraser tool with Symmetry to open up busy areas of the design and give some more breathing room.

Once you’ve filled out your mandala to the edges of the canvas and are happy with how it’s looking, we can move on to the repeat!

So one option is to just define your canvas as a pattern, by selecting all, then going to Edit > Define Pattern. This makes your repeat the same size as your original canvas, so in this case my repeat is 8”x8”. I can now tile this out as a square side repeat, also known as a side-by-side repeat or set repeat. Let’s look at it on a larger canvas so we can see how it tiles out…Image > Canvas Size, and switch these to 200%. Now we can make a new layer, go to Edit > Fill, and then choose this new pattern to fill our canvas. So this is 4 tiles of my repeat.

This looks okay and I could leave it at that, but my preference is to make the layout just a little more interesting to look at by rotating it 45 degrees. This will still allow us to have our design in a perfect seamless repeat, it just increases the size of the repeat. So the first step is to go to Image > Image Rotation and choose Arbitrary. You want to make sure you set this to 45 degrees or else your repeat will not work correctly, but it doesn’t matter which way you rotate it, clockwise or counterclockwise.

Okay now we’re going to drag our guides out to the middle of the pattern (make sure you have Snap selected under the view menu for this to work.) Now we’re going to use our marquee tool to select one of these quarters, and then drag that selection to the middle of the design. Again Snap needs to be turned on so that Photoshop will place you directly in the center of the design—you should be able to feel it tug the marquee into place like a magnet, and the teal guides will turn pink when it’s properly placed.

Now we are going to define our pattern again in this new orientation. Edit > Define Pattern, click OK, and now we can make a new layer, Select All, and go to Edit > Fill, and choose our most recent pattern here. Now we have a seamless repeat with our pattern in a more interesting diagonal layout.

At this point if I wanted to, I could trim the pattern down to a 13×19” canvas in order to print out on paper and present to one of our studio clients.

I hope you found this tutorial helpful and that you have lots of fun playing with this new tool. Thanks for watching!

May 1, 2019

9 Responses on Creating Mandala Patterns with the Symmetry Tool in Photoshop CC 2019"

  1. Thanks @chelsea – Great tutorial. Love the additional information about using the symmetry tool in so many other ways. Also, appreciate your addressing the smoothing tool and concerns about adding unwanted extra pixels, I am excited to use that more.

  2. Marit says:

    Great tutorial! So helpful.Thanks Chelsea 🙂

  3. AlexM says:

    Wow! That was so fascinating to watch! Thank you so much Chelsea. So many tips and new tools to try…and hopefully remember!

  4. renealynzee says:

    Thank you @chelsea! I can’t wait to experiment with this tool.
    Also, thank you for the heads-up on the kyle brushes! 🙂

  5. Dora says:

    Thanks @Chelsea! Can’t wait to get started. I didn’t know about the smooth tool or the pressure setting in PS. Love the info on creating the repeat on 45 degrees. Your pattern came out great too.

  6. @marit @alexm @renealynzee @dora thank you all for the kind words! Have fun playing 😀

  7. Katerina says:

    Thank you Chelsea for the great tutorial!So many magic tools!!!!

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