I got to work today on the patterns for our latest collection Boho Romance and thought about how great it would be if more people learn about the Photoshop PAT files. In our Etsy shop we get quite often questions like “the last ZIP contains only a PAT file and it is empty when I open it” or “what is this file? It’s not opening”. Unless you’re working extensively with various raster assets in Photoshop, digital papers vs photoshop patterns must sound like Greek to you.
Few years back I didn’t think there is much of a difference too. Until I discovered the ease of the use that PAT files give you. PAT files are files that Adobe Photoshop uses to store installable patterns. And the best part is that you can store your digital papers like that too.
So let’s start by defining “digital papers” – these are usually square formatted JPG files with repeating images like pattern. They are sized at 12×12 inches at 300 dpi. They can also be seamless (tileable) or not.
Photoshop patterns are rectangular images that the program executes as repeat pattern with the most simple type of tiling. Check out the illustration.
So what is the difference and why should you care? Photoshop patterns are gigantic time savers! Imagine you have a piece of text and you want to fill it with flowers. Like the one on the illustration bellow.
The first row is just typed with whatever color I had selected. The second row is the same word typed with the same color chosen, but then I applied a pattern overlay. You do that by going to the layers tab (if not open go to Window>Layers), select the text or shape or whatever layer you want to apply the pattern to and go to the Add Layer Style button at the bottom of the Layers tab.
A menu will open and you can choose some truly interesting options there, but I will stick to Pattern Overlay. It will open a dialog window for you to choose the pattern you want to apply, it’s blending mode, scaling %, opacity and if you want it aligned as the source pattern to the left upper corner.
In the small box on the right there is a miserable preview of the tiled pattern. Choose the pattern you want by clicking on the small arrow next to the pattern tile. A drop-down library will open to allow you to browse and choose from the patterns you have installed. Ha! Did you install any patterns? That is why we were giving you these PAT files. To make your life eeeeasy.
Ok, so when you click OK the Pattern Overlay is applied to the layer you selected and that’s it. You can go drink coffee now.
This is the clean way I love to use my patterns in Photoshop. You can’t do that with digital papers.
Actually you can, but you need to turn them to Photoshop patterns first. The digital papers come as JPG files most often. When you open a sheet of digital paper in Photoshop, you can print it the way it is or you can apply it to your design in a number of ways.
The Digital Paper
One way is to type your text and go to File>Place Embedded> choose your paper to import. The paper file is imported as a new layer above the layer with your text. Now select the paper layer, hold the Alt key (Option on Mac) and click between the paper layer and the text layer below it. This creates a clipping mask and the part of your paper that falls outside the text is made invisible.
This is an easy way to apply patterns to shapes and text, but if you have hundreds of patterns ( Or more!) , then you’re going to waste a lot of time looking for them on the hard drive, let alone if they’re not in a single folder. Ask me how I know. Another con to this method is that if you’re text is big and the paper file doesn’t cover it you’ll need to either tile the paper or scale it up. Now scaling up is a no-no for raster when talking about printing. Unless your file is of higher resolution (learn about it here) then I would stay away from scaling up. Tiling is just time consuming. And it won’t work at all if the paper was not designed for tiling i.e. seamless.
Here’s the result of the digital paper clipped to the text. If you want to change the scale, opacity or anything else here you need to apply the changes to the paper layer.
Next time I’ll show you how to make your own PAT files from the digital papers you already have.
Take care 🙂