As web designers, we spend most of our time praising web designs for their sleek interfaces and their awesome typography or even just the random design work, but truly, the unsung hero of design is the pattern. The pattern is popular, not just online, but offline too—we love a good pattern because it’s design in its purest form. Patterns allow us the ability to interpret good designs and rely on a little consistency.
When we talk patterns in web design, we often automatically think about backgrounds, but patterns are much more useful than that. Your favorite pattern set can be used as a wonderful texture or even a great border for your photographs. Whatever your usage for patterns, they are extremely important in good, solid web design.
Picking the right pattern is important. There are a ton of free ones out there for sure, that aren’t always in your best interest. Fortunately, we’ve decided to put together some of the best, highest quality pattern sets we could find to help you in your pattern filled endeavors.
Subtle pattern sets
Oftentimes, web designers like to use subtle textures and shapes more to create the backgrounds in their web designs. They add a bit of character to what can otherwise be a very plain or boring background. The best part about subtle patterns as backgrounds is they almost never draw attention away from what is supposed to be the more important features of the website, such as the product or the articles.
Subtle patterns don’t just have to be used as backgrounds, they are also great to help add some texture to photos. Below are some of the best, pixel perfect subtle patterns available on the web.
Seamless Photoshop Patterns by onethirtytwo
Features: Photoshop Pattern (.PAT), 6 swatches (1 pattern of 6 different colors)
I like to think of this pattern set as extremely decorative and fancy. This is great for those web designs that desire a bit of sophistication without overdoing the look. Though this is the same pattern, just in different colors, it is an extremely useful and gorgeous pattern set.
11 Light Subtle Patterns by Premium Pixels
Features: Photoshop Pattern (.PAT), 11 different swatches, requires e-mail subscription to download
A pattern set perfect for adding a bit of pizzazz to your solid backgrounds. Extremely subtle and light, this set is made for squeaky clean web design. Keep in mind, however, subtle patterns are great to add just a bit of texture to wonderful photographs as well. This is an extremely useful and versatile set.
9 Tileable Notepad Patterns by ElemisFreebies
Features: Photoshop Pattern (.PAT), 9 different swatches
While this set is slightly thematic, I believe it is still extremely useful. It’s basically a bunch of grids and lines, with which you can never go wrong. And because it is so simple, it can be fairly easy to customize.
40 Photoshop Seamless Patterns Set #1 by Ali
Features: Photoshop Pattern (.PAT), 40 different swatches
Another set of lines and grids, this one is a bit more versatile for those who are into print—the larger lines show up very well at 300 dpi. Also, these patterns are transparent and can be put over any color background. With 40 different presets, this is an extremely solid and must have set.
8 Seamless “Dark Metal Grid” Patterns by Premium Pixels
Features: Photoshop Pattern (.PAT), 8 different swatches, requires e-mail subscription to download
Another thematic set, these patterns are of extremely high quality and can prove to be very useful. While they are themed, I believe they can be used in many different situations and are perfect to add a bit of character to a dark theme. If you don’t like it dark, they are also available in a light scheme as well.
75 Seamless Photoshop Pixel Patterns by OurTuts
Features: Photoshop Pattern (.PAT), 75 different swatches
Yes, another set with lines and grids, but the great thing here is the designer never stopped at lines and grids. There are many different pixel perfect designs that step outside the box of your regular lines and grids. Again, this set has transparent backgrounds so they are easily customizable to different background colors.
Patterns Vol. 3 by J1897
Features: Photoshop Pattern (.PAT), 6 different swatches
Much like the previous pattern set, this one steps outside the realms of your typical pixel perfect lines and grids and gives a lot more flavor. You may find something in this pack that you were unable to find in another with these extremely unique designs.
8 Tileable Dark Wood Textures by WebTreatsETC
Features: Photoshop Pattern (.PAT), 8 different swatches
This one is almost hard to believe when seeing it, but after testing it out this is the real deal! We refer to it as subtle, because dark wood makes for wonderful backgrounds, but this can be used as you please. And once again, for those who are into print, this looks great at 300dpi. This set is definitely worth experimenting with.
Subtle Geometric Patterns by Audee
Features: Photoshop Pattern (.PAT), 30 swatches (10 colors in 3 different sizes)
This pattern set varies by colors and sizes and utilizes a very interesting geometric pattern, that would be great for web backgrounds (and a larger size that would translate well in print). An added benefit of this set is the download comes with a .PNG file of the untiled image, great for when you are ready to actually implement the design into web.
Not so subtle pattern sets
It really makes sense to use your subtle patterns for pretty much anything, but they are times when a design can call for something a bit louder. These patterns below are very unique and creative and are great to add a bit of ‘oomph’ to some designs. Most are thematic patterns, but if you can match the patterns up to the perfect project, you will probably end up with a perfect design.
Vector Repeat Patterns – Plaid by PatternHead
Features: 3 .PNG’s (Photoshop – Edit > Define Pattern) and 3. EPS’, 3 swatches
There’s nothing wrong with a good set of plaid patterns to have if necessary. Though it’s not set up as a .PAT file, you can open and edit these files to suit your needs and the PNG files are easily ready for web implementation.
16 Abstract Patterns by Elemis Freebies
Features: Photoshop Pattern (.PAT), 16 different swatches
This is a bit of a mixture between subtle and non-subtle patterns, but there are some really nice and unique geometric patterns in this set. There are a bunch of patterns that have a really retro feel, by using many vector techniques.
14 Geometrical Patterns by SuccoDesign
Features: Photoshop Pattern (.PAT), 14 different swatches
High resolution pattern sets, again, are really great for print design, but sometimes an over-sized pattern can also make for great web design. These abstract, geometric and colorful patterns are really great when you are looking to do something that deserves a ton of attention.
Dots and Crosses Patterns by Chike
Features: Photoshop Pattern (.PAT), 2 .PSD’s, 13 swatches (2 different patterns, various colors and sizes)
Another rather high resolution set, these vibrant polka dots and crosses can add a bunch of flavor to a necessary design. This set also hails transparent backgrounds, easy for customization. An added bonus of this pattern set: the .PSD files are included so you can customize the colors and looks of your own pattern.
Decorative Patterns for PS by Skyje
Features: Photoshop Pattern (.PAT), 48 different swatches
Quite frankly, not all 48 of these patterns are something to write home about, however, there are some real diamonds in this set if you are willing to thumb around a bit. Many of these are off the wall, geometric and tribal (which is a growing trend) and are all of pretty great quality. Some of them do have transparent backgrounds, as well.
Abstract Tileable Patterns by Alice Grayce Noid
Features: 1 .AI (Adobe Illustrator file), 4 different swatches
If you want to open this in Photoshop, you will have to open the .AI file in Photoshop (I opened mine at RGB with 72 dpi). Once you do that, crop the swatches and go to Edit > Define Pattern to use them. Yes, it takes a little work to use them in Photoshop, but it is definitely well worth it. These patterns again borderline between subtle and non-subtle but there is no argument about whether not they are beautiful and high quality.
Ribbon Dancer by Seth Nickerson
Features: 1 .AI (Adobe Illustrator file), 6 different swatches
Refer to the previous pattern set to successfully open the Illustrator file in Photoshop and make good use of it in Photoshop (I opened this one at 150 dpi, RGB). This is an absolutely magnificent pattern set, once you chop it all up. It’s great if you have Illustrator to customize it further, but fortunately, you have transparent backgrounds if you are only working through Photoshop. This is a wonderful set to have on hand.
It’s really a great thing when we design and use patterns for our work. Again, it really takes us to the basics of what design is and patterns always add a bit of spunk to what could be a lacking design.
If you cannot find what you need in a pattern, try your hardest to create your own pattern designs–and then share them with the design community! You never know, what you think is crazy and out the box could be another persons treasure!
What are some of your favorite pattern sets? Do share!