PI7 Top Ten Ways to Make Backgrounds

There are lots of ways to make backgrounds in PI, and this tutorial will show you my Top Ten. You may come up with even more on your own.

(1) Background Designer

(6) Creative Warp Tile

(2) Shift Image

(7) Creative Painting Tile

(3) Create Seamless Tile

(8) Kaleidoscope Tile

(4) Embossed Tile

(9) Gradient Tile

(5) Artist Texture Tile

(10) Muted Photo Background

(1) Background Designer: Select Web, Background Designer (or hit Shift+B).

background designer

Decide whether you want to generate a new tile (specify size in pixels) or whether you want to fill the active image with the tile. Select a Schema from the dropdown list and a Background type, if desired. The default Background type for the Schema selected above will give you a background that looks like this.

default background option

To edit the default color palette, click the Edit button. Doing so will open the Palette Ramp Editor. Select a different palette and edit as desired, then click OK.

palette ramp editor

Now you have a tile like the one shown below that uses a tan and cream palette instead of a pink one.

edited palette

Don't forget about the options at the bottom of the Background Designer dialog box. In the example shown below, the colors of the tile were darkened by reducing the Darken value...

darken or lighten value edited

Resulting in this slightly darker tile.

slightly darker tile


(2) Shift Image: Stamp objects, with their transparency edited, can make great backgrounds. For example, here I've taken a 300 X 300 pixel blank white canvas and stamped in the middle of it with a 75% size, 75% transparent rose stamp from Chay's Graphics.

stamp in middle of image

While the object is active, select the Pick tool. In the Attributes toolbar, select the Center Both option (centers the object on the base image), then right click Merge All.

center object

Choose Web, Shift Image. When the dialog box opens, shift the image by half of its height and width in pixels. This will split up the flower object, moving it from the center to the four corners.

shift image by half in pixels

Return to the Stamp tool and stamp one more rose in the middle of the image. Select the Pick tool. In the Attributes toolbar, choose the Center Both option again. Right click Merge All. Now you have a lovely, muted background tile.

muted background tile


(3) Seamless Tile: Make a seamless tiling background from any photo or other image. For example, I'm going to make a seamless tile from this photo I took of some gardenias.

Choose the Standard Selection tool, Shape=Square. Make a selection in the image. Make sure you don't get too close to the borders of the image. Seamless Tile "borrows" some space outside of the actual selection area in order to get the best result. If you're too close to the edges of the image, you'll get a hard line.

make a selection

Select Web, Create Seamless Tile. By default, PI will select the best Merge Size and Merge Ratio for you. However, you can enter your own values and deselect the locks to enter different values without maintaining height-to-width proportions.

seamless tile

Click Preview to preview the seamless tile full screen. Hit the Escape button to return to the work space. If you like the results, click OK and a new image will open with the seamless tile.

seamless gardenia background


(4) Embossed Background: Using the gardenia tile above, you can see how easy it is to emboss any seamless image for a unique background tile. Choose Effect, Special, Emboss to open the Emboss dialog box. Instead of selecting a thumbnail, click the Options button to open a secondary dialog box.

edit coating color and other attributes as desired

Click in the Color coating box to select a different color from the default gray. Edit the Light Source and Depth values, if desired, and click OK to create the embossed tile.

embossed background

Keep in mind that you can emboss text logos too. Embossed logos make a smart background for business pages.


(5) Artist Texture: This is one of the easiest and most fun ways to make a background tile. Choose Effect, Creative, Artist Texture to open the dialog box. Click on different Pattern Samples and Pattern Templates to vary the pattern. By default, a bright rainbow palette is selected. Click the Edit button to open the Palette Ramp Editor.

edit palette

Select a different color palette as desired. Here's a pale blue palette applied to the tile.

artist texture tile

If your tile doesn't look good, click the Reset button to start all over again. Click OK to create the tile. As long as it's applied to a square image or selection, it will tile seamlessly.


(6) Creative Warp: This is another fun way to make a seamless tile from an existing image. Make sure to pick an image whose colors you love. Make a square selection in an interesting area filled with color and/or texture and choose Effect, Creative, Warp. Click on different pattern templates.

select different templates

The templates are additive in their effects. If you get a look that you don't like, click the Reset button and start over. Here's the tile created in the screen shot above (it looks like a quilted square).

creative warp tile


(7) Creative Painting Tile: Make a selection in an image, or you can use the entire image. I've made a selection from a photo of seashells. Choose Effect, Creative, Painting. When the Painting dialog box opens, try the different Paint Templates and Patterns out. Select "Tile" to turn the painting into a seamless tile.

Remember that you can edit the Fineness, Density, Opacity and other Fine Controls in the Painting dialog box. I edited the default Fineness down a bit to come up with this seamless seashell painting tile.

seashell painting background


(8) Kaleidoscope Tile: This is another great way to make a tile from an existing image, especially one with colors that knock you out. I've made a square selection from a photo of vivid red bougainvilleas. If you don't make a square selection, your tile probably won't end up being seamless.

make a selection

Choose Effect, Magic, Kaleidoscope. When the Kaleidoscope dialog box opens, you can simply select a thumbnail and go with the defaults.

thumbnails, or click Options to tweak

I'd recommend that in addition to selecting a thumbnail, you click Options to open a secondary dialog box. Usually that's what I will do, because you can really tweak the kaleidoscope tile this way. You can drag on control points in the left preview window to make the pattern larger or smaller, rotate it, move the selection to a different area to emphasize other colors, etc.

select different effects

Click OK to make a kaleidoscope tile. Here's the one created in the dialog box shown above.

kaleidoscope tile


(9) Gradient Tile: Make a simple Two-color or Multiple-color gradient tile easily. Start with a new True Color image 1300 pixels wide X 10 pixels high, canvas=white. Choose Edit, Fill. Select the Gradient tab, and a left to right gradient Fill Type. If you want a Two-color fill, select the appropriate option, click in the color boxes and select your colors. I'm making a Multiple-color gradient (note that you can also make a magic gradient fill), so click in the Multiple-color box to open the Palette Ramp Editor. Select and edit a palette as desired, then click OK to close the Palette Ramp Editor. You'll be returned to the Fill dialog box. Since the selected gradient is kind of dark, I've edited its Transparency to 50% so that text will show up over it.

edit transparency of gradient

Click OK to close the Fill box. The gradient tile is too big to show on this page but you can see it tiled on a page here.


(10) Muted Photo Background: Often people want to use a lightened version of a photo for a web page or table background. Here's an easy way to make a photo pale enough for text to be easily read over it.  Open your photo up in the work space. Right click, All will select the entire image.

select entire photo, convert to object

Now right click, Convert to Object. Drag the new object into an empty area of the work space, where it will open in its own window. Right click and choose Properties. Doing so opens the Object Properties dialog box. From the General tab, edit the Transparency to 50% or more, depending on how dark the original image is.

edit transparency

If the image is sufficiently muted now, right click, Merge All and Save. If it's too lighty or too dark, right click and choose Properties again to edit the Transparency further. Here's the muted photo used as a background in a table.


This tutorial uploaded 2/22/02


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