Sunday, October 9, 2011

Creating Digital Backgrounds from Ackermann's Repository Patterns

Recently I've been playing around with some of the interesting decorative and needlework patterns I found in Ackermann's Repository ( a 200 year old Regency England era magazine that was published from 1809 - 1828).  Naturally I wanted to find a fun way to use these great patterns in with my digital art projects and I've been thrilled with the results so far.

Digital Background I created using an 1816 Ackermann's Repository needlework pattern

I'm not much of a needle worker myself; however I found these antique patterns intriguing and wanted to see what creative purpose I could put them too... so I decided to turn them into digital patterns that I can turn into lovely background for use as digital scrapbook pages, textures or embellishments in my digital art creations.   I enjoy creating fun backgrounds and textures in Photoshop and now have
a lot of great new patterns to play with thanks to Ackermann's Repository.

Here is how I created the above finished background

Needlework pattern from Ackermann's Repository Sept 1816 issue
I started with the original pattern from Ackermann's and cropped out 
the swirled section on the bottom using Photoshop.

I digitally removed the background in Photo shop till I was left with the basic pattern.
Next I erased of all the background areas so I was left with a transparent png image.
This transparency is what allows the pattern appear as real embroidery would  
with just the "stitches" visible above the fabric.

I digitally cleaned up the pattern a bit and added a gold "style" in Photoshop.
I cleaned up the right side of the pattern so I would have a good "repeat" when I started 
plotting my pattern out and used a gold "style" in Photoshop to act as my "thread" color.

I added and reversed swirls in Photoshop till I had this final pattern
This is my completed transparent png pattern.  
I can now easily change the "stitching" color for the whole piece at will and can add 
any number of background choices to create a new look whenever I choose.

I added a great multi-colored background, played with styles and blending modes then added the swirl layer on top.
For my first example I used a fun multi-colored background I created, set with a blending mode of "Multiply" so the base under layer would be seen through it. The base layer is not actually a solid color, it has a "style" applied to it and it is a combination of this style and the middle layer with the multi-colored background set to blending mode "multiply" that is creating this great fabric effect.

I think the finished piece has the look of a baroque or damask gold embroidered material.

Here are two more examples of backgrounds using this same swirl pattern.

Glitter Green Background with bright gold swirls
 I thought this would make a great Christmas pattern.

An antique blue with a soft gold swirl
 Here the background pattern has a bit of a wrinkled fabric look to it.


Another example using a wood craft pattern.

Ackermann's Repository July 1819 Decorative Pattern
I used the upper portion of the this decorative pattern that was intended for 
wood-working projects such as carving or inlay work. 

The pattern was incomplete on the right side so I had to make some alterations in
Photoshop to create the full image.

Half - Pattern
I cropped the pattern in half in Photoshop so I could then create a mirror image 
of this half and then have a full pattern once the process was complete.

Full - Pattern
In Photoshop I created a duplicate of the above "half-pattern", flipped it to get a 
mirror image and lined it up so I had a perfectly symmetrical full-pattern.

Digitally Decorative version of the full-pattern
By removing the beige & black backgrounds I had my "stitch" lines and could treat this like the first needlework pattern.  I have a thing about creating digital backgrounds that can be used as scrapbooking papers so I played with this basic design a bit so I could have a 8x8 version of it too.

Ackermann's Altered 1819 Pattern - Red

Ackermann's Altered 1819 - Gold

Ackermann's Altered 1819 - Green
These are just three examples of digital scrapbook pages I was able to create using that one pattern.  Each was quickly arrived at by changing backgrounds and playing with blending modes and styles in Photoshop.


One Last Pattern Example

Ackermann's Repository February 1817 Painting Pattern
This pattern was intended to use as a decorative painting pattern and could have been used 
as a whole or as the separate patterns.  I chose to use it as a whole in my example.

In two of my examples I kept the black background and in the other two I removed the black background.  
I think I actually like this pattern better with the black background in place. 
See what you think. 

(The beige background was made transparent for all the backgrounds shown below 
and the black background was made transparent for the very last two examples.)

 Ackermann's Repository Altered 1817 pattern - version 1

This is the first example showing the pattern with the black background still as part of the design.
I used similar styles in Photoshop for the under layer that shows through the transparent portions as what I placed over the whole design area.  This is my favorite of the 4 - I think it has the look of carved stone or embossed antique metal.

Ackermann's Repository Altered 1817 pattern - version 2
Version 2 is very similar to the one above but in a much lighter color
and has more of an embossed leather look to it.

Here in version 3 the original black background was made transparent 
so that only the outline portion of the pattern was used.

This causes the chosen "style" used in Photoshop to be placed only on the outline areas rather than also on the surrounding areas that were originally black.  This creates more of the "stitching" feel or a look that is similar to heat embossing when you rubber stamp and use an embossing powder.

Ackermann's Repository Altered 1817 pattern - version 4
In the final version I've was going for that verdigris look of the greenish copper with antique copper embossing.  Once again in this version the original black background was made transparent so that only the outline portions take on the embossed look.

There is no doubt that I enjoy working with Photoshop and manipulating patterns to create new from the old.  I'm sure the artists that created the original patterns for Ackermann's never imagined that nearly 200 years later they would still be used by a more modern version of the ladies it was originally created for. Larger Downloadable versions of these and other backgrounds using vintage Ackermann images can be found on my deivantART account at

 I will be sharing a good portion of original Regency designs and needlework patterns in my next few posts so you can see the vast collection that were produced by Ackermann's Repository and their artists. And I hope you find a use for some of them in your own creations and art projects.

Till next we meet...

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