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Archive: Creating Dotted Borders in Photoshop

Monday May 18th, 2009 in Photoshop Tutorials


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Dotted borders can really spice up any layout without making it seem too square. Creating these in Photoshop is a lot easier than people think. It can be done, quite simply, with selections and patterns.
Essentially, a dotted border is made using selections and patterns. The process is very simple and will take no time at all. We first need to define our pattern, so let's get cracking with that now.
Creating your Pattern
Create a new document that is 2x2 pixels with any colour background (it really doesn't matter as we're only going to delete it). Create a new layer in this document and fill the top left most pixel with any colour using the Pencil tool. The colour does not matter as we'll fill over this later on anyway. You should now have a single pixel in the top left, like in the picture below:
Fill the top left box like in this image.
Next, click the bottom (background) layer and delete it by clicking the trashcan icon. The background behind your dot should change to a grey and white checkered pattern. This represents the fact our background is now transparent.

Now we'll define this as a pattern. Navigate the menu to Edit -> Define Pattern. Name it "DottedBorder01" and click Ok. We now have the pattern defined, so let's apply this pattern to a design and create our dotted border.

Applying Our Effect

Open your design or create a new document 400x400 pixels. Create a new layer and draw rectangle selection using the marquee tool that covers the majority of our design but leaves some space either side. For your own design, select the outline of wherever you want your dotted border to go.

Your selection should look like this:

Selecting the Destination for our Dotted Border
If you're using your own design, ignore this step. We want to fill a layer with this selection so we have an "anchor point" to later recall this selection. Just press ALT & D to fill our selection with the foreground colour. Once you've done this, create a new layer, and now it's time to create our border.

Now we want to expand our selection by 2 pixel. To do this, go to Select -> Modify -> Expand. Enter 2 and click Ok. Now we're about to give birth to our dotted border! We're going to fill this selection with our pattern we defined earlier. To do this, go to Edit -> Fill. Select "Pattern" from the drop down box and browse the patterns until you find our pattern, "DottedBorder01". Click Ok to fill our selection with our pattern.

You might have some blank space where you'd expect your pattern; this is because Photoshop's pattern filling is absolute, meaning it fills the pattern in from the (1-1) co-ordinates. The only reason we don't see it is we don't have that area selected; it's still attempting to fill the pattern in, which means it will fill in our selection as if the whole document is being filled in. If you get this problem, just use the nudge tool to move our shape or selection a pixel up or left, depending on where the gap is. This will remedy the problem.

Now our image is looking like this:

You should see a distinct dotted border around your selection or shape.
Now we're going to fill this border with whatever colour we want our border to be. To do this, select the layer's contents by clicking on the layer in your layers window whilst holding down the CTRL key. This will select every pixel on our layer. Set your foreground colour to whatever colour you wish to use and press CTRL & D again to fill our selection with this colour. Alternatively, go to Edit -> Fill and choose "Foreground Colour".

Your shape and dotted border should now look something like below. If it doesn't, you've probably got the dotted pattern beneath your shape. No problem, it won't affect the outcome (to keep along with the images though, drag your dotted pattern above your filled shape).

Now the border stands out because it's a different colour.
Finally, we're going to delete the excess of our border that is overlapping the rest of the shape. To do this we use our anchor shape from earlier to quickly select the area we want to delete. Hold down CTRL and left click on your shape's layer. This will select the shape. Ensuring your dotted border shape is highlighted in the layers pallete, click DEL to remove the selection from the dotted border layer. Alternatively, go to Edit -> Clear in the menu.

And there we have it! One very simple dotted border effect. You can play around with various sizes and different patterns for some interesting effects. Below we used a diagonal dotted effect that is 3 pixels high:

Diagonal dotted borders.