The Adobe Capture Pattern Trap

A Textile Design Lab designer recently posted a series of beautiful patterns which all had a stained glass look and layout. You couldn’t help but take note of them and appreciate them. She asked, “Are these marketable? They just seemed too easy to create using the Adobe Capture CC pattern function.”

Too easy? That sounds nice, doesn’t it? I replied that they were gorgeous and totally marketable. I personally love the Adobe Capture CC shape function, so I was super excited to try this new addition to the app. After our weekly call I jumped on my iPhone and immediately started creating patterns out of various textures that I found around the house. You can see the results here:

Adobe Capture Pattern Trap

The entire undertaking was a blast. With the click of a button I could turn the filtered light under our deck into brilliant stained glass inspired patterns in a variety of layout styles. I showed them to my husband and we had a good laugh about the app running textile designers out of a job. I laughed—outwardly—but inside I wondered, could this actually be the case? Could and will software eventually replace designers? My euphoric blast was over, and now I was thinking about the entire thing a bit more deeply.

It was time to go into Adobe Photoshop, open up the files, and start working on them. As I got to the task at hand I still saw their beauty, but after zooming in and trying to work with the files some doubts crept in about this new tool. When enlarged, the images were blurry, low resolution, and lacked a sense of depth and detail. Those are three very important aspects of a pattern that most buyers will look at when considering a design. Eventually, it was time to move on and I shelved the project, putting on my “sometime in the future” to-do list.

Since that time I have taken notice of these beautiful stained glass layouts popping up all over social media. They are everywhere and I expect to see more and more of these patterns in social media and designer portfolios, as they are trending. I’m sure you’ve seen them, as well. But be warned—like all digital design tools, it’s important to not abuse the software. Buyers are looking for the unique, the special, the spectacular. A portfolio filled with stained glass patterns that can be created with the click of a button, regardless of their beauty, are not the foundation for a sustainable design business.

As more tools such as Adobe Capture CC emerge, I encourage you to use them and experiment with them, but do not rely on them too heavily. They are a tool—only a single tool in your toolbox to be used to bring your vision to life.

Just like recognizable Photoshop filters, think about ways that you can use this tool in combination with other techniques. Here are some patterns that I created combining this tool with some of my go-to design techniques:

Adobe Capture Patterns Improved

Other ideas include:

  1. Indexing the pattern into a two color texture
  2. Using your indexed texture as a background or foreground pattern to more recognizable motifs
  3. Printing out your Adobe Capture pattern and using them in a collage style pattern
  4. Using Photoshop’s “Paste Into” feature or a clipping mask to add your Adobe Capture pattern to geometric or nature inspired motifs
  5. Use your Adobe Capture pattern as motif and inspiration and create the finalized pattern using watercolors, acrylics or an artistic medium of your choice

The possibilities are endless if you know the right techniques.



  1. Hi Michelle and thank you for this terrific post. I completely agree with your hesitation with this and all computer generated programs that make patterns. For me, the issue is that they all look, well, computer generated. They have a same-ness to them even with the variety of color and pattern. Love your idea of using these kaleidoscope patterns as a starting point and look forward to hearing how to make them work as rich patterns.

  2. I have had so much fun playing with the pattern function on the Adobe Capture app but have come to the same conclusion: blurry images and limited ways to make the pattern unique. I am using it as a tool something like a sketchbook. I can go back in to Photoshop and mimic the feel of the design, but in a more interesting way and have a much higher quality image.
    I use the Pixelmator app often, the “kaleidoscope” effect is super fun too, but only useful for pattern design in a limited way.
    I use so many different techniques to make my designs, I love apps! In the end there is no substitute for the hard work of thoughtful design, crafted carefully and professionally:)

  3. this is am amazing app. thanks for the heads up. I was just talking tomy son in law saying we need and app like this lol. I guess I was too late! I will use it to make patterns from my drawings and painitings.

  4. I was super excited as well learning the Capture and figuring out all the ways I could use it. I’m totally in love with the color palette part. Not sure about the brushes yet, but they might be useful once I figure out the best way to get a good sample. The patterns…. I liked how they looked on my screen the app really does help create stunning images. But when I tried to import into my library and use as for one of my fabric projects, I was met with some issues. blurry, low res, pixeled art. Its possible to use this I’m sure if you use only a few colors then you can index it. but of course you are limited in your layout. I believe the the human element of design cannot be replicated by a machine and maybe we can get close but it will never be the same. I could see using this to make a quick filler pattern for a collection, or anything digitally printed. good for smaller printable goods like phone cases or paper products. Excellent for web design.

    The best part of this app so far to me is the color palette. it stores the images you used to get the palettes too. great for lunch break inspirations.

  5. Hi,

    I love this app. I have created so many beautiful patterns, but for some reason, they won’t open in Adobe Photoshop. Did anyone else have that problem?

    Linda Lacy

    1. I had this problem at first Linda! I had to upgrade my Photoshop to the latest version. I am pretty bad about remembering to do that…

  6. I agree with you. Now that I have been using it – it is addictive and cool on my small screen and I like sharing how a drawing can be transformed but I am thinking these patterns are really something to start with and build on with other techniques for my portfolio – a middle step. I am now really enjoying the shape, brush and color parts of this app. Thanks for the post!

  7. I had the same concerns when Adobe Illustrator came out with the pattern maker. But it is also a tool, and doesn’t guarantee good designs. I like Capture CC for geo and kaleidoscope style inspirations though! But that’s just the first step…

  8. Hi michelle,
    So nice you have tried the pattern feature of the adobe app and share your thoughts and concerns about it with us. I had the same concerns and came to the conclusion to use it as a source of inspiration, like a sketchbook or something like that. it is the perfect tool to try out some ideas in a quick and easy way. indexing in photoshop and/ or tracing the files in illustrator are ways to make the low resolution files into something more useful.

    and yes the brush and color feature are interesting as well 🙂

  9. Great post! I had so much fun with the pattern making tool at first. Then everything just started to look the same… and I came to the conclusion Michelle has. It’s a great tool but can’t stand in for “human” design skills. I really love Capture CC for the Shape and colour tools and find them really useful.

  10. I found a similar app but under different circumstances so never got near the “trap” ( Scott Robertson —
    Watching an app like this used as a design tool and inspiration got me looking at the world around me differently, and using my camera as just that: a camera 🙂

  11. I too found the app and played with it all day and was going to come here as ask about it..I am a graphic designer and want to transition to being a surface pattern designer, I am an adobe guru. I struggle with the design process for pattern making. I go to illustrator and start or I draw then scan and start but I can finish! I feel they are not good enough somehow or the design looks done before and I have so many excuses! Then with the CC app it made such pretty designs from everything especially my drawings! I thought it was a good way to get the juices flowing and a jumping off point. I loved the capture as well to make motifs from drawings but I feel they all need to be tweaked in illustrator.
    Thanks for the post!

  12. Thanks for this Michelle – the ‘replacing people with apps’ thing is something that pops into my mind a lot! Glad to get your professional take on it for pattern designers.

  13. Great post Michelle! I think there is another element you lose with this tool and that’s the satisfaction of toiling on a pattern and then finally getting it to work. I love working with the complex and ones that challenge my maths brain and there is not the same level of accomplishment.

  14. I had a similar roller coaster when playing with these but I think they’re great for what they are – use them as textures and subtle backgrounds, and they’re great. I love making my vectorized drawings into patterns personally so this certainly wouldn’t replace that for me.

    One heads up for everyone posting here that they’re just discovering Adobe capture – check out the option to make swatch palettes from a photo and then save directly to the Adobe libraries. Now that’s a cool feature I use a ton. 😉 Capture is a pretty powerful app.

  15. Michelle, I have been playing with it both as a capturing photos but also as making patterns from my hand-drawn work. What I have found is that if I accept the first thing that the symmetry suggests on screen one, I can adjust it in the edit (screen 2) and then check at 100% size before I define it to make sure that it is NOT blurring. Most of the starting images have enough res if you don’t try to enlarge them a lot. I do think that indexing can also help–esp from a photo. But I having a LOT of fun with it even so.

  16. This is why I’m looking more carefully at my repeats, there is a lot of mirroring around, and patterns that look great on Instagram, but translated into homewares it doesn’t always work. I’m actually going back to very very old repeating methods and working alongside design software almost at the last moment. I think you’re right buyers are going to get more choosy about craft, provenance and proffessionalism. Time to up my game! Anna xxx

    1. Preach Anna! I am having a difficult time showing designers how valuable these “old methods” are when working with more complex artwork. The AI Pattern tool is great for simple patterns, but when you want a very organic, unrecognizable repeat it is not always the best option. Thanks for your comment!

  17. I’ve been using the Adobe Capture app since it came out, and they are some super fabulous aspects that are delicious to use (color picker, shapes, brushes, etc. that are all there in the cloud when you return to your computer.) Sweet…

    And yes I did see some limitations including the blurring of the image as you mentioned here – but only within the pattern playing of the app, but there are ways to get around that as you learn more about the app and how to take better photos to create your designs. (air drop your non-fuzzy image to the phone to then use the pattern app for example.) I have patterns created from my watercolor elements that look fab at 10k pixels wide without loss of details – and more importantly, kept that hand painted feel to the pattern without any seams. Nice…

    These apps can easily enlarge your scope of creating art. The brushes tool is super too – especially when using your own hand-drawn motifs. Though there are limitations to using the brushes in both illustrator and photoshop – hoping the Adobe peeps figure that one out… right now it’s one or the other, you can’t create a brush to use in either app.

    Also I still use much of my own line work, i.e. painting, watercolor, drawings for the original elements and motifs within my design patterns when using the pattern app for example in Adobe Capture – this keeps it more ‘real’. I also love how you can scale the pattern when bringing your art into your pre-determined squares. These apps can certainly make your designing process faster and quicker, but not necessarily prettier… you still need a human’s hand touch for that. Great article!

    1. I can’t wait to try this “air drop your non-fuzzy image to the phone to then use the pattern app for example” Leah! Thanks for the tip!

  18. I found an app called ‘kaleidoscopic’ a few days ago. While it’s fun to use I agree can be a bit generic. I still will work on my own ideas from scratch.

  19. Thank you for shedding light on this! I use another app to create “Kaleidoscope” or Mandala like patterns and I adore them and think that many of them would be the foundation for beautiful textile patterns. I am no longer in the Textile Design industry though and I do know how many hours of work would be behind transforming these micro-design inspirations into thoughtfully designed marketable textile repeats. Keep speaking the truth, love it Michelle!

  20. Hi, Michelle! It’s been awhile since I’ve connected. Just wanted to say great thread and comments. I’ve been watching for the past year, but not making patterns much at all. This post and some of your others prompts me to get busy with them again. Thanks for all that you do!

  21. Great post and fabulous comments! I actually work for Adobe on the Capture team. I found this post and all of the comments very useful. We’re always looking for ways to improve the app. If you have ideas or specific examples of issues you are facing, please send us an email (

    I want to comment on the question you posed: “Could and will software eventually replace designers?”
    I believe great design is human expression. People express their ideas, insights, emotion, and innovative technique with design. Computers may be able to mimic human methods or follow predefined rules. But, computers cannot express thought, share an insight, or convey emotion through design. Tools like Capture are not intended to replace the designer or the design process—they are intended to enable. And, you have done a great job explaining how Capture is enabling your design process.

  22. Seems my android phone AND tablet are not compatible with Adobe Capture CC app.
    Am I correct that you can’t download this software onto your computer? (I wonder why they would make it that way?)

  23. Hey @michelle @chelsea the Pantone color app is out and it really rocks in the sense that it provides the HEX and CMYK and RGB colors from the images you capture or source from their app. So you can directly swap Ps or Ai colors for Pantone colors for your pattern instead of waiting till the end of the repeat process to match colors for the factory or printer or instead of downloading the Pantone colors from their website as well. Am I thinking correctly here?

  24. Great post! I too was wondering how this fab little app would affect things. At the moment I use AI and Photoshop CS6 as I can’t really afford or justify paying out for the monthly versions of Adobe CC as well (am still just trying to learn the ropes!). I thought maybe the fuzziness issue was happening just because I hadn’t paid for access to the software with a Creative Cloud account?? I thought if i do eventually subscribe to CC, that the fuzziness issue might disappear! Several of you seem to suggest you have the same issue with fuzziness, but are any of you using Photoshop/ AI CC?

  25. Great post Michelle, I get totally addicted to capturing patterns but like you wisely advise here…these are the inspiration or foundation for more complex (less obvious) patterns:) Technology is so much fun, we just have to be sure to put our own spin and “filter” on what we capture to make it our own unique signature designs!

  26. Great post Michelle! And Sherry as always brings a crucial, must-remember point in the process.
    I can’t wait to try this out and use it as a step to create something more complex, rather than stopping at it’s own result as a final pattern.
    Love the first image btw!

  27. Interesting article Michelle. I love the adobe capture app also but realize it’s one tool/technique out of many to use. I think as a designer I’m always pushing myself to come up with something different or I get bored with my work. I think that’s when the human touch comes in, knowing what good design is and what a computer generated piece is.

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