How to Create Kaleidoscope Patterns from Your Photos

How to Create Kaleidoscope Patterns from Your Photos



If you are like me you had a kaleidoscope as a kid. You would look through one end and turn a dial and the world would be displayed as a mirrored fractured shape. Thanks to Photoshop you can create kaleidoscopes from your photos. Any image with interesting color and shapes will work just fine.

Step 1

Convert the background layer to a regular layer by double clicking it and click Ok.


Step 2

Select the layer and use the Move tool to rotate to 60 degrees and position it over one corner of the image canvas making sure one side of the image sides crosses two sides of the canvas.


Step 3

Use the Magic Wand tool to select the empty background, choose Select > Inverse to select the shape and choose Select > Modify > Contract and contract the shape by one pixel. Now choose
Image > Crop to crop the image to the shape itself. It is important to do this to remove the anti-aliasing that Photoshop applies to the image edge as it rotates it.


Step 4

Duplicate the image layer.

Choose Image > Canvas size, click Relative and set the width to around 3 times the current image height (NOT its width), and the height to 2 times the current height. Select the middle top of the nine positioning boxes and click Ok.


Step 5

Choose View > Snap to > All and make sure View > Snap is selected. Click the Move tool and the top layer of the image and drag the left edge over the right until the W: value is -100%. Ensure the piece is lined up against the edge of the piece on the layer below.


Step 6

Merge these two layers by selecting the top one and press Control + E (Command + E on the Mac).

Duplicate this merged layer, select the top layer and choose Edit > Free Transform and, in the tool options area, select the middle bottom of the 9 point grid to fix the point around which the shape rotates. Set the Rotation to 30 degrees.


Step 7

Press Control + J (Command + J on the Mac) and then Control + Shift + T (Command + Shift + T on the Mac). This duplicates the current layer and repeats the transformation on it.

Repeat this until the kaleidoscope is complete – four times in all.


Step 8

Merge all the layers. Use the crop tool to select around the canvas. You can drag outwards if necessary to add back in any of the image that extends beyond the outside of the image canvas.


Step 9a

Now you can get creative with the shape. For example, you can make a duplicate of the shape and place it in the middle of the original shape sizing this second version down to a small size and then cropping the final image to a square shape. Use the Alt and Shift keys (Option and Shift on the Mac) to size the shape down leaving the middle in the same place and in proportion.


Step 9b

You can fill the middle with another kaleidoscope if desired. Here I used a Hue/Saturation adjustment layer to match the colors of the two kaleidoscopes better.


Step 9c

You can select the shape and choose Edit > Define Pattern to make it a pattern. You can then fill a larger image with it so it displays as a repeating shape.


There are lots of creative ways you can use your Kaleidoscope.

Read more from our Post Production category

Helen Bradley is a Lifestyle journalist who divides her time between the real and digital worlds, picking the best from both. She writes and produces video instruction for Photoshop and digital photography for magazines and online providers world wide. She has also written four books on photo crafts and blogs at

Some Older Comments

  • aimee December 8, 2012 02:33 am

    I also got stuck on step 5 also. Here's what you do :

    Select one layer (i locked the other just to be safe).
    Use the magic wand to select the background.
    Choose Select / Inverse.
    Now choose Edit/ Transform/ Flip Horizontal.
    Your second image should be oriented the right way!

  • Isaac November 28, 2012 12:46 am

    Use Pixelmator it has the kaleidoscope filter

  • Kat October 15, 2012 10:09 pm

    Emma I am having the same problem! Let me know if you figure it out.

  • Emma September 25, 2012 10:08 am

    I'm stuck on step 5. I think I'm following the instructions however I'm finding that my two layers are staying the same, not mirror imaging as in the tutorial.


  • Linda September 12, 2012 01:59 am

    Hello all, I am interested to know if this effect can also be created with Adobe Elemets 10. I'ts beautiful, but I don't have Photoshop. thanks..Linda

  • Patricia Summers May 11, 2012 05:08 pm

    Great Tutorial! Thanks
    Here are my first two.[eimg link='' title='kalida#3flatWM' url=''][eimg link='' title='kalida#2flatWM' url='']

  • Kate Green April 27, 2012 05:56 am

    I love this kaleidoscope tutorial! I have something that takes this a stage further I'd really like to try and wondered whether it's possible on Photoshop. I'd like to create photo patchwork quilts. Not print images onto material but like you have with the kaleidoscope taking images and aranging them on the screen to copy a patchwork design that could then be saved and printed. There is some software called Electric Quilt 7 I've come across where, as far as I understand it, you can scan images and then use them to design your own patchwork - the idea being you could scan your fabric but I presume you can scan photo images too, and then save the image and print it. I've just brought photoshop elements and so don't really want to pay a further £150 for this other software if Photoshop can do it as well. Is it possible? Does what I've described make sense?!
    Cheers Kate

  • Neb March 22, 2012 05:16 am

    Great tutorial. If you don't feel like doing it manually, you can create even more complex spiral kaleidoscope patterns with the Kaleidoscope Camera app on iPhone:

  • Andrew June 13, 2011 07:52 pm

    Thanks Helen. Appreciate your tutorial
    Im just trying to learn this photoshop and managed to get this to work for me.:)

  • Evelyn June 8, 2011 03:32 am

    Great website. Can't wait to try it. I have both a Mac and a PC but no PhotoShop. What are the pros and cons of a Mac vs. a PC?

  • Abi April 6, 2011 12:07 am

    Every time I try this the rotated pieces don't match up at the end, leaving a gap! What am I doing wrong?! :s

  • Rachat de credit August 2, 2010 02:07 am

    Very good tutorial. Can't wait to try this. Nice Kaleidoscope Patterns. Thanks

  • Brian July 9, 2010 12:32 am

    Great tutorial Helen! Have a look at the image I created from this lesson from the link below.

  • Lori S. April 2, 2010 04:21 pm

    I have the same question as Donna. This is so great, and now I'd like to try it (with PS Elements 8) by selecting a triangle from a specific part of a photo, but am not succeeding. I can get a triangle with the cookie cutter tool, but have no way to control the angle of its sides. Is there a good way to get a triangle crop where you can specify that interior angle? Thanks for this tutorial!

  • Donna February 26, 2010 01:48 am

    I LOVE this tutorial! I was wondering if you could recommend a way to draw the triangle so that I can target a specific portion of a photo that lies closer to the center. I've been trying but I am a relative beginner to PS.


  • Marjorie January 21, 2010 09:18 am

    Just tried it--I use Photoshop Elements, and some of the tools are slightly different, but everything can be managed. It turned out great.

    Worth mentioning--for six-sided patterns the necessary angles of rotation will be 30, 60, or 120 degrees (depending on what step and what part of the image you've chosen, etc.) but you can also make a nice eight-point design with angles of 22.5, 45, 90, and 180 degrees. Even for the math-challenged (that's me) the numbers are fairly simple; take 360 and divide by the number of points in the "star" you want, then divide by two, and by two again, etc. until you find the number you need for what you're doing.

    For the hairline fractures, after a bit of colorful language, I just finished it all up and then went back over it with the healing brush to fix the cracks. And there was an unplanned center hole that I filled by cloning a spot of appropriate color. Paint bucket fill worked well there, too, and also around the outside.

    Thanks for a well-presented tutorial on a fun project. I'll be using this one again.

  • Gbenga Loveeyes Images December 31, 2009 09:01 pm

    I just tried it. In step 6, the rotation is 60 degrees and not 30 degrees as you wrote. Sure is a typo-error. Nice one. Happy New Year.

  • Salvacion (Saanva in the forum) November 13, 2009 10:57 am

    What an exciting thing to learn. I love kaleidoscopes and I have long wanted to do them to some of my photos.
    Thank you very much for this wonderful tutorial!

  • Eileen November 13, 2009 07:03 am

    Great tutorial! Thank you.

  • Helen Bradley November 13, 2009 02:54 am

    @stewar tward - If you are seeing hair lines in the pattern and you might, depending on the image you're using, add a new layer below the offset layer and fill it with a color sampled from the image that will color the pixels that Photoshop has aliased (it seems to insist on aliasing the edge pixels even when they were solid in the original image). Merge the two layers and the problem will disappear. Because you are making a design to be used as a pattern by the time you use it as a pattern fill you won't see any evidence of the lines.

  • Stewar tWard November 12, 2009 05:08 pm

    I noticed in the step 7 image the hairline spaces between each duplicated and then rotated shape were apparent, then in 8 they are not. I have these spaces even after merging and getting my final shape and don't know how to get rid of them or to avoid that in the previous steps. I contracted 1 pixel and everything. Can anyone help? I have done this technique about 8 times now, same results despite some tweaks.


  • john bernard November 7, 2009 01:16 pm

    you really inspired me with different style again.. thank you sir.... john

  • Jenny Tabachik November 7, 2009 08:44 am

    Can't wait to try this, very cool!

  • Jan November 6, 2009 03:19 pm

    Kaleidoscope Photography is the name of my business - just didn't use it as my website name, because most people balk at trying to spell it! I'm surprised I didn't think of this myself, so...from your inspiration I will definitely put it to use:) Thank you!

  • john bernard n. triumfante November 6, 2009 10:55 am

    thank so much for sharing really help me in my work john

  • Sherry Watkins November 5, 2009 02:45 am

    Here's a kaleidoscope sample I created a couple of years ago for my parent's 50th anniversary. The orignial photo was taken of them in the bow of a boat cruising on Lake Atland, Guatemala.[img][/img]

  • Linda Vich November 2, 2009 04:49 am

    I have created kaleidoscopes before but had not thought to create a pattern with them. I would like to know, however, how you were able to fill the layer with the pattern with no transparent spaces as these would have been a part of the pattern since it was odd-shaped. Could you please explain your process for this?

  • Christoph October 31, 2009 11:48 pm

    If using a Mac, I can recommend Pixelmator - it comes with a built-in kaleidoscope filter and does a great job achieving the above.

  • Ghosty Nana October 31, 2009 10:23 pm


    Nice tutorial for a beginner like me, a chance to familiarize with basic setting in Photoshop.

  • sbunting108 October 31, 2009 08:38 pm

    Wow nice photos bookmarked the tutorial to refer back to when I am not so tired!
    P.S. - Sorry, forgot to tell you great post!

  • sbunting108 October 31, 2009 09:18 am

    Wow nice photos bookmarked the tutorial to refer back to when I am not so tired!