What is Step and Repeat in Photoshop and How to Use It

Step and repeat might sound like a Photoshop action, but actually, it’s not. The easiest explanation of step and repeat is it’s a process of duplicating objects and spacing positions. 

You’ll be duplicating layers instead of adding an action to the same layer. Step and repeat will keep the duplicated object distance consistent. 

For example, you draw a circle, and you want to have ten circles with the same spacing in between them. Instead of copy, paste and try to drag to the exact distance position every time, using the step and repeat method will save you time and get more accurate results. 

In this tutorial, I’m going to show you how to use the step and repeat method in Photoshop with a couple of simple examples. 

Note: the screenshots are taken from Adobe Photoshop CC 2021 Mac version. Windows or other versions can look different. Change the Command key to Ctrl, Option key to Alt key if you are a Windows user.

Creating an Image Effect

You can use the step and repeat method to make a zoom effect. An essential tool you’ll be using is the Free Transform Tool (Command + T). 

Step 1: Open an image in Photoshop and duplicate the layer. 

Step 2: Go to the top menu and select Edit > Transform > Scale. You can also choose other transformations. 

A transform box should appear on your image and you can resize it and hit the Return/Enter key to accept the transformation. 

Note: the image layers that you’ll be creating will repeat the same size ratio as this one. 

Step 3: Press the keyboard shortcuts Command + Shift + Option + T to repeat the step on a new layer. 

You can keep pressing the shortcuts until you get the results you want. See, you don’t have to duplicate the layer every time to reposition it. The layers will repeat the transformation based on the previous one. 

Some of you might’ve noticed that on the Edit > Transform menu, there’s an option: Again (Command + Shift + T). It will repeat your last Transform action but on the same layer, so if you want to make an effect, you’ll need multiple layers of images, that’s why you need to use the step and repeat keyboard shortcut instead of the Again one. 

Creating a Pattern

You can quickly make a strip background using step and repeat following the steps below.

Step 1: Create a long rectangle shape. 

Step 2: Duplicate the rectangle shape layer and select the Free Transform Tool to move the duplicated layer to the right. 

Step 3: Hit the step and repeat shortcut Command + Shift + Option + T a few times until you fill the canvas. 

Quick tip: you can merge the layers and make it a pattern. It’ll be easier to edit as well. For example, you can change the color. 

Creating a Shape

You can make graphic vectors in Photoshop as well without the pen tool. For example, we can make an explosion icon with a triangle using step and repeat. 

Step 1: Select the Triangle Tool and draw a triangle. 

Step 2: Duplicate the layer, select the Transform tool and rotate the triangle with one corner anchoring the original triangle. 

Step 3: Hit the step and repeat shortcut Command + Shift + Option + T a few times until you get the icon shape. 

That’s it! 

Conclusion

You can use step and repeat to create a seamless background, a special image effect, a vector graphic, etc. The most important tool you’ll need to use is the Transform Tool, and keep in mind the shortcut combination Command + Shift + Option + T.

About June
June is an experienced graphic designer specializing in brand design. Photoshop is the essential tool that she uses every day along with other Adobe programs for her creative work.

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  • John (UK)

    Hi.
    Thanks for the step and repeat tutorial. Ive just been looking around for this tutorial but the ones ive come across havent been explained to well. After following your tutorial i have now got the hang of it and can continue making long tasks very simple. Thanks very much for the tutorial, it has help greatly!

    Thanks

  • June

    Yes it does help to speed things up somewhat once you get the hang of it, I’m glad you found it helpful 🙂

  • Hiren Modi

    it’s superb trick for creating different designs and pattern. Thanks

  • RIchie Andrew

    Once haveing created my pattern with the excellently simple instructions above, i simply selected all the pattern layers in the layers window. right clicked (PC) and selected merge layers, one layer, for all the copies. great stuff, thanks very much.

  • June

    Glad you found the tutorial useful. And yes, that’s good tip to merge all layers at the end if you are using raster images.

  • raman

    yaa really this is so much helpful for me. Today i knew how to repeat the copies in different position. Thank u so much.