How Do I Make Elegant Filigree Designs in Photoshop?

Since the Victorian era, filigrees have been used to add a touch of class to any design. Recognized for their thin, elegant lines, filigrees often include leaves, flower or vines. While you can download templates and brushes to add filigrees to your Photoshop artwork, you can easily make your own filigrees. With the Custom Shapes available in Photoshop CC and its Pen Tools, your own customized filigrees are limited only by your imagination and how much time you have.

Use Photoshop layers to add symmetry to your filigree.
Use Photoshop layers to add symmetry to your filigree. (Image courtesy of Adobe.)
Step 1:

Create a new document of any size you need for the filigree. Click the "Custom Shape Tool" in the Toolbar. If this tool isn't visible, click and hold the shape tool that is visible to reveal it. Click the "Shapes" menu in the Options bar.

Select the "Custom Shape Tool."
Select the "Custom Shape Tool." (Image courtesy of Adobe.)
Step 2:

Select any of the ornamental shapes to use as the starting point for your filigree. These include a variety of floral and leaf shapes.

Custom shapes, including the "Floral Ornament 3" shape.
Custom shapes, including the "Floral Ornament 3" shape. (Image courtesy of Adobe.)
Step 3:

Drag the cursor across the screen to draw the shape. Click the "Fill," "Stroke" and "Line Weight" menus in the Options bar to specify the colors and line thickness. A black and white gradient for the fill, for example, with a thin black line, works well for an elegant-looking filigree. Resize or rotate the shape as needed by selecting the Transform options under the Edit menu.

The Floral Ornament 3 shape with a gradient fill.
The Floral Ornament 3 shape with a gradient fill. (Image courtesy of Adobe.)
Step 4:

Select a second shape and place it over a portion of the first shape so that the lines overlap in places. The Leaf Ornament 2 shape, for example, fits well with the stem of a flower shape. Add additional shapes as desired to complete one half of the filigree.

The Leaf Ornament 2 shape superimposed on the flower's stem.
The Leaf Ornament 2 shape superimposed on the flower's stem. (Image courtesy of Adobe.)
Step 5:

Click the "Eye" icon beside the Background Layer in the Layers panel to temporarily hide it from view. Select "Merge Visible" from the Layer menu to merge your shapes into one layer. Drag the shape's layer onto the "New Layer" button at the bottom of the Layers panel to duplicate the layer. Make the Background Layer visible again if desired by clicking the "Eye" icon again.

Hide the background layer before merging the visible layers.
Hide the background layer before merging the visible layers. (Image courtesy of Adobe.)
Step 6:

Click the "Edit" menu, select "Transform," then "Flip Horizontal." Press an Arrow key to move the copied pattern to the side until the two patterns become mirror images of each other. Examine the design carefully for any details on the bottom layer that are obscured by the top layer. If you find one, use one of the selection tools in the Toolbox to highlight it, press "Ctrl-C," then "Ctrl-V" to copy and paste it. Drag the new layer to the top of the Layers panel so the hidden detail is now visible again.

A loop in the bottom pattern is hidden by the top pattern.
A loop in the bottom pattern is hidden by the top pattern. (Image courtesy of Adobe.)
Step 1:

Customize any of the Custom Shapes using the Pen Tools available in the Toolbox. For example, to remove the curl from a flower's stem, click the stem's anchor points with the "Delete Anchor Point Tool." To add additional lines to a shape, click on it using the "Add Anchor Point Tool."

Using the "Delete Anchor Point Tool" to shorten a flower's stem.
Using the "Delete Anchor Point Tool" to shorten a flower's stem. (Image courtesy of Adobe.)
Step 2:

Thin out any heavy lines, especially where the shapes intersect with each other, using the Pen Tool. Select "Shape" in the Options Bar. Select "No Fill" from the Fill menu and "White" from the Stroke menu. Change the Line Weight to anywhere between "1" and "2" pixels, depending on the size of your artwork.

Pen Tool settings are in the Options Bar.
Pen Tool settings are in the Options Bar. (Image courtesy of Adobe.)
Step 3:

Click where you want the line to begin. Click and hold the point where you want the line to end and then drag the cursor to add a curve to the line. When the line is done, press "Esc" twice to begin a new line. Remember, you need to draw lines for only one half of the design.

Drawing a white pin stripe with the Pen Tool.
Drawing a white pin stripe with the Pen Tool. (Image courtesy of Adobe.)
Step 4:

Merge the layers containing the white lines, duplicate the merged layer and then flip it horizontally, just as you did when designing the pattern. Nudge the copied white lines until they become the mirror image of the original white lines.

White pin stripes are mirrored as a second layer.
White pin stripes are mirrored as a second layer. (Image courtesy of Adobe.)
Step 5:

Add additional lines using the Pen Tool with a black line wherever you feel more detail is needed. As the filigree nears completion, feel free to add additional shapes as well.

Adding a Fleur-de-lis and thin black lines to the center.
Adding a Fleur-de-lis and thin black lines to the center. (Image courtesy of Adobe.)
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