Create a snowflake in Illustrator

21 Dec 2010

It's that time of the year again! While I was creating this Christmas card my mind was totally covered with star shapes and colors. Coincidentally, I received a request from someone who wondered how you create a snowflake in Illustrator. I thought to myself why not write a tutorial…

Draw a vertical line

Select the Line tool and draw a vertical line by holding down the Shift key. Give the line a black Stroke color for the time being and a thickness of 5 pixels, but you might choose a value depending on the dimensions you are working in. Just try to use more or less the proportions as shown in the image below.

Draw a vertical line

Draw a 2nd line at a 45° angle

With the Line tool still selected, draw a second line at an angle of 45°, starting from the vertical line, dragging diagonally, holding down the Shift key.

Draw a 2nd line at an angle of 45°

Flip and duplicate the 45° line

Select the 45° angled line and select the Reflect tool from the toolbox (this tool might be hidden under the Rotate tool). Hold down the Option/Alt key and click on the vertical line as this is the axis. In the window that appears, choose Vertical as Axis and click the Copy button.

Flip and copy the 45° line

Rotate and duplicate

Now select the entire object and select the Rotate tool from the toolbox. Hold down the Alt/Option key and click at the bottom center of the object as this is the spot we want this object to rotate around. In the window that appears choose 72°, as we want a snowflake that exists of 5 parts (360/5=72). You could also choose 60° in case you want a snowflakes that contains 6 parts. Now click the Copy button so we keep our original object.

Rotate and copy at 72°

Transform again

To repeat this action, hit Cmd/Ctrl + d 3 times in a row to have it rotated and duplicated 3x in a row. In case you've used 60°, you need to do this 4 times in row. Now isn't that *simply* awesome? We have our simple snowflake completed :)

Convert stroke objects to fills

Maybe you want to play with some gradient fill so it might be more interesting to end up with fills instead of strokes. Select the complete snowflake and go to Object > Path > Outline Stroke. Now all strokes are turned into fills.

Convert strokes to fills

Unite all fill objects

Maybe it's nice to end up with 1 nice shape instead of these overlapping ones. We could use the new Shapebuilder tool for this, which is an awesome new tool in CS5 for everything you are used to do with the Pathfinder options. Though, this time I choose the Pathfinder to do the job as I only have to click once on the Unite option to merge all shapes into 1 object.

Unite all fills objects

Add color

Add some color, maybe a gradient. I have chosen to keep mine flat white, but you can choose whatever suits nicely in your design.

Add color to the object

Create Symbol

One idea is to create a Symbol by dragging the object into the Symbols palette (and call it snowflake).

Create a symbol

Spray snowflake symbols

The fun thing is that you can spray symbols using the Symbol Sprayer tool and then create some randomness using the other Symbol tools that are located under the Symbol Sprayer tool. For those who want to know more about this, I have already covered this in my tutorial about creating an Illustrator inset effect on text in combination with clipping mask.

Spray some snowflakes on your design

Experiment and try out other combinations

I can't say this enough, but by experimenting you often end up surprising yourself. So why not go a bit more wild and try to combine all sorts of shapes that fit into a snowflake? Like you could add in a few circles, or start with a 6 pointed star (using the Star tool, click on the canvas and enter 6 points). A 6 pointed star makes it easier to work with than 5 as you have a few straight lines you can work with for the rotation of your elements. Meaning, you can choose from a horizontal or vertical axis. Below are 3 examples that I deconstructed for you so you can see how they are created.

A more complex snowflake example Another more complex snowflake example Yet another more complex snowflake example

Think about all the different options here and make sure you try out all sorts of combinations. Just rotate at 60°, make sure to hit copy and then hit Cmd/Ctrl +d to duplicate the action 4 times in a row.

Merry Christmas!

Final result: Merry Christmas!

Hope this tutorial triggered your inspiration for the creation of some cool creative snowflakes. Merry Christmas all of you, and thank you for reading my blog :)


  1. 1 Rachel 21 Dec 2010

    Nice! I was just on your website a few days ago hoping for a nifty tutorial about this when I needed to draw a snowflake! Yours turned out much prettier than mine :) All designers should create custom snowflakes, I hate it when everyone uses the standard Wingdings or whatever!

  2. 2 Joan M. 21 Dec 2010

    Very good tutorial!
    If you fancy a 3D model based on ice crystals’ geometry, check out the Processing tutorial just posted by the folks at Creative applications.

  3. 3 els 22 Dec 2010

    Brilliant tutorial again Veerle.
    It isn’t until you are actually doing these tutorials step-by-step that you realize how well they are done. Thank you very much to take the time to write it all down so clearly and in such detail.
    You are the best!

    Now, can you also write a tutorial about the little birds in the trees? ; )

  4. 4 Daniel Máslo 22 Dec 2010

    Great work. I’m looking forward to the ‘create a bird in Illustrator’

  5. 5 Amie 22 Dec 2010

    very nice tutorial.  simple & cute.  thank you!

  6. 6 Eva 23 Dec 2010

    brilliant, very simple yet it looks fab!

  7. 7 Ramona 02 Jan 2011

    Nice little tutorial! Like the birdies :)

  8. 8 NinjaCrepes 18 Jan 2011

    Hello Veerle:
    I’ve been visiting your blog & archives since 2007 and wanted to let you know how valuable I find your tutorials!  I love that your archive is still active as I have not upgraded past CS3, but Illustrator is such a powerful tool I don’t think I’ll ever come close to maxing out all it can do.

    Thanks for all the terriffic tuts and maintaining the archives.  Thanks a thousand times!