Creating a geometric star in Illustrator

19 Feb 2014

It was some time ago that someone asked me if I knew how this beautiful geometric flower by Paulius Kairevičius was created. I remember that I gave it a try for a few minutes, but didn't succeed in exactly reproducing it. Today it caught my eye again and I thought it would be a cool idea to write a tutorial about these kind of geometric objects. Bare in mind that the creations in my article are inspired by this design on Dribbble, and that I only try to re-create this for educational purposes.

Depending on the shape and outcome of the creation, these kind of objects can be ideal for a logo design, but in most cases they're perfect if you are looking for a colorful background. My tutorial explains the creation of the object used in this background (see image above). Towards the end I also share some of my other experimentations to give you some ideas of what is possible. When creating these kind of objects, I hardly ever have the end result in my mind. They usually come to live after a lot of experimenting, trying out a lot of transparency effects, layers modes, rotation angles,… These creations can be very time consuming as they involve a lot of trial and error, but they're usually worth the try as you might be surprised.

Draw a circle

Start by drawing a circle. Select the Ellipse tool and hold down the Shift key while dragging. Give the circle a fill color that you like, but no stroke. In the Swatches panel in the image above you can see the (RGB) colors I've used for this creation. When I added these swatches I made sure to turn them into Global swatches (double click the swatch and check the Global option), which means if you alter these colors later, the changes will be applied on all objects that use this swatch. This is one way to experiment with the color scheme of your creation.

Draw a diagonal line

The next part can be done in different ways (see the result in the 3rd image below). So don't let me stop you from choosing another option here. I chose to draw a diagonal line that touches the circle on the left side. First make sure that Smart Guides are enabled (go to View > Smart Guides or hit Cmd/Ctrl + U). Select the Line tool and draw a diagonal line by holding down the Shift key. Meanwhile use the spacebar to move the line into the exact position so it touches the circle on the left side a little bit towards the bottom as shown in the image above. Give the line a stroke color so it's visible after it's not selected anymore.

Draw a vertical line

Now draw a vertical line that touches the right of the circle. If Smart Guides is enabled, Illustrator should give you a clue when you hover the circle with your cursor on the right (anchor point). Again, hold down the Shift key while dragging downwards. This time it shouldn't be necessary to use the spacebar as the line is already in the right place due to the Smart Guide's clue.

Draw a connecting line

Now draw a line that connects both lines you have drawn as shown in the image above. With Smart Guides enabled Illustratior should give you a clue of your starting and ending point.

Create triangle

We need to end up with a triangle that is perfectly connected to the circle. To achieve this we need to make sure our lines are connected. So all we need to do is move some anchor points into place. With the Smart Guides enabled this should be easy to do. Select the Direct Selection tool (white arrow) and drag the anchor points towards each other, while holding down the Shift key. If all points are perfectly in place, we'll connect all anchors to close the path. Select the Selection tool (dark arrow) and select the 3 lines. Now hit Cmd/Ctrl + J twice to close the path. If you are using an older version of Illustrator, you'll have to join them by selecting 2 ending anchor points and hit Cmd/Ctrl + J which you need to repeat for each corner of the triangle.

Unite triangle and circle

If you've used the same stroke color for the triangle as the fill of your circle, then you can turn this stroke into a fill by clicking the Swap Fill and Stroke arrows in the Color panel, or simply by hitting Shift X. Make sure your object is selected first of course. Now go to the Pathfinder panel, and choose Unite to merge both shapes into one object.

Copy rotate 15°

Select the Rotate tool and Option/Alt click right into the bottom anchor point of your object. In the Rotate window that appears, check the Preview option, enter 15° as angle value, and click the Copy button to duplicate the object. Go to the Transparency panel and give this new object 50% opacity.

Copy rotate -30°

With the Rotate tool still selected, hold down the Cmd/Ctrl key to select both objects, and Option/Alt click right into that same spot again like before to rotate both objects. Enter -30° as angle value in the Rotate window that appears, and click the Copy button to duplicate the objects.

New Layer in lighten mode

Give each new object a different color, and an opacity of 50% (Transparency panel > Opacity). See the image above for the colors I have used for both. Make sure to create global swatches for each color you use so that you can easily change the colors of your creation later if you like. Now make sure the 2 new objects are selected, go to the Layers panel and create a new layer. Click and drag the colored square on the right of the layer upwards to move the selected objects into the new layer. Now click the circle icon on the right (next to the colored square) of the layer, to target the layer. Go to the Transparency panel and select Lighten from the modes drop down menu.

Copy rotate 60°

Select all 4 objects and select the Rotate tool again. Option/Alt click somewhere in the center of the overlapping area as shown in the image above. In the window that appears enter 60° as rotation value and hit the Copy button to copy the objects. I've chosen 60° to have this item rotated 6 times in a row to complete the circle. You could as well have entered 72° and have it rotated only 5 times, or 40° to have it rotated 9 times etc. Just enter the value when you divide 360 (total degrees of a complete circle) by 4, 5, 6, 7, 8… which is the amount of how many times the item should be rotated.

Transform again

image of the end result

Next, you hit Cmd/Ctrl + D as much as needed to repeat this transformation until the circle is complete. In our example, we need to hit this shortcut 4 times. The end result should like similar to the above image.

Other examples

Here are some of the other experiments I tried out while writing this tutorial. The first one was created while I was trying to find out an easy to explain technique to achieve the same creation of this beautiful geometric flower by Paulius Kairevičius, using different colors. As you can see things look a little different still. From this point on my steps became a little tricky complicated and not ideal tutorial material to end up with the exact same result. Though I'm sure there is a way simpler way to achieve this exact result. After much trial and error I did come very close using a few rather simple steps, but I decided to keep it a little more different in end, as I really prefer to create and share something of my own instead. It sure was a challenging exercise though which almost drove me a little crazy in the end if I'm completely honest. There was this stubborn urge that I had to not give up or let it go until I could exactly replicate it :) It's always nice to challenge yourself.

A variation on the creation used for this tutorial, using a different rotation point.

Starting from a circle, then rotate this circle 5x at 72°. Group and copy rotate these circles at 25°, and copy rotate them at 50°. Play with the colors, transparency mode and opacity values of each group.

Variation of the above creation, but using 6x at 60° instead. The 3rd group uses a radial gradient. Each group is also rotated by 15° each and is using different opacity values and transparency modes. There was a lot of experimenting, and trial & error before ending up with the above results.

Spirographs

If you can't get enough of these kind of creations and you want to take it one step further using more rotation and transformation steps, in combination with resizing, skewing etc. you can create really complex spirograghical results. Some time ago I wrote about how you can create a full spectrum spirograph. This article also shows you some more simple ideas on this subject. Don't hesitate to check them out and start experimenting yourself. Enjoy!

Comments

  1. 1 Ally 07 Mar 2014

    So lovely! Thanks for a great tutorial.