Create A Full Spectrum Spirograph

Posted by on Dec 25, 2011 in illustrator, tutorial | No Comments

You need a basic to intermediate understanding of Illustrator in order to complete this tut. It makes use of some pretty straight forward Illustrator tools and processes to arrive at a complex looking end piece.


Create a square shaped document any size that suits you – mind is 670 x 670 pixels. We’re going to create two simple shapes that will sit on their own separate layers and be rotated around a centre point to create a complex ‘flower’ type shape. So most importantly let’s mark the centre point of our document by positioning a horizontal and a vertical guide so they intersect in the very centre of your document. Name the existing layer in the layers panel ‘background’. In the view menu, make sure Smart Guides and Snap To Point are both checked. Then create a palette of 16 colours that move through a full colour spectrum.You can create your own set of colours here but make sure that the first and last colour swatches create a smooth transition.

Create a new layer above the ‘background’ layer and name it ‘back shape’. Use the Pen Tool to create a shape like the one below on the left making sure that it’s right side snaps to the vertical guide and it sits a little way above the centre point of your document. Use the Reflection Tool to create a duplicate of your line shape mirrored to the right so that their end points are directly on top of each other. With the Direct Selection Tool, select the top two overlapping points and join them (cmd/ctrl + J). Then do the same with the bottom two points. Remove the stroke and fill your new closed shape with the first colour in the colour palette you created.


With your shape selected grab the Rotation Tool (R), hold down option and click once in the centre your document where your guides overlap. In the Rotation Panel set the angle to 22.5 degrees and click copy. Duplicate this transformation (Cmd/Ctrl + D) another 15 times. Now fill each of these shapes with the other 15 colours you created as below. Select all the shapes (Cmd/Ctrl + A) and in the Appearance Panel change the opacity to 50% and the colour mode to Multiply.

Now we need to create the second shape that will add complexity to our design. Create a new layer and call it ‘front shape’. Again using the pen tool follow the same process as above to create the shape below. (Draw the left side of the shape; reflect a copy of it to the right; close the shape by joining the points; remove it’s stroke; fill it with the first colour in your colour palette; rotate it around the centre point of your document; duplicate the transformation; and then change each shapes colour to match the order of colours in your colour palette). Select all the shapes on this layer and in the Appearance Panel change the contents opacity to 50% and the blend mode to Multiply (changing the content’s blend mode affects each individual shape). Still in the Appearance Panel change the layer opacity to 40% and it’s blend mode to Colour Dodge (changing the layer’s blend mode affects the shapes as if they were one unit). The end result should look something like the image below.

At the moment we have a nice circular design developing but we want to make it more square in format and take away some of the sharp corners. To do this, select all (Cmd/Ctrl + A) on the ‘back shape’ layer. In the Appearance Panel apply a Warp/Inflate filter, using -80%. Then apply the Stylize/Rounded Corner filter and set the radius to 7px. Great result however the warp filter has reduced the overall size considerably. So with all still selected use the Scale Tool to increase the overall size so your design fits neatly within the bounds of your document. Remember to hold down Option/Alt while doing so in order for the object to scale from the centre out. Lock the ‘back shape’ layer and select all (Cmd/Ctrl + A) on the ‘front shape’ layer. Apply the same 7px rounded corner filter here. The result should look similar to the image below.

We’re almost done now. We’ll finish up by adding an interesting background texture. Lock the top two shape layers and unlock the bottom ‘background’ layer. With the Rectangle Tool draw a square the size of your document and fill it with a soft radial gradient. I’ve used two pale cream colours. In the Appearance Panel, add a new solid fill above the gradient and fill it with a dark brown. Add a grain effect to this fill (Texture/Grain) – using the settings below. Change this fill’s opacity to 18% and it’s blend mode to multiply. And we’re all done!

Experiment using the same processes but varying the colours, shapes, how you rotate the shapes and the blend modes to make some cool and interesting designs.


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