Deke’s Techniques: Drawing a perfect spiral in Illustrator

Published by | Tuesday, August 14th, 2012

In this week’s free Deke’s Techniques video, Deke McClelland shows you how to create a spiral in Adobe Illustrator. Actually, he shows you how to make a couple of different spirals. One is a logarithmically defined spiral created with the Spiral tool (in other words, the kind of spiral that Adobe engineers may think you want). The second is an arithmetically defined spiral created with the Polar Grid tool (or, the kind of evenly spaced spiral that Deke set out to create in the first place).

Side by side comparison of an engineer's spiral (logarithmically defined) and Deke's spiral (arithmetically defined)

To orient you to the swirling mass of spirals, Deke explores the built-in Spiral tool and demonstrates some of its limitations, for instance showing that the point where you begin your spiral has no predictable bearing on how your spiral takes shape in a document. You’ll also see which keyboard commands are available for swiftly changing the size and shape of the spiral swirls.

The logarithmic spiral—where the distance between the curves changes as the spiral moves outward—is not what Deke had in mind. Rather, he was on a quest for what mathematicians (and diligent readers of Wikipedia) call an Archimedean spiral, where each curve is the same distance from the next along a polar axis.

To tackle the Archimedean spiral, in the second phase of the video Deke creates a set of evenly spaced concentric circles using the somewhat obscure Polar Grid tool. After ungrouping the bottom half of the circular grid from the top, he then deftly moves the bottom half of the grid over one circular increment, reconnecting concentric circle number 13 on the bottom half to concentric circle number 12 on the top half to form two intertwining, evenly spaced spirals that would make Archimedes proud. After selecting one of the spirals and setting the stroke to red, Deke arrives at this mesmerizing effect:

Final black and red Archimedean spiral made by offsetting two intertwining, evenly spaced spirals

For members of, Deke also has a movie available in our library this week called Drawing a perfect nautilus shell in which he shows you how to create another type of spiral from a single triangle, with this result:

Nautilus shell-inspired spiral made from a single triangle using Adobe Illustrator

See you back here next week when Deke returns with another spiral-inspired Deke’s Techniques tutorial.

Interested in more?
• The entire Deke’s Techniques weekly series on
• All Illustrator courses on
• All courses by Deke McClelland on

Suggested courses to watch next:
• Illustrator CS6 One-on-One: Fundamentals
• Illustrator CS5 One-on-One: Fundamentals
• Illustrator Insider Training: Rethinking the Essentials


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3 Responses to “Deke’s Techniques: Drawing a perfect spiral in Illustrator”

  1. vlad says:

    I gotta say, I didn’t know where to write this, I just got the trial version of (I already knew and I’m just amazed at the amount of material. Being a fan of photoshop I mostly know of Deke (who is great btw) and now I’m following Morten with wordpress. You guys really have great material, and although my job and my income won’t really allow me to be your customer for a long time, I will always appreciate your courses, they’ve really helped me learn more about photoshop than anything else I’ve tried. \
    I guess in the end, I just wanted to give you a heartfelt thanks

  2. [...] but it wasn’t something i could do properly. During my browsing I came upon a short video clip that explained how to create an equally spaced spiral. I found another tutorial video that showed [...]

  3. Laura Dollie says:

    This tutorial was easy to find, easy to follow and exactly what I was looking for. Thanks so much!

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