Deke’s Techniques: Creating Spirograph-style art in Illustrator

Published by | Tuesday, September 18th, 2012

In this week’s free Deke’s Techniques episode, Deke McClelland uses Adobe Illustrator to recreate the classic Spirograph toy effect. Rather than watching this work take shape with a pen stuck into a plastic gear, Deke shows you how to grow your Spirograph shape with the simple application of dynamic transformations viewable in the Illustrator Appearance panel. In fact, all you have to do for this effect is draw one single circle in Illustrator, then duplicate and transform your circle’s stroke to create the hypotrochoidic shape. (Deke’s Techniques, bringing you great graphic techniques and free vocabulary expander words!)


As you can see in the video above, Deke begins this technique by selecting the central circle in a simple circular logo design:

Simple circular logo design

By simply selecting that circle, using the Transform command to make the circle an ellipse, and duplicating the ellipse over and over with variations, a familiar Spirograph pattern begins to quickly take shape. You can see from my Appearance panel screen capture below that this effect is the result of multiple transformations.

Adobe Illustrator Appearance panel showing many transformations of an ellipse to create a spirograph

In the end, the skeletal logo we started with becomes the intricate, refined logo we see below, complete with outer circle, thin edge around the inner circle, and intertwining ellipses in the center created by transforming the original outer circle.

Final project with spirograph-style art created inside the inner circle of the original logo

Even if you’re new to Illustrator and not particularly gifted at drawing, you can achieve this technique with some concentration and Deke’s advice. (And if you are new to Illustrator, this is also a good lesson on how to use the Transform effect.)

For members of lynda.com, Deke also has an exclusive movie in our library this week, called Tracing scalloped gear teeth around a circle, in which he dynamically adds gear-like teeth to the outer circle of our example logo using a similar type of dynamic Illustrator approach.

Deke's spirograph-style logo with gear teeth added on the outer rim using Adobe Illustrator

Deke will be back with another free technique next week.

 

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

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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