Deke’s Techniques: Creating a Spirograph-style pattern from a single path in Illustrator

Published by | Tuesday, October 9th, 2012

In this week’s free Deke’s Techniques video, Deke McClelland shows you how to create a Spirograph-style pattern from a single, continuous path in Adobe Illustrator. Yes, it’s true, two weeks ago, Deke showed you a similar technique, but the fact is, although that project was legitimately a Spirograph-esque design, it was not a legitimate unbroken hypotrochoid. Those of you who may remember using a Spirograph know that the magic of it involved creating the design without ever lifting your pen from the paper. And Deke has discovered two ways to achieve that continuous line effect with Illustrator, which he demonstrates in this week’s episode:

The first step involves squishing a standard circle shape into this unassuming ellipse:

An ellipse

That ellipse is then duplicated 11 times using the Rotate tool to make copies, and each copy is turned 30 degrees from the previous copy’s opposite anchor point. Once the entire rotation is complete (and this is admittedly tedious), you can delete all the center anchor points and join the remaining half-ellipses to make a single path. After converting all the outer points to smooth points, you’re left with this regulation hypotrochoid:

A hypotrochoid in Adobe Illustrator

The second approach Deke demonstrates in the video also starts with an ellipse. But in this case, rather than duplicating whole ellipses and then efficiently cutting half of them away, Deke creates an open shape (like a lowercase cursive letter l) by cutting the shape open with the Scissors tool, then slightly rotating half of it:

Cursive l in Adobe Illustrator

Once you have this open shape, it can be duplicated and rotated using Transform Effect:

The transform effect applied to the cursive l


With either approach, there are a few fine tuning tweaks needed to perfect the shape, which Deke demonstrates in the video. In the end, you can combine the two shapes and apply the Multiply blend mode to mix the ink colors for a nostalgic, single-path Spirograph-like piece of artwork.

The final Spirograph-style art

For members of, Deke also has a third approach for this kind of effect called Scaling circles into complex patterns, where he shows you how to use the Scale tool to make very intricate, lace-like designs.

Deke will be back next week with another free technique!


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: Drawing without the Pen Tool

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One Response to “Deke’s Techniques: Creating a Spirograph-style pattern from a single path in Illustrator”

  1. Esmaeel G. says:

    Hi Deke,

    Is there any similar transform effect like this, in Adobe After Effects to animate this shape? I mean to start off by a single shape and grow it up?


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