Spirograph designs in Illustrator

In this short video, London-based illustrator Matt Lyon walks through a quick technique that he uses to create Spirograph designs in Illustrator. He shows how to combine the Distort & Transform command with Live Paint to produce a captivating Spirograph effect.

This technique is particularly beneficial when it comes to pattern design. “The process works out multiple placements of elements in a single action,” he explains. “Because the effect can be edited before you apply it, you can quickly transform and move shapes around to create new patterns, often with surprising results.”

Watch the video below to learn Matt’s technique for quickly creating Spirograph designs in Illustrator.

How to create a Spirograph effect in Illustrator



Matt, who works under the name C86, has created illustrations for clients including Nike, AOL and Microsoft. He uses this technique to create complex cog-wheel patterns, Spirograph shapes and type flourishes in his illustrations.

“The process is especially useful for patterns, decorative flourishes and details,” he says. “It especially lends itself to stylized floral motifs, more complex radial patterns or very simple symbol designs. I even used it when developing my logo.”

Spirograph designs Illustrator: Matt Lyon

Matt Lyons for Digital Artist magazine


He also made heavy use of the technique in an editorial illustration for Digital Artist magazine, building up an abstract composition from cogs and wheels, and integrating the patterns into custom typography.

“If you created these patterns by hand, piece by piece, it would be very time-consuming,” he continues. “The design would take forever.”

A faster way to create Spirograph designs



For an even faster way to create Spirograph effects, try Illustrator plug-in MirrorMe, which lets you mirror your artwork instantly on multiple reflective axes (up to 72 axes, to be precise). It’s particularly useful for creating patterns, fractal and kaleidoscope effects.

Alternatively, Stylism gives you click-and-drag live effects in Illustrator. Simply select the Transform effect, use the annotation to offset and rotate your shape, and then create multiple copies.

And of course you can also quickly create complex Spirograph effects with the Swiss army knife of Illustrator plug-ins, VectorScribe. All you have to do is use a dynamic shape with multiple segments applied, then use VectorScribe’s PathScribe tool to highlight and edit all the handles at once. (You can create toothed-wheel gear shapes in seconds using VectorScribe’s Dynamic Gear option, as well.)

Try a free 14-day trial of all our Illustrator plug-ins here.

Get creative with #10MinSkills

Spirograph designs: 10MinSkills Illustrator tutorial

These quick tips for creating Spirograph effects are all part of our #10MinSkills campaign. We're challenging you to set aside just 10 minutes every day to learn a new vector-based skill – and to help, we’ve collaborated with some of the industry’s most exciting creatives to share their best time-saving techniques. You'll find them all in the #10MinSkills section of our blog.

Here's how it works: by repeating each technique for 10 minutes every day, you’ll quickly establish handy new habits that will speed up your workflow, helping you work more efficiently and freeing up more time for the fun part: being creative.

Be a better designer


Why are new skills so important? Well, because thanks to services like Instagram, anyone can be a designer at the touch of a button. That means it’s more important that ever for professional creatives to know their tools.

But software develops faster than our habits, and few of us harness the full power available at our finger tips.

We want to help change that with #10MinSkills. We'll be adding more tips, tricks and techniques to the blog over the coming weeks, so bookmark this section in your design resources and make sure you check back regularly.

Meet the illustrator: Matt Lyon

George the Dragon Slayer: Matt Lyon

London-based artist and illustrator Matt Lyon, aka C86, spends most of his time doodling in sketchbooks, or mouse-clicking in Illustrator and Photoshop. His work is laced with wild colors, shapes and patterns, and his clients include Nike, AOL, AT&T, Microsoft, Computer Arts, Digital Arts and more.

He also has an inexplicable obsession with drawing houses, castles and palaces. Follow him on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.

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