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Ivan's picture

Rediscover the spirograph


Remember how joyfully you contributed to deforestation when you got your first spirograph at the age of five? You can relive the experience in a much more environmentally friendly way using Illustrator or any other vector application if you have a fast enough computer.

  1. Create any shape and add a thin stroke and no fill.
  2. Move the object slightly (or do any other transformation) while pressing the Alt (option) key to make a copy.
  3. This is where the fun begins. Press Apple-D (Cmd-D) to repeat the transformation. And keep pressing it and see how the texture start to appear.

off center rotationYou can try different transformations, such as rotation with the center moved off from the default central position. To do that you select the rotate tool and click outside of the object anywhere on the pasteboard before you do the rotation.

This texture can be found many times on documents and money to protect against easy reproduction. When making a copy of money for example, such delicate details will be lost, therefore it would be easy to spot a counterfeit.

Note that these Illustrator transformations are not actually simulating the spirograph, which would use a relatively complex mathematical formula, but they only reproduce the look.

In Freehand you actually have somewhat more freedom for creating the effect because you can apply several transformations on the object before repeating it. For example a move and a rotate together. (If you can do that in Illustrator too let me know.)

  1. Creat the object.
  2. First you need to make a clone of the object first by pressing Apple-Shift-D (Cmd-Shift-D).
  3. Now transform the object (you can apply several transformations).
  4. Finally press Apple-Shift (Cmd-Apple-D) to repeat the transformation.

I have no idea how to do it in CorelDraw, because I haven't used it in the last 10 years or so. :)

spirograph logos

Above are some examples for the usage besides the identity I'm working on that triggered the request.

Commenting on this Blog entry is closed.

Ankit Soni's picture
13 pencils

This is awesome? Not only Flashy, useful too (If you have a printer good enough). I am triying it out now!!!
Thnx a lot
(Reminds me of happy child hood :-) )

overthemoon84's picture
1 pencil

Also, if you hold the tilde (~) key while drawing a shape in illustrator (star is the most fun) you can duplicate a real spirograph.

Ivan's picture

I've written about it in detail here.

cbrophy78's picture
177 pencils

All i can say is dude thats fricken cool

What does this button d.... CRAP!

Chris Brophy
Iklectek Designs

Greg's picture
305 pencils

Woah! Thanks Ivan!

(I'm going to try in PS CS when I have a chance...)

my blog:
my work:

grafixforlife's picture
226 pencils

I discovered this by accident a while ago, good tip though!

Visit My Website!: - David Bailey - graphic artist - ONLINE PORTFOLIO -

Abdul's picture
576 pencils

I'm stuck! :(

Apple-D - what would that be on a PC?

Phosphor's picture
201 pencils

If you play around with blends you can create some pretty effective filligree-type stuff as well. For the image below I had some help with the mirror-imaging by using the Kimbo plugin for Illustrator, but you could do that manually.

Filigree in Illustrator

jameskitty's picture
13 pencils

in illustrator you can use the transform each command to move, scale & rotate (use copy check box to duplicate) in a single transform. you can then use the CMD + D (CTRL + D on winderz) to repeat.

matthew's picture
60 pencils


fidel's picture
337 pencils


there is even a more interesting way of spirographing in Illustrator.

You can use every geometrical (rectangle, ellipse,...) with this feature.

Be cautious because this feature takes counts of: the speed by wich you move the mouse, and you can rotate.

Choose your geometrical formtool, lets say a star.

Now before starting drawing a star, use the key just right of the shift-key. It's the key with the greater (>) and smaller (<) icons on a mac keyboard.

Now start drawing with the specific key pushed down.

This is real spirographing.

Ok you can't be sure of the effect but it is fun to see how Illlustrator does this. haven't checked of this works in other Adobe progs.

Try it and have some fun

sisco's picture
4 pencils

Using the blend tool can create some great wireframe looking shapes.

Draw two lines, shapes, any outlined object. Then choose object>blend>blending options. Play around with the settings here, then hit ok, then go back to object>blend>make blend (or option+cmd+b)

Since this a live object you can move either of the two end shapes, or change the number of blends without having to cmd+z

aranu's picture
1 pencil

where is the copy check box? I can't get it to duplicate on windows.

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