How To Create Complex Circular Mandalas In Illustrator

How to create a complex circular mandala in illustrator. by teresa magnusonThe Software Side of Pattern Design

Today I'm going to cover a more technical aspect of pattern design– the software side of it. More specifically, I'll show you how you can use Adobe Illustrator to create complex circular motifs, or mandalas. 

motifs created using mandala technique

Using this technique you can create your own snazzy mandalas, which in turn might also become fancy flowers or intricate snowflakes. Let's get started.

But first… pug alert!!

Tigger the pugI have to warn you ahead of time, my pug Tigger was sitting beside me when I started recording the tutorial. He fell asleep (like he usually does) and started snoring–loudly! I'll admit I am used to it, so I didn't really hear him until I listened to the recording. At this point, I have no idea how to edit it out. So...welcome to my colorful (and pug-filled) world!

Discovering the first mandala.

As a surface pattern designer, I became a member of Pattern Camp (by Jessica Swift) and occasionally take on a weekly challenge issued through her Facebook group. The topic for the week was "Moroccan". 

This topic was definitely out of my element because typically, Moroccan tiles seem so complex. So... I thought I'd push myself, and give it a try. How does one do that?

You start by creating a mood-board of images and colors in order to get familiar with the subject and find out what you're drawn to about it.

In my twenty minutes of research on Google and Pinterest, I discovered a circular mandala that really piqued my curiosity.

How in the world did they make this?

...is what I thought. At least that is how my brain tends to work. The geeky and technical side wants to figure these things out.

I got it! I figured out an answer for you. And here is my version (at the bottom of this article) of how to create, or rather, re-create, the circular mandala I found.

mandala in progress by teresa magnuson

Use Illustrator's Tools to Do the Heavy Lifting

Using the Pathfinder and Rotate tools in Illustrator, in a set sequence, you can break down this seemingly complex design into three easy steps. This tutorial assumes you have a basic working knowledge of Illustrator and it's workspace.

Watch my tutorial and you might soon be addicted to building your own motifs. Which in turn gives you the ammunition and knowledge to build similar motifs for making new fanciful flowers or whimsical snowflakes. 

I hope you enjoyed the tutorial. Download a free copy of the generic mandala I found and use it as a guideline to create your own.

Let me know how your mandala-creating turned out!

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teresa magnuson with Tigger, sunny and clear

Who and What is Sunny & Clear?

When you mix a Minnesota graphic artist + seamstress you get magic! As a hybrid artist, Teresa makes pattern designs, turns them into fabrics and sews them into something artsy and nice– like decorative pillows, quilts or tea towels. 
Sunny & Clear was founded in 2015. Teresa brings you whimsical works and home decor, inspired by living in the Land of Ten Thousand Lakes. “Welcome to my colorful world, where it’s always sunny and clear!”
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