Drawing Geometric Designs: From Hand Sketch to Digital Pattern | Christine Nishiyama | Skillshare

Drawing Geometric Designs: From Hand Sketch to Digital Pattern

Christine Nishiyama, Artist at Might Could Studios

Drawing Geometric Designs: From Hand Sketch to Digital Pattern

Christine Nishiyama, Artist at Might Could Studios

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8 Lessons (35m)
    • 1. Introduction

    • 2. Project: Draw a Geometric Pattern

    • 3. Gathering Materials

    • 4. Sketching Your Pattern Elements

    • 5. Drawing Your Pattern

    • 6. Tracing Your Design

    • 7. Finalizing Your Design

    • 8. Final Thoughts

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About This Class

Learn how illustrator Christine Fleming creates her playful geometric patterns. In Christine’s eyes, a geometric pattern explores repeating lines and shapes and focuses on the relation between points, lines, and shapes.

In this 30-minute class, you’ll learn her step-by-step process for transforming a wobbly pencil sketch into a clean, symmetrical vector line drawing—the process behind her newly released adult coloring book, Entwined—as well as a range of tips on coming up with the initial pattern design and specific techniques and shortcuts to create a symmetrical vector design in Adobe Illustrator. Plus, the class comes with an exclusive, step-by-step Project Guide so you can create your own pattern.

This class is perfect for illustrators, designers, and everyone who loves to draw and tinker. No prior knowledge of drawing, Adobe Illustrator, OR MATH SKILLS required!

By the end, you’ll have everything you need to draw, refine, and clean up your own geometric pattern.

This project is a great introduction to Adobe Illustrator, and once you have your geometric pattern, it can be applied to t-shirts, phone cases, art prints, or coloring pages!




You can see more about Christine and her work at might-could.com

Get weekly essays on creativity and art making here!

Hope to see you in there! :D

Meet Your Teacher

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Christine Nishiyama

Artist at Might Could Studios

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Hallo! I'm Christine Nishiyama, artist + founder of Might Could Studios.

I make books and comics, and I draw a whoooole lot. I've taught over 70,000 aspiring and established artists, helping them explore their art, gain more confidence, and discover their unique artistic styles.

I've been drawing as my full-time career for over 7 years. My core belief is that art is good and we should all make more of it. Might Could is here to uplift and challenge artists in the exploration and evolution of our unique artistic styles and voices.


 Join #mightcoulddrawtoday, my free weekly drawing challenge for a creative kick in tha booty!

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1. Introduction: Hey, I'm Christine Fleming, Illustrator and Designer. I graduated from North Carolina State University with a BFA in Graphic Design. I am now working as a freelance illustrator and designer under my own studio, Might Could Studios. My illustrations have been published in magazines, literary scenes, blogs, and educational workbooks. I've created design work for a wide range of companies, including, among others, a tech company that was recently acquired by Apple, a pet product line, and an investment firm. I began creating geometric designs as a way to combine my love for illustration and design. When illustrating, my mindset is very open-ended and spontaneous. Anything goes, and I try not to get bogged down with rules and perfection. For when I'm designing, everything is planned. I need everything to be perfectly aligned and will spend large chunks of time getting the layout spaced out symmetrically and kerning individual letters to get everything to be just right. These two mindsets of working are very different. But creating geometric designs allows me to bring the two skills together and inject each into the other creating a final piece that's both spontaneous and planned. As I kept creating these geometric designs, they slowly evolved to become a collection which I then compiled into my newly released adult coloring book, En-Twined. So before we begin, let's start out with the basics. What is a geometric design? In my eyes, it's a pattern that explores repeating lines and shapes, focusing on the relation between those points, lines, and shapes. This project is a great introduction to illustrator and you'll get comfortable using the common tools like the pen tool and rotation transform, as well as specific techniques and shortcuts to make your workflow more efficient. In this 30-minute class, I'll take you through my step-by-step process of how I created these geometric designs. We'll start out creating a playful pencil sketch, and then will transform that sketch into a vector drawing using an Adobe Illustrator so we can get everything perfectly aligned and symmetrical. Once you've completed your geometric design, you'll have a wide range of possibilities for application. iPhone cases, textiles, art prints, and of course coloring pages. So let's get started. 2. Project: Draw a Geometric Pattern: Let's take a look at an example of a geometric design. Here's one that I created for my book, Entwined, and here is the original pencil sketch. You can see that the final vector version is a lot more clean and everything is perfectly symmetrical and aligned. Everything is spaced out just the same, and on the original pencil sketch, it's not exactly perfect. So that's why it's good to create it in Illustrator so we can get everything perfectly symmetrical. Now let's take a look at the Illustrator design file. Here you can see the original pencil sketch that I scanned in. I've separated out the different steps of the process into different layers. The next layer after the pencil drawing is the vector drawing that we'll be drawing together in this class. This allows you to see what points, lines, and shapes make up the pattern. The next layer holds the expanded lines, and then the last layer is the final design with unified shapes. These are the steps of the process that we'll be going through together to create our designs in this class. Before you begin drawing your design, I find it's helpful to have some sort of theme or inspiration in mind. For my book Entwined, I was first inspired by Vintage Lace Doilies. My grandmother had lots of these circular lace pieces framed around her house, and I remember being in awe of how intricate they were, and how all the threads lead from one to the next so smoothly. After I began drawing patterns inspired by Vintage Lace, another inspiration popped up. When I was in college, I studied abroad in Prague and traveled with my sister to Istanbul. I was amazed at the intricate detail in their architecture, and especially in their hand painted tiles that covered practically every room in the Topkapi Palace. These two inspirations work well together to provide balance and contrast, because the Vintage Lace is very organic and flowing while the Turkish tiles bring in some more geometric angular shapes. This gave me a wide range of ideas and inspirations. Feel free to use these inspirations for your own design, or think about any pattern related memories you might have from your own childhood, travels, or everyday life. 3. Gathering Materials: Before we get started drawing our designs, let's go over what materials we'll need. First, you'll need something to draw your patterns sketch on. This is my current sketch book that I've been drawing in. I like to draw in a small cheap sketch book like this one because there's no pressure to draw something nice. If I draw in a Moleskines sketchbook or fancy paper, I feel like mistakes are wasting precious expensive pages. That way it tenses me up and causes me to either draw badly or not draw at all. So grab a $3 sketchbook from your local art store or just draw on a couple of sheets of computer paper. Next, we'll need something to draw with. I have a pretty particular set of pencils that I like to use, but they aren't anything fancy. I like to start out drawing with the regular mechanical pencil. This is partly because it doesn't add any pressure. It's just a regular pencil on regular paper and I can make as many mistakes as I want. After I draw the initial light drawing, I go back over the main lines of the sketch with a 6B drawing pencil, like this Faber-Castell. This helps darken the lines and distinguish between erased or unnecessary lines and lines that are part of the final drawing. Darkening your drawing also helps define the lines when you scan into your computer. You'll also need an eraser because nobody is perfect. I like to use a kneaded eraser like this because you can shape it to be more precise. It erases better than a regular pink eraser and it doesn't leave behind all that gross eraser dust. After we finished drawing, we'll move over to a computer, where you'll need the program Adobe Illustrator. You can download a free trial of Illustrator from the Adobe website if you don't already have a copy. 4. Sketching Your Pattern Elements: Now we're ready to start drawing our geometric design. It's helpful, as I said before, to have some inspiration to look at and kick-start your brain before you begin. You can start by just drawing different elements and pieces from some of your inspirations. A circle from this pattern align with the triangle on top from this one. Don't worry about forming a cohesive pattern yet. Just start drawing different elements and see which ones jump out to you. If you find yourself stuck here not knowing what to draw, I've attached a sheet of various pattern elements that you can borrow to start drawing. Once I have some elements drawn that I like, I'll start drawing a skeleton from my pattern. This is where I decide what the overall pattern layout will be. Will it be circular, square, rectangular, layered, simple, complex? This skeleton can change as you go, but having it from the beginning will help you space out your elements as you're drawing, and be able to see the overall picture better. Be sure to draw the skeleton very lightly. You can even use a 4H pencil if you like. So you can easily ignore and erase the lines later, as they won't be in your final illustration. 5. Drawing Your Pattern: Now that I have my skeleton and various shapes drawn, I'll start bringing in some of the elements I like from before and trying to find some pattern opportunities. What would look good repeating? How many times should I repeat it? This stage is a lot of trial and error, drawing and redrawing. A good tip to remember when you're drawing your pattern is the rule of three. Three is a very pleasing member to humans. The rule of three is everywhere from the arts to storytelling, to stand up comedy. Think about it. The Three Musketeers, stop, drop and roll, three dogs walk into a bar. It's everywhere and for good reason. Three is the lowest that can form pattern. One thing is just one, two things is just a pair, but three can be a pattern and patterns are pleasing. They lead the mind or [inaudible] cause us to be more interested, think deeper and make connections. So if you're looking to create a simple pattern, try repeating some of your elements and sets of threes. If you're ready to take it to the next level and make a more advanced pattern, try sticking to the rule of odds instead. Repeat your elements and groups of five or seven. Both simple and complex patterns are interesting and beautiful. So choose whichever level you think is right for you and as always, rules are sometimes meant to be broken. So you draw something in a set of six and it looks good. Then go for it. These rules are more like guidelines, and they aren't always the right answer. Once you get your pattern drawn out and you're happy with it, the next step is to draw over all the lines you plan on keeping with the 6B pencil. This means don't draw over your skeleton or any mistakes you made. If you don't have a 6B pencil, you can just bear down harder with the irregular pencil or use a pen. But I really recommend getting this 6B pencil. The letter is softer than a normal 2B pencil, and it flows very nicely on the paper, making it easier to draw smooth curves. 6. Tracing Your Design: Next, we're going to bring our drawing into Adobe Illustrator and recreate our design using vectors. As a quick side note, Adobe Illustrator is a program that works in vectors, which is different than a program like Photoshop which works in pixels. Images made of pixels are also known as raster images and include JPEGs and PNGs. These raster images are made up of thousands of squares of color called pixels. Raster images allow for a ton of detail, but are not the best option for precision and can't be enlarged without losing quality and becoming blurry. Adobe Illustrator, on the other hand, works in vectors which used math to draw all of its lines and curves. Vector files include AI, EPS, and PDFs can also be vector-based. Vectors are perfect for a project like a geometric design, because you can achieve extreme precision as well as have the option to scale your design as large as you want without losing quality. So enough of the boring filed talk. Let's start working on our design. I've got a new Illustrator document open here, and my artboard where I'll be drawing is sized to eight inches by eight inches because my design is circular. The size doesn't matter too much right now because since we're working in vectors, you'll be able to scale it up or down along the way or once you're done. Now, I'll place my drawing that I scanned into my computer onto my artboard, and I'll center it in the middle of the artboard. If you don't have a scanner, you can use your phone or camera to take a photo of your drawing, and then placed that image in Illustrator. The quality of your drawing isn't very important because we'll be deleting it later, and it's just to serve as a guide for our design. First, I'm going to scale this up a little bit so it fits the artboard. Now let's set up a few layers to get us started. I'll call this layer original drawing because it holds the original sketch, then I make a layer called skeleton and a layer called final design. These will be enough to get me started, but I may need to add more later once I start layering the design. Now, I'll go through with the Pen Tool and create my skeleton. I'll choose the skeleton layer and lock the drawing underneath so that I can't move it. Then I click my "Pen Tool" over here, which you can also access by the keystroke P. I'll choose the red swatch so my lines will be in red, which are shape well against the pencil drawing. Make sure that your color is on this little outline squared here. This represents the color of your lines and outlines, and this represents the fill color of your shapes. To make my skeleton, I'm going to choose the Ellipse Tool, which you can also get by keystroke L. Then I'm going to try to see my design and layers. You can see that there's a layer here, here, or all these tips come to a point here, maybe here, and here. I'm going to try to break up the sections of the design and put a circle where I think each of the sections begins. To use the Ellipse Tool, you just place it where you want to start your circle and click, and hold, and drag. While you're dragging, if you hold the Shift key, it'll make a perfect circle instead of an oval like this. So hold the Shift key so you get an exact circle, and let go, now you have a circle shape. You can center this to your artboard and then move your sketch to fit with this so that your entire design is centered. Then I'll re-lock my design and get back on my skeleton layer. From here, I'll copy this circle, hitting Command C, and then copy F to paste in place. Now I have another copy directly on top of this circle. I can click on this little corner and hold Option Shift, and drag and resize this circle. One thing you want to be careful about is how your program is going to scale strokes. You can see here that when I scale this circle, it enlarge not just the circle, but also the size of the stroke, and I don't want it to do that. So I'm going to go up to my Preferences, and under General, you'll see this option Scale Strokes & Effects. Right now, it checks so that means what just happened, if I enlarge something that's also going to scale the strokes and effects. I don't want that to happen so I'm going to uncheck this here. Now I'm going to delete this and try again. Command C, Command F, and then resize, and now these are both at a stroke of one point. I'm just going to go through and make the rest of my skeleton using the copy and paste in place tools. You can see that my design that I drew on paper doesn't fit everywhere. Here, this corner perfectly hits the skeleton, but over here, it extends past the skeleton. That's okay, and that's why we're recreating the design and illustrators so we can get it perfect. Sometimes it's a good idea to just look at one section when you're creating your skeleton and base the circles off that one section. It will be impossible to get them to match up everywhere unless you're very expert drawer. Remember, this is going to be a guide for us as we continue and will be deleted later. But it will help enormously when aligning your elements here in Illustrator. Now, I'll just start tracing elements in the pattern using the Pen Tool and Shape Tools. I'm going to lock my skeleton layer, and then get on my final design layer and choose the Pen Tool. I'm going to change my stroke color to black, because I don't want to be confused at what is in my design and what is in my skeleton. Then I'm going to zoom in a little bit so I can see better, and start tracing the pattern. I'm going to start with these lines here. So I'll just hit the keystroke P to get the pen tool and click once here to make a point. Then hold the shift key, which will make a straight line and click again. Now I have one straight line and I'm going to make sure it's in the center of my artboard, which it is. Centering things and aligning things in your artboard is super important because we're going to be using some rotation and angles, and if you're not centered on the artboard, then the angles won't work and your design won't be symmetrical. So now, here's my biggest tip in creating these geometric designs. You don't literally have to draw everything. Once you've drawn a piece once and it's repeated in your design, you can just copy and use angles and rotations to paste that piece where it needs to go. Let's use this line as an example. I'm going to highlight it and then right-click to get this little menu and come down to transform and rotate. Now I'm going to type in 45 degrees and I'm going to hit copy so it makes a copy of the line when it rotates it. Look, it's not perfectly aligned, but everything is going to be a little off because when I drew it, I didn't draw it on exactly 45 degrees. So then I just hit command C to copy, command F to paste in place. Now I have two lines right here, but only one highlighted. Then if I hit command D, that will repeat the action that I just did, which was rotating the line at 45 degrees. So now when I hit command D, look, I get another line that's pushed 45 degrees farther in the circle. Then if I just keep doing that, command C, command F, command D, now I have the full circle in about eight keystrokes, instead of having to draw each one of those lines. For these lines it's pretty simple, but when you get into more complicated shapes, it'll save you a lot of time, just drawing it once and then repeating it around the circle. You can also look at what shapes can be extended so that you don't have to keep drawing the same thing. For example, these lines go through almost the whole pattern so I don't need to draw a line from here to here, here to here, here to here, so on. This can all be one solid line. So I'm just going to go through and I'm going to hit the A key, which is this Direct Selection Tool. This will allow me to select just one point instead of the entire line. See how this point is colored in, meaning it's selected, and this one is white, meaning it's not selected. I can now move just this one point instead of the entire line. So I'm going to bring it all the way up to the circle and I'm going do that on the other side as well. Then because I want to keep my angles perfect, instead of trying to do this on my own and get that degree right, which is pretty impossible, I'm just going to delete these lines that I made just a second ago and use my rotation trick with this new line. So command C, command F, right-click, transform, rotate 45 degrees. Okay, and there we go. Command C, command F, command D. Command C, command F, command D, done. That was so much quicker than trying to drag each one of those points myself. So now I'll just go through the rest of my design, tracing the original drawing, and using the rotation tool to get perfect symmetry. So now I've got all my elements drawn. I'll just turn off my skeleton layer and now this is my final line drawing. 7. Finalizing Your Design: Once you have your design drawn in Illustrator, you have a few options. You can leave your geometric design as is, and call it done here, or you can play around with the line treatments. You can experiment with having different line thicknesses or you can expand your lines as I did in my coloring book, entwined. Let's go through how to do that now. Before you make any drastic changes, it's a good idea to make a copy real quick of your design so you have your original vector drawing to come back to if you go too far and don't like how it ends up. To do that, I'll just zoom out and choose the art board tool here, and hit "Option, Shift" and drag it over. That will make another copy of my design. Now, I'll zoom in on this new version and start playing around with thicknesses. I think that I'd like these two areas to be thicker than the rest, but other than that, I think I'll leave everything else at the same lines. Now I'm going to make another copy of my design, and then I'm going to choose the two areas I want to expand and group them together by hitting "Command G". This groups the two lines together so that when I select one, I'll select both. Then you'll go up to the object menu and hit "Expand." Here you want to make sure that fill is unchecked and stroke is checked, then I'll hit, "Okay." You can see that what this does is it turns your line into a shape. Instead of being one line through here, we've got two lines and then a fill. Now, I've got two shapes instead two lines. You can also see that change here. Now I'm going to make my fill white and my line black, then I'm going to change the stroke too so that it matches the others. It's a little messy right now, but this is the general idea of what expanding your lines does. It expands it from a line to a shape. From here, if we liked it, we can say it's done. We could choose these elements and send them to the back of our expanded lines to clean everything up a little bit. Here we could call it done. It's really a matter of how far you want to go, pushing with the lines, and playing, and experimenting. I think that there's one more thing that I want to do that I did in my entwined coloring book, and that's to unify some of the shapes that I expanded from lines. You can see here, there's a little bit of an overlap and a funky line in between each of these angles. I think that looks messy and I don't really want them to be there. What I'm going to do is use the Pathfinder tool to unite these shapes. To do that, you just select the areas that you want to use the Pathfinder tool on, and then come down to the Pathfinder menu bar here. We're going to use this first one called Unite. Now, you can see that immediately those little lines in between the shapes are gone. What it did is it combined all the shapes into one shape. Now this is looking much cleaner. You could still go around and play with the line thicknesses and experiment, but I think this is good for me. This will take some trial and error on your part to find out what looks best for your design. Each one will be different. Leaving some shapes unmerged will help give depth to your design, but merging the shapes helps to unify the whole design. What you do depends on what you're trying to achieve. One final touch you can do that really helps to clean up your design is to round the edges of your lines. To do that, first I'll highlight all my lines and first I'll show you what it looks like without rounding the edges. You can see that it has a square edge here. That looks just defaulty. I'm going to highlight all my lines and then you can come over here and you can see the cap which is the end of your line and the corner when your line is at an angle. I'm going to choose "Rounded" for both of these. Now you can see that this gives the lines a little more personality, cleans them up, and makes them look a little more finished. That's my final illustration. 8. Final Thoughts: That's it. Now you have everything you need to create a geometric design using illustration and design techniques. I'd love to see all your designs. Please upload your process work or final design to the project gallery. Everyone who uploads something to the gallery can email me to receive a free download of a page from my new coloring book for adults, Entwined, which is full of geometric designs like this. You can find my email address on the project assignment page. Geometric designs like the ones in this class, are great for coloring because of the open spaces and strong lines. Here's an example of how one of the patterns can be colored if you're planning on using it for coloring pages. This is one of the designs from my book Entwined. It's actually the image that I ended up using for the cover of the book. I just printed it out on regular paper, and used Prismacolor colors to color inside the shapes. You can also experiment with coloring the lines instead of the shapes or coloring the shapes and lines. There's lot of different possibilities. Remember, the applications for your geometric designs are endless. You can make your own coloring book, upload the design to Society6 and get it printed on an iPhone case, screen printed on a t-shirt. Print it out as an art print, or just print out the designs on your home computer, and color them in as free coloring pages. Thanks so much for taking this class, and I hope you picked up some helpful techniques on how to use Illustrator, and how to create a geometric design. Have fun designing, and I can't wait to see what you come up with.