The Options For Amazing Patterns Are Endless

Yes, the 90s called and it wants to teach you how to do a Spirograph effect in Affinity Designer. Actually, it’s from the 1960’s and it’s me that wants to teach you, so here you go.

If you’re unfamiliar, a Spirograph is essentially a spinning stencil that let you draw some really cool circular designs on paper just by using the point of a pencil and swirling your hand around as you draw.

Spirograph toy

The Spirograph effect on a computer, however, is done in an entirely different way, but we get a similar look. Fortunately, when done on the computer, we can get really experimental since we’re not limited to a single shape. Here I’ll show you how to do a digital Spirograph effect in Affinity Designer using only a simple shape, rotation, and duplication.

Create A Spirograph Effect in Affinity Designer

Creating a Spirograph effect in Affinity Designer is really quite simple and essentially utilizes two main things: the rotate tool and the duplicate command. Despite being very simple to do, there is a trick to it that sort of seems like an error. In the future, this is probably something Affinity will fix. In the mean time, I’ll show you how to work around it.

Basically, you pick a shape, give it a stroke and no fill, place it, rotate it, then press Ctrl J (or Command J on Mac) to duplicate the rotation. However, this never works on the first try. So Ctrl Z once or twice to get back to the original shape only, then rotate it again, and press Ctrl J. This time it should work.

Every time you press Ctrl J a new shape will appear, rotated slightly further. Keep doing this until you have the desired Spirograph effect. Here’s how to do it in a bit more detail.

Step 1 – Draw Your Shape

The initial shape that you pick for your Spirograph effect will really determine the end result you get. For a very standard looking Spirograph, we’ll use a tall oval. I’ll also include a star shape and arrow for some variety.

First, draw your shape then give it a small stroke. I’m using a 2pt stroke. You can give it any colour you want or just start with black if you’re unsure. Make sure there is no fill applied. Having a fill will eliminate the Spirograph effect right away.

Spirograph effect - step 1

Step 2 – Rotate the Shape

Next, just click the shape to select it, then hover your mouse near any corner of its bounding box to show the rotate icon. Then rotate it slightly to the left or right.

You can choose to rotate it only a little bit, which will create a tighter Spirograph effect, or rotate it further to make a looser (and potentially more interesting looking) Spirograph effect.

Now this is where things get weird. Once you’ve rotated your shape, press Ctrl J once. You’ll notice that nothing happens. Then undo that with Ctrl Z until the shape is in its original position. Then, rotate the shape again the same way you did before. Now, press Ctrl J again and you should see the shapes start to duplicate in a rotation.

Keep hitting Ctrl J until you like how your Spirograph effect looks.

Spirograph - rotate

On the second try, I rotate the shape then duplicate to create shapes that make this effect.

Spirograph - duplicate

The completed oval shape

Spirograph - copy process

The completed Spirograph effects applied to all three shapes (all only worked on the second try).

Step 3 – Shape Experimentation (Optional)

Okay, so there are really only two steps to this entire process. That being said, if you want to create a really great looking Spirograph effect you need to experiment with different shapes and different rotation spaces. Just look at how different the shapes above are. The oval shape created a very different look from the star or the arrow.

Having a very tight rotation of shapes versus a wider one can also dramatically change the way the effect looks. Changing the stroke size will also change how each effect looks, but if you go too high with the stroke size you’ll lose the effect altogether.

You can also layer your shapes on top of each other to get some really detailed effects. Just remember to group each collection of shapes before you do that or things will get very messy. You could create something that looks like this:

Spirograph - shapes together

Also, heads up, if you’re working on a slow computer doing Spirograph effects can really slow things down because you’re generating so many shapes so quickly.

Making a Spirograph Effect in Affinity Designer – In Summary

I hope you enjoyed learning how to create a Spirograph effect in Affinity Designer, despite how weird it is to do. I’m sure Affinity will fix the process in the future, but for now we’ll just have to deal with this. Good thing it’s simple!

Overall, the Spirograph effect is probably not something you’ll ever use for a logo design (because simple logos are best), but you could certainly use it to texture the background in a design or for creating abstract art. For example, if you create a Spirograph effect in Affinity Designer then bring it into Photoshop to liquify, you’ll get some crazy looking results. Maybe I’ll cover that in a video at some point.

If you want to see more Affinity Designer tutorials in the future just let me know in the comments. I’m still learning the program but when I find something really cool that people need to know I want to share it 🙂

If you want to learn more about Affinity Designer check out the official Affinity Designer Workbook from Serif.

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