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By Colleen Wheeler | Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Deke's Techniques: Drawing a perfect spiral in Illustrator

In this week’s free Deke’s Techniques video, Deke McClelland shows you how to create a spiral in Adobe Illustrator. Actually, he shows you how to make a couple of different spirals. One is a logarithmically defined spiral created with the Spiral tool (in other words, the kind of spiral that Adobe engineers may think you want). The second is an arithmetically defined spiral created with the Polar Grid tool (or, the kind of evenly spaced spiral that Deke set out to create in the first place).

Side by side comparison of an engineer's spiral (logarithmically defined) and Deke's spiral (arithmetically defined)

To orient you to the swirling mass of spirals, Deke explores the built-in Spiral tool and demonstrates some of its limitations, for instance showing that the point where you begin your spiral has no predictable bearing on how your spiral takes shape in a document. You’ll also see which keyboard commands are available for swiftly changing the size and shape of the spiral swirls.

The logarithmic spiral—where the distance between the curves changes as the spiral moves outward—is not what Deke had in mind. Rather, he was on a quest for what mathematicians (and diligent readers of Wikipedia) call an Archimedean spiral, where each curve is the same distance from the next along a polar axis.

To tackle the Archimedean spiral, in the second phase of the video Deke creates a set of evenly spaced concentric circles using the somewhat obscure Polar Grid tool. After ungrouping the bottom half of the circular grid from the top, he then deftly moves the bottom half of the grid over one circular increment, reconnecting concentric circle number 13 on the bottom half to concentric circle number 12 on the top half to form two intertwining, evenly spaced spirals that would make Archimedes proud. After selecting one of the spirals and setting the stroke to red, Deke arrives at this mesmerizing effect:

Final black and red Archimedean spiral made by offsetting two intertwining, evenly spaced spirals

For members of lynda.com, Deke also has a movie available in our library this week called Drawing a perfect nautilus shellin which he shows you how to create another type of spiral from a single triangle, with this result:

Nautilus shell-inspired spiral made from a single triangle using Adobe Illustrator

See you back here next week when Deke returns with anotherspiral-inspired Deke’s Techniques tutorial.

Interested in more? • The entire Deke’s Techniques weekly series on lynda.com• All Illustrator courses on lynda.com • All courses by Deke McClelland on lynda.com

Suggested courses to watch next:

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