One of the current design trends is geometric designs: regular images constructed of a combination of simple triangles or quadrilaterals (4-sided shapes). I thought it would be fun to show you several ways to take one of your regular solid, single piece designs and turn it into a geometric one.
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Geometric Style #1: Separated pieces
I’m not going to link it specifically, because it will be gone soon. But since I’m showing you a simple way to make something like this from any solid shape, you don’t need to purchase it anyway. Any solid star shape will do.
Start with a single, solid shape
I’m going to start by adding a butterfly to my page. It’s the free one that comes with the Cameo 3.
Now this looks like it’s just a single piece. But you always want to double-check to make sure it’s not grouped, since that would mess up the process we’re going to do. Believe it or not, this is actually grouped with some unseen piece. So I ungrouped and made sure I just had a single piece. Keep doing it until the Ungroup option is no longer available.
We’re going to create some lines to crisscross the shape and create the gaps between the pieces. But first, I’m going to make a few preparation steps.
- I want to see my lines in black, so I select black as the line color in the Quick Access Toolbar. If I do this without having any shape selected, it will automatically apply that attribute to any new shape I create. If you like the red lines, you can skip this step.
- I want the lines I draw to have a thickness wider than the default 0.0 (this will make more sense in a bit). Again, I can select the line thickness beforehand in the Quick Access Toolbar. Draw one quick line, then adjust the thickness until the width of the line is the width of the gap you want. Then deselect the line and choose that line thickness to be the temporary default so that the new lines you draw will have that thickness.
- I want to keep drawing several lines without having to click the icon each time. If you’ve followed my recommendations on Preference settings (see this post), you will have set it so that it doesn’t do that. Normally we don’t want that and it can drive you crazy. Now we do. So open the Preferences>Tools and in After Creating a Shape set it to Continue Drawing Shapes.
Draw some lines
Now that I’m set, I can start drawing lines across my butterfly.
See how the lines have weight to them? That’s going to help us create gaps of all the same distance.
As you draw your lines, watch for the shapes they make. Here are some tips:
- Most of the geometric designs you see are mainly 3 and 4 sided shapes. Keep that in mind as you draw. The shapes at the outer edges won’t be a full shape though.
- If you have a symmetrical shape, you can make the lines on one side then make mirrored copies on the other side. Here, my original lines are in black and the mirrored copies are in blue.
- Be careful to not make tiny pieces that would be hard to work with on your material.
- To adjust the line, you can go into point editing mode and move the endpoint very easily.
- Make some lines go all the way across the shape, have the endpoint of others end at (come into at a perpendicular-ish angle) another line on the solid shape. Be careful that when doing the latter that the endpoint of a line doesn’t cross slightly over the other line into one of your geometric shapes you’re creating.
Now select everything on the page, open the Modify panel and choose Subtract. The lines will cut holes in the shape to separate it into pieces and then the lines will disappear. You’ll have your set of geometric shapes.
You could cut those from various colors.
If you want to further divide any of the pieces, just draw more lines and Subtract again. I see that some of my shapes have more than 4 sides so I might want to adjust those. Be sure to select only that line and those pieces you want to separate so that the other pieces don’t go away after you Subtract.
Why not use rectangles?
I could have done this with thin rectangles, but I find it easier this way for several reasons:
- With rectangles, you have to increase the length without increasing the width. Because they are thin, you have to zoom in really far to get the resizing squares along the short edge.
- It’s faster to alter line width than it is to adjust the width of a rectangle to get the size of the gap you want.
- You have to make copies of the rectangle in order to have multiple copies. You don’t have to do that with my method.
- It takes longer to rotate rectangles than it does to move the endpoints of a line.
Change the settings back
You likely don’t want to keep your settings of new shapes you draw having those thick lines and the software continuing to make shapes after you draw one. Go back to the beginning of this section and reset those things. Or, for all but the Preference, you can go to a different file or restart your software.
Using a template for application
This will work well for something like vinyl or HTV where you can keep the pieces together at the correct intervals. But what if you’re using paper? You can just eyeball it. Or, you can sketch out a template to lay them on for exact placement. I explain how to do that in this post. Basically, you just do a small internal offset and sketch it on the background cardstock. That shows you where to put the pieces, and the pieces will cover the lines.
Geometric Style #2: Pieces with a background
Let’s say you want a background piece to lay everything on. You can do that with just 1 extra quick step. Before you subtract your lines from your solid shape, make an offset of the shape. You can see mine here in blue.
I made sure to NOT select the blue piece before doing the Subtract. I now have a solid background piece (the blue) to lay all my pieces (green) onto.
This is a great technique to use to create a stained glass effect.
Geometric Style #3: Just the outlines
Let’s say you want just the outlines, as in this design:
Technically, you can just cut out the background and pieces on top of one another as in Style #2. But I prefer keep it all together and visualize better how it’s going to look. For that, all I do is select all the pieces and make them into a compound path.
Here’s another reason to make the compound path. Let’s say you want to add something like the nose and eyes of this fox:
By making your design into a compound path, you could then just add the eye and nose shapes and weld them on to the geometric framework your created.
Geometric Style #4: Silhouetted shape
Let’s look at this style. It’s a set of geometric shapes with a hole in the middle in the shape of a heart.
Start by drawing the square as a background. Put your solid shape over the square, select both and Subtract (or make a compound path) to create the hole.
Now create your gaps with the lines as in Style #1 — draw the lines with extra thickness, select all, Subtract, group or create a compound path with all the pieces.
Geometric Style #5: Pieces that touch
Okay, there’s just one more style and method I want to show you. Let’s say you want the geometric pieces, but you don’t want the gaps. Here’s an example of this type:
For that, you can use a Modify option called Divide. Here’s my butterfly again and I’ve drawn some triangles over it. I gave them some different line colors so it’s a little bit easier to distinguish them from one another.
I select everything and use Divide in the Modify panel. What that does is make a cut across the shape anywhere there’s a line, separating it into pieces like a puzzle.
I know, that looks like a bit of a mess, but trust me — it’s not. Delete every piece that falls outside the butterfly. Then you have this:
And when I recolor the pieces, you can see the big, beautiful picture.
As I mentioned before, you can always start with a few divisions and then go in to add more. This is sometimes a good idea, as the Divide option can take a while depending on the speed of your computer.
For symmetrical designs
There’s another trick you can use with this style for symmetrical designs. Draw a rectangle with 1 side approximately along the midline of your design and the other 3 sides outside of it.
Select your design shape (my butterfly) and look in the Quick Access Toolbar for its exact location on the X axis (you can also do this in the Transform panel in the Move section).
You want that little blue square of the grid on the very center. If it’s not, click that center square. Mine is 7.442. That tells me the center of my butterfly is 7.442″ in from the left side of my page.
I select my rectangle and click on the right middle square.
The right side of my rectangle is at 7.488. I change that to 7.442 so the right side of my rectangle will be in the center of the butterfly. The X location for the center of my butterfly and the right side of my rectangle will match.
I select both and choose Intersect in the Modify panel. That keeps only the portions that both shapes have in common. In other words, I’ll be left with just the left side of my butterfly. (You could put the left side of the rectangle along the center of the butterfly and do Subtract — same result.)
I draw my triangles across the half butterfly. This time I filled them with colors and raised the transparency. That helps me more easily see the various pieces that will be created and makes it easier to grab the pieces afterwards.
I divide and remove the extra pieces.
And then I recolor the pieces and mirror them all to the right.
I would probably also scoot the pieces together slightly and weld the shapes that are along the center.
There you go — 5 different ways to take a simple shape and create a trendy geometric design from it!