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Computer ArtsTutorial

Create a kaleidoscopic effect

Martin Sati shows you how to add motion to your vector shapes

In this tutorial, I'll walk you through you how to add a sense of motion to your work by combining vector illustrations with Photoshop's Pen tool to create a kaleidoscopic effect.

Focusing on my image 'Stampede' as a starting point, we'll mix vector drawings with pixels, incorporating a series of different forms - animal, vegetable, mineral and synthetic - to make a complex, fluid image. This technique is like a chemistry experiment and the results can be unpredictable: it's a great way to add dynamism to your work.

concept sketch

01 Before you begin, think about the concept of your drawing and make some notes. I usually print out a few sketches to see what kind of lines I will use; however, for this illustration I've kept the process organic, doing no preliminary sketches.

vector shapes

02 The next step is to create a series of vector-based shapes and icons that you can use in your illustration. Open Illustrator (or any drawing software of your choice) and start experimenting with different shapes.

circular pattern

03 Select some of your elements and start creating circular patterns. You can use the Rotate tool to do this - simply hold Alt/Opt with an object selected, choose a centre point and use the dialog that appears to specify the number of repeats.


line based textures

04 Still working in vectors, continue to build up a variety of different scenes from your elements. Experiment to see how different patterns interlink with each other, varying the sizes.

lines vectors

05 Now is a good time to create some line-based textures that you might want later to fill any gaps between different scenes. Experiment here, and make a variety of different effects.


06 To finish the vector part of the process, design an array of different animals to integrate into the final piece. Some of mine are modified icons, while others were created from scratch.

photoshop black background

07 Still in Illustrator, create an ellipse with a dashed stroke, then open Photoshop and paste it onto a black background. Place your vector scenes within the circle, and play around with their positioning. Work with lots of layers so you can move objects freely.

filling holes

08 When you're happy, start filling any holes in your design with the textures that you created earlier. There are many different ways to do this, but I cut out different shapes and place them in the holes.

pen tool

09 Next, subtly place some of the animal shapes you created in your pattern to give the composition rhythm and strength. Use the Pen tool to refine the lines and fill in any gaps. The integration of the animal objects helps give movement to the image.


10 Continue working around the circle, completing it with different scenes and linking them with linear textures. The process is similar to laying bricks.

brush tool

11 Continue to work on multiple layers. This will enable you to position scenes exactly where you want them.


12 Now select the Pen tool, stroking paths to make a series of curved lines, integrating the animals with the different elements. In this way internal movements are created within the piece.

fill colour

13 I finish the finer details directly using a Wacom Cintiq tablet and the Brush tool. I find that working directly with a stylus is more accurate than using a mouse.

gradient bground

14 When the picture is almost complete, start thinking about what kind of colour palette you'd like to use. This will depend on the final outcome of your composition - it's an organic process, so you don't always know from the start how it'll end up. In this case I choose a yellow-orange gradient to give contrast and strength to the image.

final insert

15 Finally I position an insect creature slightly below the main drawing to give a feeling of movement and panic. That's it, you're done.

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