Create a Cool Korean Circle Pattern in Illustrator

I’ve been quite interested in Korean designs and patterns for some time now. I’ve also been hoping to incorporate some of the best Korean patterns into my designs. However, there seems to be a real lack of Korean design resources out there, so I decided to make my own. In this tutorial, I will show you how to create a cool Korean circle pattern like those found on many Korean traditional buildings and clothes. This is one of the coolest patterns I’ve found in Korea, so it was a lot of fun making it in Illustrator. I found a similar pattern here, and if you want to see more great Korean patterns, I encourage you to pick up this book all about Korean patterns.

Well, let’s begin.

1. Open Illustrator

2. Select “Create New Web Document” – Click OK to accept the Defaults.

Actually, it doesn’t really matter what kind of document you select, or what size. Since we are using Illustrator, we are making a vector graphic that can be enlarged to any size we want without losing any quality.

3.  “Show Rulers” (in the View Menu or CRTL + R)

We want to show the rulers because we’ll be making a lot of guides to help us create the circle pattern. Also, be sure that the guides aren’t locked. Go to the View Menu and the “Guides” dropdown to check (or ATL + CTRL + ; to be quick).

4. Start making guides

Start with large “+” in the center of the document and follow a main marker on both the horizontal and vertical rulers. In this example, I’ve chosen to line my guides up with 360 on the horizontal ruler and 324 on the vertical ruler.

5. Make LOTS of guides.

Totally, for this example, we need 27 guides on both the X and Y axis. To create the guides, we will space out 4 tick marks on the ruler for the path of the pattern we want to create, and 2 tick marks on the ruler for the spacing between the paths of our pattern. Also, consider that the center path will have our initial “+” through the center point of our pattern, so from those lines, the next guides should only be spaced out 2 tick marks (on either side, to create a 4 tick mark space for our center pattern path) and then 2 tick marks further for the spacing between paths. Take a look at mine.

And here is the finished version of our guides. Notice how there are 6 wides spaces on either side of the center marks?

6. Start creating circles.

Now, we can start making circles. I start with the largest circle first and work in. Resize all the circles so that the edges touch each of our guides in ever decreasing circle sizes. Here’s mine.

7. Create vertical and horizontal dividing boxes

It is not only helpful, but almost necessary to sketch out the kind of pattern you want to make on paper before doing it on the computer. This will save you a big headache when you’re trying to figure out where to put the horizontal and vertical connecting boxes. So, based on where you want the path of your pattern to go, that is where you can draw the boxes. Remember to extend the boxes beyond the limit of the circles you want them to connect so that at least one edge of the boxes will create the side of the path you want. Here’s mine.

8. Remove guides

Trace the path you have started to envision at least once with your eyes after you’ve drawn it. Does everything line up? There are no missing boxes are there? If everything is good and you feel ready to start deleting the extra lines, then now’s a good time to remove the guides so that we can see clearly what to remove. (Also, Illustrator is really nice in that it keeps a long memory of the commands you’ve given it, so that you can undo dozens of steps with CTRL + Z if necessary. Just a helpful hint).

9. Open Pathfinder (in the Window Menu or SHIFT + CTRL +F9)

Time to start deleting the lines and shapes you don’t need. Select all of your shapes by using the Selection Tool and dragging a large box around everything. Then choose the option to “Divide” from the Pathfinder menu. This will make every visible shape its own shape, based on the lines that bisect through everything.

10. Start deleting shapes along the path that you wish to create.

Sometimes, as you go, you’ll delete the wrong part. Just UNDO. Most likely, when you reach the ends of some of the lines, you won’t be able to delete some parts of the lines without messing up the shape. This is perfectly normal. Just concentrate on creating the shape you want, along the path you want. Check mine out.

11. Live Paint your path.

After you’ve deleted all the boxes you need to to clearly define the path of your pattern, it’s time to get creative. Select all the objects in your pattern, then choose a color and select the Live Paint tool from your side panel. Then, paint the pattern’s paths that you’ve created. See mine:

12. Flatten Transparency…

As long as your pattern’s path looks right, be sure all the objects are selected, and then go up into the Object Menu, and select “Flatten Transparency…” Select the default options. This will eliminate all the layers our objects have and remove the problems we may have had deleting some lines or shapes.

13. Delete all the lines.

Now that it is all flattened, and your pattern is painted appropriately, it is safe to delete every line that remains – including the outlines (we’ll add a new outline to the finished pattern later).

14. Combine the objects.

Last, but certainly not least, you need to combine the remaining objects (if you have any rings that aren’t directly connected to other parts of the pattern). Select all the separate pieces, right click, and select “Group”. This should join all your separated rings with the other pieces of the pattern so that you now have a single shape that you can edit and move around.

15. Clean it up.

Now’s a chance to give the pattern a bit better color, and a new outline. We’re finished! Congratulations on creating a cool Korean circle pattern.

Below is an additional pattern I created earlier to show the different things that could be done like this.

What do you think?

Well, how did you like the tutorial? Anything I might have done better, or faster? Any suggestions for a new tutorial? Any other pieces of Korea you’d like to see in design? Leave me a note.

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One Response to “Create a Cool Korean Circle Pattern in Illustrator”

  1. Illustrator korea | Lentablog Says:

    […] Create a Cool Korean Circle Pattern in Illustrator « Aaron …Feb 16, 2010 … This is one of the coolest patterns I’ve found in Korea, so it was a lot of fun making it in Illustrator. I found a similar pattern here, and if you want … […]


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