You’ve probably noticed that symmetry is all around us, in our homes and in nature itself. When designing you often need to create symmetrical shapes to either draw real life objects or when being creative, such as in pattern work.
The butterfly is a good example of a symmetrical shape and has been chosen for the logo of the new Adobe Illustrator plug-in from Astute Graphics. The MirrorMe plug-in is designed to create reflections in your vector artwork by using either one axis or multiple (up to 72) axes. In this tutorial we’ll take a look at the process of creating a stylised butterfly and also recycling existing designs, such as backgrounds, seamless patterns and pattern brushes out of its elements. Many pieces of artwork that you’ve already created in the past can now be transformed into a set of new designs in just moments.
It’s very simple to do and I’ll show you just how simple!
First I created a pencil sketch of a half butterfly, then scanned it and pasted it into a new document of Adobe Illustrator.
A butterfly has only one axis of symmetry and of course you can create vector objects and then mirror them using the Reflect Tool (O), but that doesn’t allow you to see the whole shape of the butterfly when creating it. This means that you can’t properly check to see the interaction of all the objects in the final artwork. This method becomes a process of trial and error and can be both time consuming and frustrating. A far easier and effective way to do this is to use the MirrorMe plug-in where you can immediately create two halves of the butterfly by using the “mirror”, here’s how…
Lock the layer with a sketch, then create a new layer in the Layers panel.
Now take the MirrorMe Tool and click at the point where the axis of symmetry will go. An annotation system will then appear. You can easily control the position of the symmetry axis and its angle by moving the center and rotating the axis with MirrorMe. Access to additional parameters of this tool can be reached in its panel.
Set the axis at an angle of 270°. Click on “Apply to Layer” in the annotation system or in the MirrorMe panel.
By doing this all the objects you created to the right of the axis of symmetry will now instantly appear on the other side.
In this case you can see a reflected path in its pure form; a rough pencil sketch does not prevent you from accepting ensuring a smooth result. In the picture above, the created path you can see the annotation system of the InkScribe Tool (InkScribe plug-in), showing that this particular tool was used in the artwork. The InkScribe plug-in has a number of features that allows you to work more efficiently than when using the Pen Tool (P). Its “Smart Removal” point feature is essential when creating complex shapes such as the pattern on a butterfly’s wings.
Next, working in the “Apply to Layer” mode, I recreated all the objects of the stylised butterfly. Also, I diverged slightly from the lines of the pencil sketch because I was able to see all the artwork and knew exactly what I needed to fix.
If you want colored symmetrical objects MirrorMe will halve your working time!
I also created a version of a butterfly with a gradient fill. At the same time linear gradients are directed towards each other. MirrorMe allows you to work one the one half of a butterfly again so there’s no need to change the direction of the gradients on its second wing. Just as when you’re creating shapes while coloring objects, it’s important to see the artwork entirely and MirrorMe enables you to do this.
Once the artwork is finished, click “Remove Axis” in the MirrorMe panel. This exits the symmetry mode and then you will get your final vector artwork.
Our tutorial is not yet finished though friends! In my opinion, one of the major advantages of using MirrorMe is that you can create an infinite number of new designs from existing artwork. For example, if you want to create a background – no problem! Select our butterfly, take the MirrorMe Tool, then change the number of symmetry axes. This can be done in the MirrorMe panel or using the left square bracket key “[" (for decreasing) and right square bracket key "]” (for increasing their amount). Then find the position of the center of symmetry, which, in your opinion, will create an interesting pattern.
Click on the “Apply to Selection” in the annotation system or in the MirrorMe panel.
By simply changing just the position of the axes, I got three choices for a background pattern in less than a minute!
Just imagine how many hours would it take to create such a pattern from scratch? Instead, when using MirrorMe you only need to find an example piece of artwork and click once. For example this pattern can now be used as a vintage background.
From the resulting new pattern, you can create a tile for a seamless pattern. Create horizontal and vertical guides that pass through the center of the pattern. Select the pattern and guides and then click on the “Divide” in the Pathfinder panel. Remove 3/4 of a pattern as shown in the following picture.
Create the reflections of the remaining pattern using MirrorMe, using two axes of symmetry.
Move the obtained result into Swatches panel.
Now we can apply the resulting seamless pattern to the objects of any shape.
Patterns obtained using MirrorMe can also be used as a tile for Pattern brush. If you are already working in Adobe Illustrator CC, then it can be done in a very easy way, as this release has the Auto corners feature, which allows you to automatically generate several kinds of the corner tiles.
I was so amazed by how MirrorMe sped up the creation process of such complex vector artwork that I decided to create some pattern brushes from elements of the butterfly to share with you!
Download the butterfly artwork and pattern brush pack!
The one color butterfly variant may be downloaded below. The two additional colored variants are available in the set of examples supplied with the MirrorMe installer download.
Click here for Illustrator CS5 and above (also PDF compatible)…
About the author
My name is Iaroslav Lazunov, I am a graphic designer from Zhytomyr, Ukraine. I am glad that I finally found the job in my life that I can share my knowledge and experiments with you in my tutorials.