Create a Celtic Knot in Nine Easy Steps

This is the original knot JPEG image

This is a totally harmless little Adobe Illustrator exercise. I recently got an e-mail from a former intern, asking for some advice on a celtic knot graphic he was trying to re-create. I told him I was happy to oblige. Maybe you can get something out of this, as well. If you are an average user of Illustrator, I think this is up your alley. Keep it loose and have fun.

Looking at the original, examine the shape and notice the basic symmetry of the knot. You will see how certain characteristics repeat and how the four sections are similar to each other. This is important because it lets us know that we can work on one part of this shape, then alter it slightly to create the entire pattern. Before you start, turn on the “Snap to Point” feature under VIEW. This is useful because it will help you quickly line up shapes on top of others when you start doing surgery on your graphic. To set up this exercise, create a new Illustrator file with two layers. Import the KNOT jpeg into the lower layer, click on “Dim Image” and type in 30% — then lock the layer. We will create our knot on the layer above using the “dimmed” image below as our guide.

STEP ONE. To begin – Select one of the design’s four quarter-shapes, and use the pen tool to rough in a center line. Use a thin point line in a loud color (like PINK), so you can easily see your path and how it relates to the shapes behind it. Drag your points at the rise of each “hump” and then use a corner point when you need to change direction. This will allow you to adjust the shape where the curves lie.

This is step one of the celtic knot

STEP TWO. Once the line looks good to your eye, add thickness till the line weight matches the shape below it. Get close, but feel free to make this your own design. (In this example, we will actually be looking to improve on the original by cleaning things up and bringing more symmetry to the final image.) I started with a 1-pt. line, then thickened it to a 34-pt. line.

This is step two of the celtic knot

STEP THREE. Next, Outline the stroke under OBJECT > PATH.

This is step three of the celtic knot

STEP FOUR. Change the new vector shape to an outline (delete fill) and start doing surgery on the graphic where the shape is meant to dissect. I created a rectangle that I could line up on the shape and use over and over to rotate into position and then –-

This step four of the celtic knot

STEP FIVE. With the “Pathfinder Tool” –- delete sections from the knot shape.

This is step five of the celtic knot

STEP SIX. Next, copy and flip completed image, and rotate into the next position. Use an imaginary “center” point in the middle of the four shapes to rotate and flip around. Tweak the new image’s placement as needed. Now you are halfway there!

This is step six of the celtic knot

STEP SEVEN. Select the two shapes, and copy/flip/rotate them into a mirror position. While selected, move them into a position that roughly follows the original design. Again, you can flip and rotate around that invisible “center” point.

This is step seven of the celtic knot

STEP EIGHT. Add in the extra images (two sets of concentric circles appear to be sitting on top of the KNOT) –- Skip this step if you’d rather. They don’t seem to be all that important. I kept them in, because it is useful to show that you can quickly create a circle on top of a circle on top of a circle, then select your 3-circle graphic and – holding the option/apple/shift keys – drag and copy it into the same position across from itself.

This is step eight of the celtic knot

STEP NINE. Finally, fill the shapes with the blue color and set the knot on a black box (background). At this point, I was able to see a few flaws to my eye, so I used the hollow arrow (“Direct Selection” tool) to grab individual edges of the graphic and slightly shift them into a more correct position.

This is step nine of the celtic knot TuskenRaider1

Bada Bing. Total time: 10 minutes. You have just completed your own celtic knot (or Tusken Raider) — you decide! Wasn’t that fun? Feel free to make your own adjustments to the steps I outlined here, and write me to let me know how this worked for you. Happy (vector) drawing!

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