Design a Christmas mandala in Illustrator.

In this post I’ll show you how I designed a Christmas mandala in Illustrator. Explaining the techniques used and thought processes involved. Tis the season to be jolly and also to spend ages designing Christmas cards instead of shopping for presents! I hope you like my card design.

I had been pondering the concept for a while. I’d probably known since last year I wanted to create a mandala design. I’ve always been particularly interested in symmetry and repetition in design. I’d made a seemless pattern Xmas card one previous year. I was also interested in the mystical and spiritual symbology of the mandala and its use in meditation.

For all of the various different interpretations of the mandala though, my design is simply a circular pattern design (with no inner square). A celebration of Christmas, with no other deep meaningful interpretation, apart from my choice of icons which represent the Christmas I associate with most.

As I’m a perfectionist, I started to try and visualise creating all of the icons from scratch, but this would’ve taken a fair amount of time and I didn’t have much spare. Fortunately an email popped into my inbox from Free goodies for Designers which just happened to have 70 AWESOME XMAS ICONS. Perfect! I loaded them into Illustrator and started to check them out.

I had to find a way to copy a line of icons and rotate around in a circle. There’s always so many different ways to do this in Illustrator. You can always find yourself venturing down a rabbit hole with these things. I checked a few tutorials on you-tube and found this extremely cool way which uses the transform ‘effect’ to make copies of a line of icons around a circle. it is quick, easy to use and very cool. Definitely a neat Illustrator trick I will remember for next time.

The last thing left was colour. I tried several different ideas ranging from pastel to indian colour schemes and it just didn’t look right. I had to focus on what I wanted to achieve rather than trying to make it look like what a card should look like – if you get what I mean. For the final colour scheme, the bright shine of the mandala against the dark blue background makes it appear like a glowing star in the night sky.

I still had troubles with the icon placements so I got back to basics, I looked at all of them again and picked out the ones that meant more about Christmas to me than the others. I then played with the arrangement of the icons to make them fit visually within the mandala. The tree began the line of icons as it pointed upwards, the reindeer’s antlers pointing outwards at the end of the icon line. An array of twelve icon lines seemed to suit the best.

I then added a second line of snowflakes, to add to the mandala. I had to straighten some of them as they were a slightly angled. Finally a star right in the middle of the mandala finished the design nicely.

After tweaking the colours to match the background, I decided upon a gold yellow, a cerise/fuscia/magenta red and a turquoise/cyan/aqua blue. I gave them all a slight gradient for that added sparkle. For the ‘Merry Christmas’ text I used my go-to Christmas typeface Samantha.

So there you go, I hope you like it. Merry Christmas!

Kudos to the following:
Freegoodiesfordesigners for the free Xmas icons.
Pixel and Bracket for the smart Illustrator tutorial.
Laura Worthington Design for the Samantha typeface.
Coolers for the colour scheme help.

How to use content aware tool in Photoshop

The Content aware tool in Photoshop is awesome! It removes unwanted objects by being ‘aware of the surrounding content’ and filling in the space so that the object is removed and the ‘background’ appears normal. The great thing about this is that it doesn’t matter if it doesn’t go right first time. Just keep on selecting and removing objects until it looks great.

This is a super quick guide to using it. First have the pic ready in Photoshop (CS 5.5 and newer versions).

  1.  Duplicate the pic (alt + drag the pic icon in the layers panel), therefore the pic can be reused if it all goes wong.
  2. Use the lasso tool to select an area around the object you want to remove. (I prefer the standard lasso so that you can ‘draw’ the selection). The selection only has to be roughly around the edges of the object – obviously some of the background will be included in the selection but that’s ok. Make sure the selection does not touch the object.
  3. Go to edit – fill – content-aware, ok. (or shift + F5). Voila! The object is filled in by using background information to fill the selected area.
  4. Grin smugly.