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How To Create an Ornate Compass Rose in




I recently shared some tips with a subscriber about how to create a nautical star design

in Illustrator, which then prompted me to research traditional nautical star and compass

rose layouts and construct an ornate design of my own. The process makes use of lots

of simple but really useful techniques in Illustrator to build up layers of detail. Follow this

step by step guide to create a detailed black and white compass rose illustration with

various symmetrical pattern effects.

Traditional compass rose illustrations are often made up of intense detail which paired

with the symmetrical layout creates a really eye pleasing piece of artwork. Well use

those classic nautical compass designs as inspiration for a vector illustration of our own

and make use of simple shapes to build up ornate patterns.

Well begin with the main four point star. Use the cursor keys to adjust the number of

points while dragging out the shape with the star tool. Also alter the angle of the points

by holding the CMD key while keeping the shape square with the Shift key.
Turn on Smart Guides (CMD+U) to allow the cursor to snap to anchor points then use

the Line tool to draw intersections between each inner and outer point of the star.
Draw a selection around all the objects and click the Divide option from the Pathfinder

palette. Right click and Ungroup the elements until every shape is individually

Select and fill each segment of the star with either white or black to create an alternating

colour scheme. Give every shape a black stroke but align it to the inside to retain the

stars sharp points.

Draw another star, this time with 16 points and much more acute angles. Make sure this

new star is marginally smaller than the previous so the north, east, south & west points

dont overlap. Repeat the process of drawing intersecting lines and dividing up the

shapes to form another star design.

Group the elements of the two objects together then align them centrally. Use the

shortcut CMD+Shift+[ or use the right click Arrange menu to send the 16 point star to

the back of the stack.

Draw a small circle and align it to the end of one of the end points. Hold Alt and drag a

duplicate to decorate each point of the star. The Smart Guides will help easily snap the

centre of the circle directly to each anchor point.

Hold the Alt key and begin drawing a black circle from the centre of the stars. Copy

(CMD+C) and Paste in Front (CMD+F) a duplicate, change the fill colour to white then

scale the new circle down in size slightly while holding the Alt key.
Elsewhere on the artboard draw a small vertical line with a 1pt stroke. Hold Alt & Shift

and drag a duplicate off to the site. Repeatedly press the shortcut CMD+D to Transform

Again to form a series of evenly spaced lines. Remove the stroke from the last line to

leave a naked path.

Draw a selection around the series of lines then click the New icon at the bottom of the

Brushes palette. Select Pattern Brush from the options.

Duplicate one of the centre circles and scale it down slightly. Apply the newly created

brush as a stroke effect to see the series of lines repeat around the circumference of the

whole circle.
Begin drawing another shape with the star tool elsewhere on the artboard. Reduce the

number of points to 3 then hold the Alt key to reset the angles to produce a tiny triangle.

Drag the topmost point vertically with the Direct Selection tool while holding Shift to

extend the shape.

Create a series of evenly spaced triangles using the Alt-drag, CMD+D technique. Select

the top and right points of the last triangle and delete them before creating a new

Pattern brush. Leaving this empty point allows the brush pattern to repeat with even

Create another circle in the centre of the design and add this newly created triangle

brush to the stroke to create another simple but effective pattern.

Continue adding detail using basic circular shapes with either a solid fill or stroked

appearance. Remember to alter the stacking order of filled shapes using the Arrange

menu or the shortcut CMD+[ so they dont hide the other elements.
Hold Alt and draw a larger circle with a 1pt stroke and no fill from the centre of the

design. Hit CMD+Shift+[ to send this shape to the back, then go to Object > Transform >

Scale and enter 105%. Click Copy to create a slightly larger duplicate.
Continue pressing the CMD+D shortcut to repeat this transformation to create a series

of concentric circles. Simple effects like this create intricate detail when the design is

viewed without magnification.

Draw new circles or copy and paste existing shapes and continue building out the

design adding various effects using fills, strokes and patterns. The easiest way to keep

the elements stacked correctly is to send each new item to the back (CMD+Shift+[) or

Paste Behind with the CMD+B shortcut.

Double click the custom patterns in the Brushes palette to edit their properties. Change

the Colorization Method to Tints to allow the stroke colour to alter the patterns colour.

This will allow you to overlap white patterns over black circles to add more variations in

To create evenly spaced elements around the design select the Rotate tool, hold Alt and

align the pivot point to the centre of the design. In the options box calculate the angle by

dividing the number of elements by 360, so 16 elements = 22.5. Hit copy to create the

first duplicate then press CMD+D to repeat the effect.

Individually each element is created from a simple solid shape, a stroke or a custom

pattern but as theyre combined and built upon they together form an intricate

decorative pattern.
Use these simple techniques to create a symmetrical compass rose design with ornate

detailing. Theres no rules or order to the elements, simply build up the design with

various circular shapes and effects until youre happy with its final appearance.