Create a Lunar Mandala with Illustrator

2:44 PM

Today we are going to create a vibrant lunar phases mandala with a hand-colored style. In Part I, we will use Adobe Illustrator to lay out the artwork, create the shapes, and choose the base colors. In Part II, we will use Adobe Photoshop to paint the vector artwork.

I wanted to create an artistic representation of the eight phases of the moon cycle for an Intuitive Arts series I'll be posting on my personal blog, Poppies & Pencilshavings. During my inspiration research, I came across Amy Swagman’s Birth Art Mandalas, and was particularly drawn to the Lunar Belly mandala pictured below on the right, so I am using this particular piece as inspiration for my digital rendition.


“A mandala is an integrated structure 
organized around a 
unifying center.”
~ Longchenpa

A Little Information About Mandalas
Mandala is a Sanskrit word loosely translated to mean “circle.” It represents wholeness and depicts our relation to the infinite and the world within and beyond us. The mandala is believed to appear in all aspects of life i.e. the celestial circles earth, sun, and moon, as well as conceptual circles of friends, family, and community.

“In Eastern traditions, mandalas are used often as a teaching and meditative practice. In Tibetan Buddhism they create elaborate mandalas of colored sand to be brushed away when done, symbolizing impermanence. The act of creating a mandala can be a meditation unto itself, or you can meditate while gazing at one. In Christianity mandalas can be found in the form of a Celtic Cross, the halo, the rosary, etc.” [source: Amy Swagman]

Step 1 :: Set Up Your Canvas and Colors
Create a new document in Adobe Illustrator. Make it 615 x 615 pixels, the color mode depends on where you want to use your image – use RGB for monitor and CMYK for print. Let’s make a background first – create a 615 x 615 pixels square using the rectangle tool and fill with white. Rename this layer to bgrnd and lock it.

You can create swatches in your Swatches window to organize your color scheme and have it handy. This piece is about your creativity so go ahead and choose whatever colors you would like in your mandala.


Step 2 :: Create Circles
Create a 520 x 520 pixels circle and give it a golden yellow fill. Center it in your artboard and lock it into place [CMD + 2] to avoid selecting it when selecting smaller objects in your artboard. Next, we are going to create the eight moons representing the moon's phases.


Create a 104 x 104 pixels circle and fill with white. Align the first circle in the Top, Center of the artboard. This is the First Quarter Moon. Position the circle in the 53px Y position to sit a bit below the inside of the mandala. With the circle still selected go to Object - Transform - Move. You want to create a circle on the opposite end of your artboard. Insert Vertical Position 406/7px and press Copy. I calculated this number by adding the Y position (105px) of the first circle its height (104px) and subtracting that number from the height of the artboard (615px). You now have your Third Quarter Moon.

With both circles selected, right-click and select Rotate from the drop down menu. Rotate 45 degrees and press Copy. You have now added the Full Moon and New Moon, from left to right. Now press [CMD + D] two times to continue rotating and copying the circles.

You now have all eight lunar phases perfectly in place within the mandala. Select all eight moons, group them [CMD + G] and lock them into place [CMD + 2].


Step 3 :: Create Flowers 
Create a 175px x 175px circle. Center the circle on your artboard and fill it with a rich red. With the red circle selected, go to Effect - Distort & Transform - Pucker & Bloat. Enter 100% and click Ok. Go to Object - Expand Appearance.


Now we are going to make the tip of each petal pointed. Click on the Pen Tool. Select Add Anchor Point Tool on the drop down menu. Add an anchor point to the tip of each petal. Now grab the Direct Selection Tool, press and hold down the Shift key to select the four newly added anchor points. Click on Convert Selected Anchor Points to Corner icon on the applications toolbar.

Right-click on the object and select Rotate on the drop down menu. Rotate 45 degrees and click on Copy. Select both objects. Go to Object - Compound Path - Make. Now your petals are merged into one shape.


With the Pen tool. Trace along the path of the star-shaped spaced in the center to create an object. Fill it with white. We'll come back to it later. Select the flower. Go to Object - Path - Offset Path. Offset: 10px - Joins: Rounded - Miter limit: 4


Right-click - Rotate. Rotate the new object by 22 degrees and fill with orange. We are now going to create a circular pattern of small flowers.


Create a small flower using the same steps above. Start with a 25px x 25px circle. Go to Effect - Distort & Transform - Pucker & Bloat. Bloat the circle to 85%. With object selected, right-click - Rotate. Rotate 46 degrees and click Copy.


Position the small flower in the Top, Center of the artboard. Then go to the Y axis on your Application Toolbar and input 190px to place the flower inside the orange petal. We're going to create a circular pattern of these tiny flowers. With the flower selected, go to Object - Transform - Move. Horizontal: 0 - Vertical:150px - Angle: -90. Click on Copy.


Then we are going to select both flowers. Right-click and select Rotate. Rotate 23 degrees to position flowers over the orange petals. Keep both flowers selected. Right-click and select Rotate. Rotate 45 degrees and click Copy. Then press [CMD + D] twice to complete the circular pattern of flowers.


Create a 175px x 175px circle, and center it on your artboard. Remove the fill and choose a stroke color. I went with a green-yellow stroke color. With the circle selected, go to Effect - Distort & Transform - Pucker & Bloat. Apply 100% Bloat.


Expand the object. Right-click - Rotate - 15 degrees - Copy. The petals are now overlapping. Press [CMD + D] repeatedly until you've created a circle of overlapping petals. Group and move the overlapping petals behind the small flowers.


Create a 275px x 275px circle and fill it with green. Move the green circle behind all the petals. Unlock your petals for a few adjustments. Let's make the orange petals longer and larger. Increase the width to 300px (constraining proportions). Change the width of the red petals to 270px. Change the width of the overlapping petals to 275px.

Step 4 :: Add Depth & Contrast


I wanted to add more depth and a contrasting color to the flower object. Create a 330px x 330px circle and fill it with a dark muted purple. With the circle selected, go to Effect - Distort & Transform - Pucker & Bloat. Apply 100% Bloat. Click OK.


Go to Object Menu and Expand Appearance. Now go to Effect - Distort & Transform - Transform. We are going to Rotate this object by 6 degrees 16 times. Select all the shapes and in Pathfinder, click on Unite. Reduce the circle to 285px. Center the circle on the art board and position it behind the green circle.


Let's change the white star in the center to something more floral. Change the fill of the existing star shape to a purple shade. Go to Effect - Distort & Transform - Pucker & Bloat. Apply -125% Pucker. Click OK. Now the shape blends in with the rest of the flower. Make sure all your layers are locked, with exception of the moons layers. It is time to create the phases of the moon.

Step 5 :: Create the Moons


Change the fill of the moons to a shade of blue, representing the part of the moon that is not visible. Copy the group and Paste Back. Change the fill of this moon group to a light yellow, representing the part of the moon that is visible. Copy this group and Paste Back. Change the fill of this moon group to the same shade of blue as the top moon group. These moon shapes will help when we are cutting out parts of the moon. Let's start with the easy ones first, shall we.


Ungroup all the moon groups. Let's start with the New Moon (Right, Center). Delete the first and second moon and keep the bottom (blue-filled) moon. Directly across the New Moon is the Full Moon (Left, Center). For this moon, delete the top-most and the bottom moon, and keep the middle (yellow) moon. Done.


Now we will create the half moons. For the Third Quarter Moon (Bottom, Center), start by deleting the top most moon. With your Direct Selection Tool, click on the right center anchor point of the yellow moon and press delete. This will cut out the right side of the moon, exposing the blue moon behind it. Group the two objects.

Repeat these same steps with the First Quarter Moon (Top, Center) just in opposite directions. For this moon we will want to cut out the left side of the yellow moon, exposing the blue moon behind it. We will now create the Crescent Moons.


For the Waxing Crescent Moon (Right, above New Moon) we will simply move the top blue moon 10px over to the left [SHIFT + <]. Select the top blue moon and the yellow moon behind it. Go to Pathfinder and click on the Minus Front tool. This will remove the top of the moon and what is directly beneath it, leaving you with a yellow crescent shape and exposing the blue moon at the bottom, serving as the remainder of the moon that is not illuminated.

For the Waning Crescent Moon (Left, below Full Moon), we will need to swap the colors. So the top most and bottom most will be yellow and the middle moon will be blue. Then we simply move the top yellow moon 10px over to the left [SHIFT + < ] revealing the blue moon underneath. Select the top yellow moon and the blue moon behind it. Go to Pathfinder and click on the Minus Front tool. This will remove the top of the moon and what is directly beneath it, leaving you with a blue crescent shape to the right. The yellow moon that is revealed below now serves as the receding illumination. Now we will create the Gibbous Moons.


For the Waxing Gibbous Moon (Left, above Full Moon) we want to shuffle the colors. So the top most and bottom most will be yellow and the middle moon will be blue. Then we simply move the top yellow moon 10px over to the right [SHIFT + >] revealing the blue moon underneath. Select the top yellow moon and the blue moon behind it. Go to Pathfinder and click on the Minus Front tool. This will remove the top of the moon and what is directly beneath it, leaving you with a blue crescent shape to the left. The yellow moon that is revealed below now serves as the growing illumination.

Repeat the same steps with the Waning Gibbous Moon (Right, below New Moon), just in opposite directions and no need to swap colors. For this moon we will want the yellow crescent on the left side of the moon. We are done with our moons. Let's continue to add more decorative elements, and play with colors and strokes to start giving our objects a hand-drawn feel, which is my favorite style of illustration.

Step 6 :: Style & Accessorize


Create a 17px x17px circle. Fill with purple. Center it on the artboard and position it vertically so that it sits slightly below the center of the moon. Go to Object - Transform - Move. Type 390px in the Vertical Position field and click Copy.

Now select both circles. Right-click - Rotate - 23 degrees. This will position the small circles between two moons. Select both circles again. Right-click - Rotate - 45 degrees - click Copy. Press [CMD + D] two more times to continue the rotate and copy patter until we have a circular patter. Now let's add one more decorative pattern.


I drew the red angels along the inside border of the mandala with the brush tool (Stroke Weight = 0.0137 and Brush Definition = Charcoal-Thin). I drew one angel and then followed the same steps above to create the circular pattern for the purple circles.

Now it's time to add more style to our artwork. Let's start by giving the edges of our elements a more hand-drawn feel. All your layers should be locked. Unlock each layer as you go, to keep everything in its place. Double-click the stroke icon on the Tools bar so that all the colors and styles you choose will be on the strokes and not the fills of your objects.


These are the stroke specs I used:
Purple circles :: Stroke Weight = 0.0097 Brush Definition = Pencil-Feather
Small flowers :: Stroke Weight = 0.0139 Brush Definition = Basic
Purple center :: Stroke Weight = 0.0022 Brush Definition = Pencil-Thick
Overlapping petals :: Stroke Weight = 0.0162 Brush Definition = Pencil-Thick
Red petals :: Stroke Weight = 0.0134 Brush Definition = Pencil-Feather
Orange petals :: Stroke Weight = 0.0327 Brush Definition = Pencil
Lunas :: Stroke Weight = 0.0078 Brush Definition = Charcoal-Tapered
Green globe :: Stroke Weight = 0.0139 Brush Definition = Pencil-Thick
Blue scallops :: Stroke Weight = 0.0168 Brush Definition = Pencil-Thick
Mandala :: Stroke Weight = 0.014 Brush Definition = Charcoal-Tapered

Generally, I made the stroke color a shade or two darker than the fill color. I also lightened the blue fill in the moons, and I gave the small flowers a blue-green hue as well.

Step 7 :: Label the Lunar Phases
It is time to label our lunar phases before we export our mandala into Photoshop. Decide which font you'd like to use for your art piece. I chose one of my favorite fonts - Pea Bhea Script, font-size: 15.35pt.


Create a circle that's 585px x 585px and center it on your art board. Now click on the Type icon in your Tools bar, and select the Type on a Path Tool.


Click on the bottom center of the circle to activate the function. Before you begin to type, select the font and the size on the Application toolbar above.


Type the lunar names with about 8 spaces in between the names. Go to Type - Type on a Path - Effect = Rainbow - Align to Path = Center - Spacing = Auto. Click OK.


Right-click on the path and select Rotate. Rotate 15 degrees to align the names with their respective moons.

Step 8 :: Export to Photoshop
We are finally ready to export our vector artwork to Photoshop. Click on File and select Export from the menu. You can export your file as a PSD at 300 dpi with writeable layers.

Enjoy!

Thanks to Amy Swagman of The Mandala Journey for allowing me to use her work as inspiration for this tutorial.

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2 comments

  1. Great tutorial! Exactly what I was looking for, thank you!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thank you, Natale. Glad it was helpful.

    ReplyDelete

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