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Oct 06

Simple cogwheel shape in Illustrator CS

2004 at 06.38 am posted by Veerle Pieters

Recently I needed to draw a cogwheel for a project and I wonder if the steps I used to draw this is actually the fasted way to accomplish this. Maybe there are better, easier and faster ways. Of course taking in account that you need to draw this yourself and that you don’t go looking into some graphics library, since I’m pretty sure you’ll find it in most libraries. Actually this is something you should drag and drop into you “Symbols palette” for future use once you’ve drawn it ;-)

So my post of today is more like a question to my readers who have Adobe Illustrator experience.

Here are the steps I followed:

Simple cogwheel shape in Illustrator CS - step 1 tot 3

Simple cogwheel shape in Illustrator CS - step 4 tot 6

  • draw a circle
  • copy the circle
  • choose the path type tool
  • type the letter "l" around the circle using the font Zapf Dingbats, make sure it closes nicely
  • convert the text to outlines (Mac: command + o - Win: control + o)
  • paste the circle on top and fill it black
  • select the entire illustration
  • hit the "Exclude overlapping areas" button in the (Shape Modes) "Pathfinder palette"
  • hit the "Expand" button in the "Pathfinder palette"
  • select and delete the parts of the shape you don't need anymore

Just a bit of background information. I've never followed any Illustrator course (only a fast one for Quark (v3) and Photoshop (v2) years ago), but I'm using Illustrator since version 3 and it's one of my favorite programs. I use it for the creation of all my logos, drawings, icons etc.

Hope some of you have maybe better ideas on drawing such a shape. Or maybe if you have any great smart ideas on the creaton of other simple shapes. All useful ideas are welcome, thanks :-) The best ones will be considered for a new post.

Want to learn more?

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permalink this comment Shad Wed Oct 6, 2004 at 07.32 am

First off, I have to admit that I’m much more proficient with Photoshop than Illustrator.

Having said that, wouldn’t something like drawing a vertical, 10px wide (or however wide you want ) line, and then copying that around so there are several lines (resembling an asterisk), and then place a filled in circle on top of that?

I know I’m explaining this badly…and I know there’s a tutorial for PS explaing what I’m trying to explain ::: runs off and searches ::: ...

ah, yes:
as well as;=&start;_from=&ucat=7&

The second is a lot more flexible, but a lot more complicated as well. However, it used the pen tool, which seems to be quite the versitile tool.

Like I said, these are both PS tutorials, and that’s where I know the gear idea from…but it seems it could transfer over to Illustrator ok?

Just a thought :)



permalink this comment Veerle Wed Oct 6, 2004 at 07.58 am

@Shad, ah yes, I see what you mean, not a bad idea either. If you draw a thick line with rounded endings and copy it around as you mention, you’ll get the same result as in the 3rd drawing…. interesting. Thanks :-)



permalink this comment Martagnan Wed Oct 6, 2004 at 10.02 am

In Outline mode (CTRL-Y) or (CMD-Y)

1. Draw a big circle.

2. Draw your smaller circle.

3. Drag the smaller circle so it’s center point is directly over the top ‘point’ of the big circle.

4. Make sure that just your little circle is selected and select the Rotation tool in your tool pallet.

5. With ‘Alt’ or ‘Option’ pressed down - click the center point of the BIG circle. - A dialogue box will appear.

6. In the Angle box type 360/8 and click COPY. (8 can be whatever number of circles/shapes you want around the outside).

7. Press CTRL-D or CMD-D to REPEAT the last action.

Your circles/shapes will duplicate evenly around the parimeter as many times as you specified in the dialogue box.



permalink this comment Kim Siever Wed Oct 6, 2004 at 10.15 am

A nice technique. But not the fastest. ;-)

Here’s a faster way.

1. Draw a star with the number of points corresponding to the number of teeth on the cog.
2. Draw a circle smaller than the star’s outer circumference but larger than the inner circumference.
3. Select both shapes.
4. Align horizontal and vertical centres for both shapes.
5. In the Pathfinder panel, select “Intersect”.
6. Deselect.

If you do not want the grooves of the cog to be pointed, just repeat steps 2-6.




permalink this comment Marilyn Wed Oct 6, 2004 at 10.19 am

I like Shad’s idea, too.

But, if you want an alternate way to do what you did, here’s what I’d do:

I’d have started by making two guides, one vertical, one horizontal, to define the center of the final circle. I’d pull out the main circle from the center guides using option (alt)-shift.

Then I’d make a smaller circle whose center I’d place on the edge of the bigger circle. Keeping it selected, I’d select the rotate tool, option-select the center of the big circle (brings up the dialog box and also makes the center of the circle the point around which you are rotating the small circle), rotate/copy the small circle using a number evenly divisible into 360, like 20. This way the distance between each small circle will be the same.

After the first time, I’d use command-D to repeat the rotation/copy to see the distance between circles. After taking a look to see if I like the distance between the small circles, I’d go back and make the small circle bigger or smaller, until I was pleased with the distance between them.

I’d finish the comand-D rotate/copy until the small circles go all the way around the big circle. Then I’d select all and use subtract from shape area command on the pathfinder palette to delete the circles and make a final closed shape.

I hope that makes sense.



permalink this comment Veerle Wed Oct 6, 2004 at 10.19 am

@Martagnan, aha! :-) First I thought of doing exactly the same as you described, only my math’s are less then yours… I got stuck on 6. I suddenly thought “how will I get those little circles evenly positioned around the big one”... so then I thought about using Zapf Dingbats. But it’s simple, I didn’t know you could actually enter a value like this in that box.

Great comment! Maybe your description is exactly the way to draw this shape, thanks for taking the time to explain this here :-)



permalink this comment Veerle Wed Oct 6, 2004 at 10.51 am

@Kim, if you start with a star you don’t have rounded effect which I was after. The fact that I needed it rounded makes it a bit more tricky ;-) But thanks anyway :-)

@Marilyn, just tried it and it is prefect! A bit the same as Martagnan, where I like the 360/8 value, very handy, no calculation is needed ;-)



permalink this comment Martagnan Wed Oct 6, 2004 at 03.19 pm

Glad I could help!

Next week…
How to draw perfect maps with perfect linework - and easily editable ;-)



permalink this comment Stewart Wed Oct 6, 2004 at 05.27 pm

a related question…

your preferred choice: illustrator or freehand? i’m lucky enough to have a new dual G5 mac and copy of illustrator at work. as a freehand user i’m finding the transition a little odd.

for example, producing the cog shape in freehand would be easy, but using illustrator i may get stuck. whats so good about illustrator?

show me the light…



permalink this comment Stephane Wed Oct 6, 2004 at 09.43 pm

1 - Make 2 guides (1 horizontal and 1 vertical) to make a center point
2 - Draw a circle on one of the guide
3 - Remove the outside point on your circle with the Direct selection tool to make a half circle
4 - Put the Rotate tool on your center point and rotate your circle
5 - Using the Direct selection tool, select two endpoint on your half-circle and use the command Join.

These explanation might not be great, but here are a couple of image that explain everything (



permalink this comment Veerle Thu Oct 7, 2004 at 01.38 am

@Steward, I think it’s mostly a matter of preference. Freehand and Illustrator have a different way of approaching things and if you’re accustomed to one it’s rather difficult to switch to the other. I think both apps deliver very good tools. But I’m more an Adobe fan when it comes to design, I find the interface also a bit more eye pleasing and I’m more familiar with it (Photoshop and InDesign). I use Macromedia programs too, like DreamWeaver and Flash which I both like a lot, I have Freehand too since it is part of the suite but I never use it, it’s just too different from what I’m use to. As I’ve said I’m using Illustrator since version 3, guess I’ve kind of “grown” up with the app since this was my very first “real” graphical app on a computer together with Aldus PageMaker (back in the 80’s).

@Stephane, I find this method a bit less productive then the one Martagnan and Kim Siever offer, but thanks for sharing and your effort by placing images online, that’s cool ;-)



permalink this comment Kisan Fri Oct 15, 2004 at 11.44 am

> Draw a circle ( 4 Anchor points).

> Add anchor points (Object>Path>Add Anchor Points) ( 8 Anchor Points)

>do this two more times to get 32 Anchor points

>Select ‘Convert anchor point tool’ (shift C) and click on alternate anchor points starting from top

>Select ‘Direct Selection Tool’ and SHIFT key and click on the non-converted anchor points.

>Use scale and enter 70% to 80% depending on the depth of the cog.

BTW this is not my idea and I don’t remember the URL from where I got it.



permalink this comment Kuba Sun Oct 17, 2004 at 04.01 am

The method posted by @Kisan is by Alex Walker, posted in the SitePoint Design View newsletter, which should be posted here eventually.



permalink this comment Veerle Sun Oct 17, 2004 at 05.54 am

@Kuba, unfortunately the link you’ve mentioned seems to have disappeared.



permalink this comment Kisan Sun Oct 17, 2004 at 10.04 am

Thanks Kuba.
Now I remember it.
Site Point Design View Newsletter issue #3 which is still not put up in archive page and I have deleted the newsletter which came in my mail.

I also remember there was a link to Veerle’s Blog page and that’s how I subscribed to Veerle’s Blog.



permalink this comment Alex Walker Sun Oct 17, 2004 at 06.54 pm

Hi Veerle,

Just archived the newsletter, so it should be available here . Hopefully it will bring a few more solutions to the fore. The method I used lacks the very circular, ‘bike-like’ cog teeth of your original, but it does have the advantage of always matching up evenly regardless of how many teeth your require.

On Stewart’s question of Freehand vs Illustrator, I’d make 4 points.

1- Illustrator’s drawing tools are probably a little more polished than Freehand’s

2 - If you expect to be doing multiple page layouts often, Freehand is better equipped.
Adobe put their Drawing tools in Illustrator and their layout tools in ‘Adobe InDesign’.  Macromedia put both in into Freehand.

Then again, I’ve been using InDesign quite a bit over the past month and I’m really loving it, so if you can afford both, all the better.

3. <niggle>Illustrator is frustrtatingly slow on launch (at least on a PC). What is so hard about starting a new file that takes 18 seconds?</niggle>

4.  As PDF is Adobe’s technology, it tends to work a little bit more smoothly in their applications. I find myself exporting PDF’s from Illustrator and Photoshop, Importing them into InDesign, exporting PDF’s from there, and viewing them in Acrobat. For whatever reason (conspiracy theories?), sometimes Freehand PDF’s won’t travel between Adobe apps so well.

That’s my expereince anyway.




permalink this comment William Thu Jan 27, 2005 at 03.45 am

If you are after a cogwheel’ish’ effect , why not draw a circle in AI, then apply a zigzag effect.
I set my options as follows for a circle of 150pt:
size 3%, relative, and 16 ridges per segment.
I also set my points to be smooth.

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