Kaleidoscopes and other hypnotic patterns are a major creative trend across digital and print formats. Learn how to create your own one-of-a-kind kaleidoscope illusion with the help of Illustrator’s essential tools.

When you think of a kaleidoscope, you often recall the fun times you’ve had toying around with that infamous tube of mirrors and colored glass. Not only was it completely mesmerizing, but it also produced stunning effects and patterns.

A rising trend for 2019, Hypnotic, points to an increased use of repetitive patterns across the design industry. These kaleidoscope-inspired patterns appear across interior design elements, commercials, and festival identities.

Make a Kaleidoscope Pattern with Illustrator in Three Simple Steps — Hypnotic Kaleidoscope

Image via Foxys Forest Manufacture.

The beauty of repetitive design is that they can take on any form, ranging from poly-inspired shapes to whimsical photography and patterns. You can keep your pattern exquisitely detailed or minimal. The options are truly endless.

Read on to discover how to create your own hypnotizing pattern in Adobe Illustrator.


Step 1: Set Up Guides

A kaleidoscope it typically designed within a specific shape, then repeated to create that infamous kaleidoscope illusion. But, before we get to designing that pattern, we need to set up a foundation for the design. The best way to approach the kaleidoscope pattern is to use a polygon as the base.

Once you’ve opened up the Adobe Illustrator program, head over to the button where the Rectangle Tool typically lies. Hold down that button, then select Polygon Tool. With this tool activated, click on the artboard to bring up a polygon menu. From here, you can enter in specific values for the radius and number of sides for your shape. To keep it simple, I stuck with a radius of 200 px and sides. Hit OK to return back to the artboard.

Bring up the Pen Tool (P) to draw a straight line horizontally while holding down Shift key to constrain the angle. This ensures that your path is perfectly straight, which is crucial for setting up your kaleidoscope pattern.

Duplicate the line by holding down the Option key and dragging across, then open up the Transform Tool (Window > Transform) and enter in 60 degrees (or 360 divided by the shape’s number of sides) in the angle box. Hit Enter to rotate the line 60 degrees.

Make a Kaleidoscope Pattern with Illustrator in Three Simple Steps — Transform Tool

Activate the Selection Tool (V) and move the line to cut right through the neighboring anchor point. Utilize the Align palette and select both the shape and the line path and align to Key Object to center each point perfectly. Do this as needed to ensure that the line fits perfectly across the polygon’s anchor points, as seen above.

Duplicate the line once again and enter in 120 degrees in the Transform menu to rotate the path to fit within the remaining anchor points. Select the line paths and group them together with Command + G.

Make a Kaleidoscope Pattern with Illustrator in Three Simple Steps — Group Line Paths

Duplicate the guides with Option drag, then rotate 30 degrees within the Transform menu and align to fit the hexagon. This step is optional, but is recommended to ensure symmetry when designing the kaleidoscope outlines later.

Make a Kaleidoscope Pattern with Illustrator in Three Simple Steps — Rotate

Head over to View > Guides > Make Guides or hit Command + 5. The line paths will resort to a thin guide to help plan out your pattern. Zoom in with Command + and double check that all guides are perfectly lined up and center. Uneven guides will affect your kaleidoscope pattern and prevent all patterns from lining up.


Step 2: Create Kaleidoscope Design

Now, it’s time for the fun part: designing the kaleidoscope pattern. We’ll build this out using Illustrator’s handy Shapes and Pen Tools.

Make a Kaleidoscope Pattern with Illustrator in Three Simple Steps — Create Design

With the Pen Tool (P), draw out geometric and organic shapes within the sectioned out polygon. If you need some design inspiration, check out Shutterstock’s endless library of kaleidoscope patterns.

Bring down guides from the Ruler (Command + R) as needed to ensure symmetry in your shapes. Experiment with different polygons and curves to create a visually interesting kaleidoscope. It’s crucial that your shapes line up with one another to prevent any gaps in your pattern.

Make a Kaleidoscope Pattern with Illustrator in Three Simple Steps — Choose a Color Palette

Select individual shapes with the Selection Tool (V) and use the Color or Swatches palette to inject color into your shapes. To give off a bright neon vibe, I decided to choose this Venetian Windows palette from these 25 neon color palettes. Play around with various color options until you arrive at a combination that works well for your kaleidoscope pattern.

Make a Kaleidoscope Pattern with Illustrator in Three Simple Steps — Add Colors


Step 3: Build Kaleidoscope

Now that we’ve got the foundation of your kaleidoscope pattern finalized, it’s time to piece it all together. Select all components of your pattern and group them together with Command + G. Head on up to Object > Transform > Rotate at the top of the program to bring up the Rotate menu. Type in 60 degrees in the Angle box, or the value you used earlier in the tutorial. Hit Copy to duplicate the rotated pattern.

Make a Kaleidoscope Pattern with Illustrator in Three Simple Steps — Build Your Kaleidoscope

Rinse and repeat the steps above until you’ve pieced together half of your kaleidoscope pattern. Group together the first half of your pattern with Command + G, then head back up to the Rotate menu. Instead of entering 60 degrees, type in 180 degrees and hit Copy. Place your duplicated pattern snugly into the polygon and make sure all elements line up perfectly. Any misalignment will produce gaps in your pattern.

Make a Kaleidoscope Pattern with Illustrator in Three Simple Steps — Copy and Rotate

Group all components of the pattern, then delete the polygon framework you set up earlier in the tutorial. Duplicate the kaleidoscope pattern and place it along an adjacent edge. Rinse and repeat until you’ve produce a seamless kaleidoscope, like the one below. Take your time when lining up each component, since keeping your pattern continuous is the key to an impressive kaleidoscope.

Make a Kaleidoscope Pattern with Illustrator in Three Simple Steps — Finished Pattern


Interested in more ways to make the most out of Illustrator’s tools and effects? Check out these essential articles: