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Three Ways to Create Celtic Knots in Illustrator

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In this tutorial, we'll explain how to create magical Celtic knots. Ornaments accompanied Celts in life and in death. Ornaments decorated clothes, books, furniture, ware, weapons, and gravestones. I'll show you three ways to create Celtic knots in vector - from simple to the difficult. The last techniques allows one to create knots of any complexity. Intrigued? Read more!

Final Image Preview

Below are the Celtic knots we will be working towards in this tutorial. Want access to the full Vector Source files and downloadable copies of every tutorial, including this one? Join Vector Plus for just 9$ a month.

Tutorial Details

  • Program: Adobe Illustrator CS3
  • Difficulty: Intermediate
  • Estimated Completion Time: 60 minutes
final

Step 1

Let's open a new document in Illustrator (File > New) and enter the size 600 px by 600 px (but you can choose any size you want). I used the CMYK color mode to use it for printing.

Now select the Rounded Rectangle Tool, and create a rounded rectangle without fill, and with a black stroke. The radius can be changed by pressing the arrows up or down button, while keeping the left button of the mouse held down.

Step 2

Open the Appearance and Stroke palettes and create multiple strokes as shown.

Step 3

Select a Rounded Rectangle and go to Object > Transform > Rotate, then enter the angle 90 and press the Copy button.

Step 4

Select both rounded rectangles and apply Object > Expand Appearance, and then Object > Expand.

Step 5

Select the Live Paint Bucket (K), then fill a few areas with white as shown below

Step 6

Change the fill to black and fill in areas as shown.

To convert the Live Paint group into individual paths press Expand on the top tool panel. Now group (Command + G) all the objects.

Step 7

Select the Ellipse Tool and create an ellipse without a fill and a black stroke. Align them along the vertical and horizontal as shown.

Step 8

Select the ellipse and create multiple strokes (see Step 2).

Step 9

Select the ellipses, go to Object > Expand Appearance, Object > Expand. Select all objects and apply a Live Paint Bucket (K) (see steps 5 and 6).

Step 10

Select the Live Paint Bucket (K), set the fill to black and fill in areas as shown below.

I congratulate you! The first simple ornament is ready!

Step 11

The second way. Now we start weaving the ornament from three simple elements. For convenience of work go to View > Show Grid. Create the first element. Select the Rounded Rectangle Tool and create a rounded rectangle without fill and a black stroke.

Step 12

Select a path and add two points as shown. Select the Scissors Tool (C), cut the left and right new anchor points and delete the right bottom part of the path.

Step 13

Create multiple strokes.

Step 14

Create the second element. Duplicate the first element. Select the Scissors Tool (C), cut the top anchor point and delete the right part of the path.

Step 15

Select the Pen Tool (P) and add a new point as in the image below.

Step 16

Let's create the third element. Now duplicate the first element. Select the Scissors Tool (C), cut the top-left anchor point and delete the top part of the path. Drag the top point up as shown.

Select all elements and go to Object > Expand Appearance, and also apply Object > Expand.

Step 17

Duplicate, rotate elements and start to make an ornament.

The second simple, Celtic ornament is finished!

Step 18

The third way. Let's create a more difficult ornament. Select the Ellipse Tool and create an ellipse without fill, and a black stroke. Duplicate the ellipse and move it up and to the right.

Step 19

Select the Scissors Tool (C), cut the top anchor points on both ellipses. Now drag the anchor points downwards a little.

Step 20

Select the left point of the left ellipse and the right point of the right ellipse. Go to Object > Path > Average, and select Both. Then apply Object > Path > Join.

Step 21

Drag the handles and we will give a more complete view of the curve.

Step 22

We apply a similar action with the right point of the left ellipse and the left point of the right ellipse.

Step 23

Open the Appearance and stroke palettes and create a multiple stroke as shown.

Step 24

Let's create illusion that the path crosses. Select the Scissors Tool (C), cut the path as shown below.

Step 25

Let's disguise the places where the cuts are.

Select the path, and place it above all.

Select the blue stroke in the Appearance palette and press on the Round Cap in the Stroke palette. Now the cut areas are disguised. Group both paths (Command + G).

Step 26

Select the group and go to Object > Transform > Reflect, and press Copy.

Step 27

Select the first group and rotate it 45 degrees (Object > Transform > Rotate). Select the second group and rotate it -45 degrees.

Step 28

Change the vertical sizes of the groups as shown.

Step 29

We'll now apply techniques from Steps 24 and 25. Remember that at the crossing of two paths one is to pass above and another passes below, moving further on that path that was from above we should hide this line on following crossing downwards. Observe alternations below to avoid errors.

Ungroup all paths (Shift + Command + G). Scissor part of the path and go to Object > Arrange > Bring to Front.

Step 30

Select all objects and go to Object > Expand Appearance, and then Object > Expand. Select all blue elements of the first shape and apply a gradient as shown.

Now select all blue elements of the second shape and apply a gradient.

Conclusion

The final celtic knot is ready! The last set of techniques allow you to create knots of any complexity.

Here is an alternate version of the final series of techniques. Have fun creating your own!

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