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Create a Nautical Tattoo Style Design for a Craft Project

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Read Time: 13 min

With this tutorial I would like to show you how to create a pattern for a seamstress to use to decorate a tote bag. We'll be using our previously created Nautical Alphabet as well as simple shapes and a lot of the rotate copies tool to render various nautical themed elements that will adorn a tote bag beautifully.

1. Set Up Your Document

Let's begin by opening our previously created Nautical Alphabet file and selecting the necessary letters to complete our phrase. This is a cross over tutorial and my partner came up with the phrase "Totes Awesome". It's a nice play on words since the finished piece will eventually be hand stitched on to a tote bag.

The final size of the piece will be determined by the size of the tote bag itself. For now we'll just work off of the original size of the Nautical Alphabet we created before. Once completed the artist who will stitch it to the tote bag can resize accordingly.

Step 1

With the page set up we will need to copy the "A", "E", "M", "O", "S", "T", and the "W" from our premade alphabet then paste them into a new document in Sketch. Now arrange the letters and re-copy some of them to complete the words you wish to create.

Once you have the words created you can arrange them on the page. I will be putting each word on its own line and aligning them as seen below.


2. Create a Text Ribbon

Step 1

Most nautical tattoos tend to have the text written on a banner or ribbon. We'll recreate that now.

To begin select the Rounded (U) tool and draw a rounded rectangle around the words. The exact size doesn't necessarily matter at this point. We're going for a "Hand Crafted" look so nothing needs to be too precise at this point. We're really only using these boxes as guides for a later step.


Step 2

With the rectangles in place switch to the Vector (V) tool and trace the outline of the rectangles. We'll be adding tail ends and connections between these two squares to make our ribbon. When tracing the rectangle themselves don't do so too evenly, we want a bit of sway and jitter to the over all shape.

With the shape completed let's apply a stroke using the same color as our lettering and also fill it with a solid white color We'll be using this same fill throughout the piece so hold on to it.


Step 3

Now that we have the main shape out of the way select the Vector (V) tool again and where the ribbon would overlap and flow draw paths to indicate that ribbon overlaps the elements behind it.


Step 4

Let's finish up the ribbon by adding in some hatched lines to indicate simple shading on the folds of the ribbon. Enable the Line (L) tool and draw parallel lines in the areas where the ribbon wraps behind itself. Adding more lines closer together will give the impression of a darker shadow where as shorted farther spaced lines will indicate less shadow.


3. Make a Ships Wheel

Step 1

Select the Oval (O) tool and draw a perfect circle that is 1225 x 1225px. Then copy this circle and shrink it to 880 x 880px centering the two as seen below.


Step 2

Select both of these circles simultaneously and then visit Edit > Combine > Subtract to cut out the smaller circle from the larger on.


Step 3

Duplicate this ring shape and resize the copy to be 242 x 242px centered inside the larger ring.


Step 4

Enable the Oval (O) tool once again and draw a circle that is 72 x 72px and center it within the larger ring itself. I have filled it with the same color as the border.


Step 5

With this small circle selected visit Edit > Paths > Rotate Copies and enter 7 as the number of copies which will give us a total of eight circles. Once you hit OK you can drag the circle handle in the middle of the copies to expand the number of copies so that it aligns the copies inside the larger ring as well.


Step 6

Select the Rectangle (R) tool and create a rectangle that is 82 x 185px and align it to the top of the larger ring. Then switch to the Oval (O) tool and make a circle that is 117 x 117px and align it to the top of the rectangle we just made.


Step 7

Select both the circle and the rectangle and visit Edit > Combine > Union to merge them into one shape.

This made a grouping of the two shapes in the layers panel which would be great if we needed to edit the individual shapes later but since we don't we will visit Edit > Paths > Flatten to set the shape permanently.


Step 8

With out new shape selected click the Edit tool from the toolbar then click on the two points where the circle met with the rectangle.

Near the toolbar at top you can select the last option which will allow you to enter a custom rounded angle to the two points we selected. Go ahead and change this to 20px then nudge the points down by holding the Shift key and pressing the Down Arrow on the keyboard once.


Step 9

Switch to the Rounded (U) tool and create a rounded rectangle that is 164 x 90px and align it to the bottom of the handle shape we just made so the midway point touches the edges of the larger ring shape as seen below.


Step 10

Now, unfortunately, you can't rotate copies of grouped items so we will need to rotate the elements that make up the handles separately. So, like we did with the circles inside the ring you will need to select a shape and visit Edit > Paths > Rotate Copies and enter 7 as the number of copies which will give us a total of eight. Do this for both of the shapes we just created.


Step 11

Select the Rectangle (R) tool and create a rectangle that is 82px wide. The height doesn't matter just make sure it fits inside the larger ring of the wheel.

With this rectangle selected use the Rotate Copies feature again to finish off the spokes inside the wheel.


Step 12

Now align the wheel behind the ribbon of text in a position you feel comfortable with.


4. Create a Flower

Step 1

Enable the Rectangle (R) tool and create a square that is 294 x 294px then choose Edit > Transform > Rotate Layer and rotate it on it's axis 45 degrees. You can also do so from the Inspector panel.


Step 2

Switch to the Oval (O) tool and create a circle that is 238 x 238px. Now duplicate this circle and align them so the center of the circles meet the middle point in our now diamond shape.


Step 3

Select the 2 circle shapes together then visit Edit > Combine > Union. Now visit Edit > Paths > Flatten to set the shape.


Step 4

Select the flatten circle shapes and the diamond shape and join those as well using Edit > Combine > Union. Don't flatten this new union just yet.

With the conjoined shape selected switch to the Edit tool. This will highlight all of the different shapes and the points that make them up. Select the top most point of the diamond shape and delete it creating a triangle. Now select the bottom three points of the conjoined circle shape and delete those as well.


Step 5

Since the circles were made up of stretches handles the circle will try to continue giving an unwanted loop effect below the conjoined circle shape. To fix this, select the two bottom anchor points then change the handle type in the toolbar at the top to the 4th option in which will allow you to move the handles independently. You can then drag the bottom handle up so that the bottom edge is now flat against the triangle shape.

Now visit Edit > Paths > Flatten to set the shape.


Step 6

With the new heart shape selected enable the Edit tool again and select the two anchor points on either end then near the tool bar at the top you can choose the last option which will let you choose a custom rounded percentage for those anchor points. In this case I'm using 60px to give it a nice smooth heart shape.


Step 7

Now select the top middle anchor point and while holding Shift on the keyboard press the Up key twice. You can now change this rounded percentage to 30px.


Step 8

With one of our petal complete you can now visit Edit > Paths > Rotate Copies and enter 3 as the number of copies which will give us a total of four petals. Then drag the rotate handle so that the petals barely touch.

I've then added a style to the petals as seen below.


Step 9

Duplicate these petal shapes and then shrink it to fit within the larger petals and change the fill to a flat white. The exact size doesn't matter just so long as you're happy with it.


Step 10

Switch tot he Oval (O) tool and create a circle that is 161 x 161px and center inside the petals.

Now create another circle that is 44 x 44px align it to the center of the larger circle but along the top.


Step 11

Now visit Edit > Paths > Rotate Copies and enter 11 as the number of copies then drag the rotate handle to align them to the larger circle we created a second ago.


Step 12

Our main flower is done but let's add some leaves. To do so enable the Oval (O) tool and create a circle that is 360 x 360px.


Step 13

Switch to the Edit tool and choose the anchor point to the far right and drag it out to the right crating an oblong shape. Now select the first option in the anchor point type picker near the top toolbar.


Step 14

Select the top anchor point and choose the third anchor point type from the picker near the top tool bar then drag the right handle of that anchor point over to the right to smooth out the transition.

Repeat this process for the bottom anchor point as well.


Step 15

Select the left anchor point and drag that out as well. No need to adjust any handles.


Step 16

Enable the Rectangle (R) tool and draw a square of any size you like so long as it is larger than the leaf shape we just created. Now rotate it 45 degrees and align it with the back of the leaf shape.


Step 17

Duplicate this diamond shape several times to make striations in the leaf shape.


Step 18

Select the leaf shape then visit Edit > Use as Mask and this will block out all of the layers above the leaf layer.

If you have other layers above this leaf shape that you wish to not be affected you can select them in the Layers panel and then go to Edit > Ignore Underlying Mask.


Step 19

Switch to the Vector (V) tool and draw a shape inside the leaf from the point to the other end and back again to create a stem.


Step 20

You can now adjust the location of the leaf behind the flower and duplicate and rotate it to another position to balance it out.

Once completed you can add it to your composition as seen below.


5. Create a Nautical Star

Step 1

Enable the Star tool from the Shape menu and create a star that is 784 x 784px.


Step 2

Duplicate this shape and change the fill options as seen below.


Step 3

Switch to the Edit tool select all the anchor points except for the top most, the bottom middle, and the middle right (in the crook of the star) then delete them to leave a triangle shape.

Select the bottom most point and drag it up towards the center of the star. You'll know you've reached the center if you divide the size of the star in half and look for the dimensions in the Inspector panel. This triangle should be 392px high.


Step 4

Exit out of Edit mode and visit Edit > Paths > Rotate Copies and enter 4 into the number of copies making a total of five triangle pieces. You can then drag the rotate handle so that the points of the triangles line up with the points of the star.


Step 5

You can now add it to the main composition as seen below. I've also taken the liberty of duplicating this star and rotating it adding the duplicate to the top of the composition.


6. Create a Rope

Let's tie it all together with a rope. Get it?… "Tie it all toge…" never mind.

Unfortunately Sketch doesn't have a tool that will let you create a custom pattern on a stroke like Illustrator does. For this next step we will have a bit of work ahead of us so brace yourself.

Step 1

Enable the Vector (V) tool and draw a looping path that suits your fancy. Keep in mind you're trying to balance out the piece and fill any dead space. You can see what I have done below. I've kept the composition on so you can see how the rope will interact with the scene.


Step 2

Switch to the Rounded (U) tool and create a pill shape that is 30 x 60px.


Step 3

With this pill shape selected enable the Transform (command + T) tool and while grabbing the top center handle drag it to the right to skew the shape.


Step 4

Here comes the tedious part. You know that path we made earlier? Well now you have to take this skewed pill shape and copy it over and over, rotating it as you move along the length of this path. Try to work smart. Since the rope loops a lot you can copy and paste a few of these skewed shapes at a time to move a little faster.

Once you're rope is done you can select all the layers and Group them together. I'll wait here till you're done.


Step 5

Switch to the Vector (V) tool and draw shapes around the area's that you wish to keep visible. We're making a mask so the shapes you create will be seen while the empty shapes won't. This seems strange since you're working in reverse.

I found it easier to work with multiple shapes, then I drew random shapes with the Vector tool to connect these separate shapes and used the Union feature to join them all together and Flatten them to make a single shape.


Step 6

Once you have the mask made you can position directly below the rope grouping in the Layers panel and then with the shape we created selected, visit Edit > Use as Mask



Anchors Aweigh!

Our design is finally complete! We're ready to export the piece and send to our partner ready to stitch our design onto a cute tote bag. You can find out how to embroid this design onto a tote bag over on Crafttuts+.

I hope I was able to show you how to use the rotate tool proficiently as well as show you a few tricks for masking objects.

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