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Geometric Design: The Lotfallah Mosque Dome

This post is part of a series called Geometric Design for Beginners.
Geometric Design: A Celtic Grid
Geometric Design: Armenian Knot
Final product image
What You'll Be Creating

This wonderful dome design of the Sheikh Lotfallah Mosque in Ispahan, Iran, is based on a very interesting pattern that shows harmonic growth. We are going to approximate the pattern itself, that is the almond shapes radiating from the center. The more organic vine decoration can then be added freehand, or substituted for any ornamentation you like.

The dome of Sheikh Lotfallah Mosque in Ispahan Iran
Photo by Phillip Maiwald. License: CC BY-SA 3.0

The construction is not very complicated, but accuracy is more important than ever, so make sure your compass point is sharpened, and take your time to be extra precise when joining points.

1. Draw the First Ring

Step 1

Draw a circle and the six circles that divide it into six (see Working With 6 and 12).

Harmonic pattern step 1

Step 2

Divide one of the arcs in two by joining two of the points formed by the intersections of these outer circles. All we actually need is the point on the central circle.

Harmonic pattern step 2

Step 3

Starting from that point, walk the compass around to draw another six circles.

Harmonic pattern step 3

Step 4

Find one of the fish-scale-shaped areas that touch the inner circle, and join its four points. A square appears!

Harmonic pattern step 4

Step 5

Draw all 12 squares around the circle.

Harmonic pattern step 5

2. Draw the Second Ring

Step 1

Now we're going to draw the next ring of squares. Place the dry point on the point between two squares, and open it to the equivalent point after next, so it embraces two squares. Draw the circle.

Harmonic pattern step 6

Step 2

Repeat with each of the 12 points. You'll find the fish-scale shape again, larger than in the first ring. Draw the square inside it.

Harmonic pattern step 7

Step 3

Repeat all around to create a second ring of squares.

Harmonic pattern step 8

3. Draw the Third Ring

Step 1

To add a ring, repeat the previous few steps: Place the dry point where two squares touch, open to the point after next, and draw a circle.

Harmonic pattern step 9

Step 2

Repeat all around.

Harmonic pattern step 10

Step 3

Find the first square.

Harmonic pattern step 11

Step 4

Draw all the squares around this third ring.

Harmonic pattern step 12


We could stop here and stay with the squares, which form our basic grid. They form a striking arrangement in themselves, particularly when more rings are added.

Variant with squares

Filling each square with a motif (geometric or freehand) is time-consuming, but the end result is simply smashing.

Variant with squares filled and coloured

We are going to carry on, however, to create the almond shapes seen in our model.

4. Create the Almond Shapes 

Step 1

Now we have to work on one square at a time, so let's zoom in.

Harmonic pattern step 13

Step 2

The two guidelines that intersect inside the square actually indicate the centre of the square. But if you don't have guidelines for some reason, just draw the diagonals to find that centre.

Harmonic pattern step 14

Step 3

Draw the circle inscribed in the square.

Harmonic pattern step 15

Step 4

Repeat all around that ring.

Harmonic pattern step 16

Step 5

Do the next ring.

Harmonic pattern step 17

Step 6

Carry on till every square has been done.

Harmonic pattern step 18

5. Finishing

Step 1

All that is left now is to ink the almond shapes as follows. The points always point towards the centre of the original circle—otherwise you get quite a different design!

Harmonic pattern step 19

Step 2

Complete the inking.

Harmonic pattern step 20

Great Work, You're Done!

You are then free to simply colour it, or add intricate ornaments inside each almond. The finished version below has two additional rings. The more rings, the more impressive the result!

Harmonic pattern finalized

The pattern we just completed is an infinite pattern with a defined centre and rate of growth. Next lesson, we turn to a finite motif that also begins with 12 circles, for a highly intricate result!

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