In today’s tutorial, we're going to embark on a mystical journey and learn how to create our very own dream catcher in Affinity Designer. Using a step-by-step workflow, we’re going to see how we can achieve a detailed illustration with the help of a few basic geometric shapes in combination with some stroke lines here and there.
If that sounds interesting, quickly grab a fresh cup of coffee and let’s
The Origin and Meaning of Dream Catchers
Before we jump straight into the tutorial, I want to take a couple of moments and talk about the history and deep meaning that this sacred hoop carries within it.
From an ethnographic perspective, the dream catcher is thought to have
originated from within the Ojibwe people
(also known as the Chippewa, or as
they called themselves the Anishinaabe)
which were an Algonquian speaking
North American tribe, who in 1500 occupied what is now Ontario and Manitoba (in
Canada) and Minnesota and North Dakota (in the U.S.).
According to the Eagle Spirit Ministry, the existence of this mystical talisman derives
from the legend of the Asibikaashi
(the Spider Woman), in which an old grandmother who served as the spiritual
protector of the people could no longer watch over all the babies due to the growth and expansion of the tribe to all four corners of the
To overcome this, she crafted what we now call a dream catcher, by taking a willow hoop and spinning a web around its center, which would then be placed above the sleeping place, where the sunlight could hit it.
Since the Native Americans believed that the night air was filled with dreams, both good and bad, the sacred hoop would attract and catch all the bad ones, which would be burnt by the light of day. The good ones would pass through its center and gently slide down the feathers onto the sleeper.
From a metaphorical perspective, the shape of the dream catcher is deeply tied to the natural world, where the hoop represents the circle of life as well as the passing of the sun and moon across the sky. The feathers act as a smooth ladder meant to carefully carry the dreams onto the person underneath, while the beads are thought to symbolize the spider that wove the web. The web itself is connected to the hoop with the help of eight nodes, which are thought to represent the legs of the spider.
I believe that knowing the history of an object is always important when deciding to use it as a symbol, since by opening the doors of knowledge you can decipher its true meaning and therefore portray it as close as possible to its true nature.
For me, the dream catcher is a powerful symbol of the Native Americans' culture, which should not only be respected but honored since it managed to withstand the passing of time and prove that our connection to nature is more powerful than we can imagine.
Even though in its original version, the design had a spider-like web, over the centuries multiple iterations were created, gradually adding beauty to function. So I decided to take the circle of life metaphor and apply it to the web in order to make it feel more geometric.
I hope that by sharing this piece of information with you, I've managed to deepen your interest in this beautiful culture. Now let's move on and start working on our little project.
1. How to Set Up a
New Project File
Assuming you already have Affinity up and running, let’s set up a New Document by going to File > New (or by using the Control-N keyboard shortcut) which we will adjust as follows:
- Type: Web
- Document Units: Pixels
- Create artboard: checked
- Page Width: 640 px
- Page Height: 640 px
- DPI: 72
2. How to Create the Hoop Frame
Now that we’ve finished setting up our document, we can start working on the actual illustration, and we will do so by creating the outer frame.
Using the Ellipse Tool (M twice), draw a 252 x 252
px circle, which we will color using
#6D96D1 and then horizontally center
align to the underlying Artboard, positioning it at a distance of 262 px from its bottom edge.
Create a smaller 240 x 240 px circle (highlighted with red), which we will position in the center of the previous one and then cut out using the Subtract function.
Give the resulting shape an outline using the Stroke method, by creating a copy of it (Control-C) which we will paste in front (Control-V) and then adjust by changing its color to
#433363, making sure to flip its Fill with
its Stroke (Shift-X). Set the Stroke’s
Width to 4 pt, and then select and group the two together using the Control-G keyboard shortcut.
Quick tip: from this point on, I strongly recommend you organize the different sections of the illustration using groups, which you can rename within the Layers panel, making it easier to identify and edit them if you need to later on.
3. How to Create the Woven Web
Once we’ve created our outer frame, we can gradually add the geometric web one shape at a time, as we will see in the following moments.
Create four 120 x 120 px circles
with a 4 pt Stroke (
#433363), which we will position in the inner section of
the frame’s outline as seen in the reference image, making sure their strokes overlap. Take your time, and
once you’re done, move on to the next step.
Add the remaining web segments using four more 120 x 120 px circles with a 4
pt Stroke (
#433363), which we will diagonally position on the frame as
seen in the reference image. Once you’re done, select and group all the circles
together using the Control-G
Next, we need to add the little center cutout to the web, which we will create using a clipping object. First, create a 240 x 240 px circle (highlighted with red), from the center of which we will cut out a smaller 24 x 24 px one.
Once you have the clipping object, all you need to do is go to the Layers panel and drag and position the grouped circles within the larger shape.
As soon as you’ve masked the circles, you can select the clipping object and remove its Fill color so that you can have a clear view of the background.
Give the center hole an outline using a 24 x 24 px circle with a 4
pt Stroke, which we will color using
Add the little
binding nodes using eight 12 x 12 px circles
#433363), which we will position at the following intersections.
Select the Pen Tool (P) and, using a 4 pt thick Stroke (
#433363) with a Round Cap, draw the little string segments holding the web to the
frame. Use three 10 px tall
segments for each group.
Add the main shape for the hanging string segment using a 16 x 16 px circle with a 4 pt thick Stroke (
#433363), which we will position above the frame at a
distance of just 8 px from its
outline’s top edge.
Since we want to adjust the lower section of the circle, we’ll first have to select it and then use the Convert to Curves function in order to get access to its nodes.
Once you’ve converted the shape, you can use the Node Tool (A) to select its bottom node, which we will push to the bottom by 12 px using the down-facing arrow key so that it ends up overlapping the outline of the frame.
Before we move on to the next part, make sure you select and group all of the shapes together using the Control-G keyboard shortcut, giving each section a descriptive name from within the Layers panel.
4. How to Create the Feathers
Next, we’re going to focus on the lower section of the dream catcher and create the three feathers which help all the good dreams slide down onto the person that it’s protecting.
Start working on the central feather by creating a 24 x 28 px triangle (
#6D96D1) using the Triangle Tool, which we will center align to the underlying Artboard and then position at a
distance of 72 px from the frame’s
bottom binding strings.
Add the lower section of the feather using a 24 x 60 px rectangle, which we will color using
#6D96D1 and then
position below the smaller triangle.
Adjust the bottom corners of the shape that we’ve just created by selecting them using the Corner Tool (C), and then setting their Radius to 12 px.
Select the two shapes and unite them into a single larger one using the Add function.
Give the resulting shape a 4 pt thick
#433363), making sure to select and group the two shapes together
afterwards using the Control-G
Create the first color segment using a 12 x 16 px rectangle (
#FFFAE9), which we will adjust by pushing its
right nodes to the bottom by 12
px. Give the resulting shape a 4 pt thick
#433363), grouping (Control-G)
and then positioning the two on the right side of the feather as seen in the
Make a copy (Control-C > Control-V) of the outline that we’ve just created, and position it below so that the strokes overlap.
Add the left-sided details using a copy (Control-C > Control-V) of the ones that we’ve just finished working on, which we will vertically reflect (right click > Transform > Flip Vertical). Position the copies on the opposite side of the feather as seen in the reference image, making sure to switch the position of the filled detail with the outlined one.
Create the shaft and the string segment connecting the feather to the
lower section of the frame using a 160
px tall 4 pt thick Stroke line (
#433363), which we will
position at a distance of 8 px from
the feather’s outline.
Add the bottom blue bead using an 8
x 8 px circle (
#6D96D1) with a 4 pt thick
#433363), which we will group and then position on the string, at a
distance of 54 px from the frame’s bottom
Create the red bead using a 16 x
12 px rounded rectangle (
#F76A4D) with a 4 px corner Radius and 4 pt thick outline (
#433363), which we
will group (Control-G) and then
position above the previous one, making sure their strokes overlap.
Add the top bead using a copy (Control-C > Control-V) of the blue one, which we will reposition so that its outline now overlaps that of the red bead.
Add the little node holding the beads in place using an 8 x 8 px circle, which we will color
#433363 and then position onto the top bead’s outline as seen in the
reference image. Once you’re done, select and group all of the current
feather’s composing shapes together using the Control-G keyboard shortcut.
Create the left feather, using a copy (Control-C > Control-V) of the one that we’ve just finished working on, which we will position on the left side of the frame.
Adjust the copy that we’ve just created by increasing the length of the feather’s string from 160 px to 208 px.
Finish off the dream catcher, and with it the project itself, by adding the right feather using a copy (Control-C > Control-V) of the one that we’ve just adjusted, which we will position on the opposite side. Once you’re done, select and group (Control-G) all of the shapes together before hitting that save button.
As always, I hope that you’ve managed to follow each and every step, and most importantly learned something new and useful.
Also, if you have any questions feel free to post them within the comments section and I’ll get back to you as soon as I can!