Unlimited PS Actions, graphics, videos & courses! Unlimited asset downloads! From $16.50/m
  1. Design & Illustration
  2. Patterns

How to Create a Traditional Indian Kolam Pattern in Adobe Illustrator

Final product image
What You'll Be Creating

Kolam is a form of drawing that is drawn by using rice flour/chalk/chalk powder/rock powder often using naturally/synthetically colored powders as Wikipedia says. A Kolam is a geometrical line drawing composed of curved loops, which is drawn around a grid pattern of dots. In South India it is widely practiced by female Hindu family members in front of their houses. More complex Kolams are drawn and colors are often added during holiday occasions and special events.

When I was requested to create a Kolam pattern, I thought it might be interesting to do so. And the more you search, the more interesting it becomes. So I tried to recreate the pattern drawn by rice powder by Indian women.

In this tutorial we will use the Grid and the Arc Tool. After creating the pattern, we will apply two special brushes to make it look as if the pattern was drawn using rice powder.

Let's start!

1. How to Set Up the Grid and Create a Quarter of the Pattern

Step 1

After you opened your Adobe Illustrator, create a new document with 850 px Width and Height.

Now let's set up some settings to make our future work easier. First, we will set up the Grid. Press Control-K and a new dialogue window will pop up. On the left side of this window, you will find the words Guides & Grid. Click on that and enter the options shown in the image below, and then press OK.

After that, you want to see the grid you just set up. Right-click your mouse and check Show Grid.

how to set up the grid

The last thing you want to do in order to make your job easier is to check Snap to Grid (View > Snap to Grid).

how to snap to grid

Step 2

So now we have our grid, which will help us to draw. But this grid is everywhere, even beyond the borders of the artboard. That's why we want to set some boundaries for our future pattern.

Delete the fill color and set a black stroke color. Take the Ellipse Tool (L) and draw a tiny circle. Because you checked Snap to Grid, this ellipse will sit exactly on the intersection.

how to create the special grid for the pattern

Step 3

Keep the circle selected, and immediately press the Enter button. This action means you want to move your object. In the new dialogue window, enter the options you see below, and then press Copy.

how to create the special grid for the pattern
how to move the dot horizontally

You'll notice that you just created a new copy of the tiny circle. Then press Control-D a few times to fill the width of your artboard. 

Step 4

Select the whole row that we previously created and press the Enter key again. Now we want to move the row vertically. Enter the options in the new dialogue window:

how to move the dot vertically

Fill your artboard vertically.

After you've finished creating the grid for the pattern, it's best to create a new layer where you will actually draw the pattern, so that you don't move the grid accidentally. Go to the Layers panel (Window > Layers) and hit the Create New Layer button. Then, lock the layer with the grid: click on the empty box on the left side and a tiny lock sign will appear there.

how the special grid for the pattern should look

Step 5

And now we can start to draw our pattern. Make sure you are on the right layer (the new one we just created). Choose any stroke color you like—it doesn't matter because we will change it later on.

Hit the Arc Tool and draw curves following the arrows shown below. I changed the stroke color for each of the arcs for better visibility.

how  to draw the first loop of the kolam

Step 6

Continue to draw the pattern. We will need to create squares as well (use the Rectangle Tool (M) for the squares). For the straight lines you can also use the Arc Tool, because if you stretch the curve between the two dots lying on a horizontal or vertical line, it will be a straight line.

how to continue to draw the kolam

Step 7

Continue to draw the pattern, as shown below. Notice how some shapes are not connected to others.

how to continue to draw the kolam

Step 8

Now add even more detail to your pattern, by adding in more designs.

finishing drawing the kolam

Step 9

Add a few more curves and circles (which actually look like dots). Make their stroke thicker on the Stroke panel (Window > Stroke) by increasing the stroke Weight, so they will be more visible.

adding final touches to the kolam

2. How to Multiply the Quarter of the Pattern

Step 1

So now we have a quarter of the pattern. And now we are going to multiply this quarter to get the whole pattern.

First, select the quarter, and hit the Reflect Tool (O). While holding down the Alt key, click on the middle of the grid (the one we created especially for the pattern, not the one you switched to by right-clicking > Show Grid). In the new dialogue window, enter Axis Vertical, Angle 90 degrees and press Copy. Now we've got the first half of the pattern.

how to reflect the quarter of the pattern to have the half

Step 2

And now reflect the half vertically in order to get the whole one. Select the half of the pattern, hit the Reflect Tool (O) and click just below the half. In the new dialogue window, enter Axis Horizontal, Angle 0 degrees, and press Copy.

how to reflect the half of the pattern to have the whole one

Now you can switch off the layer with the grid by clicking the button with an eye on the Layers panel (Window > Layers) and see how your pattern looks. 

how the completed pattern should look

3. How to Create the Background and Change the Brush

Step 1

Delete the stroke color and set the fill color shown below. Hit the Rectangle Tool (M) and click on your artboard. In the new dialogue window, enter 850 px Width and Height, and press OK. This will be the background.

how to create the background

Step 2

Place the background behind the pattern (Control-X, Control-B).

Select the pattern (without the background) and change its stroke color to white. To make it look more like rice powder, let's change the brush. Go to the Brushes panel (Window > Brushes), and on the bottom of the panel click on the Brush Libraries Menu and select Artistic > Artistic_ChalkCharcoalPencil > Charcoal - Rounded.

how to change the stroke color and brush

Here are the options for the new brush:

Charcoal - Rounded brush options window

Step 3

To make it more like actual art, we will make it a bit messier. Keep the pattern selected and go to the Appearance panel (Window > Appearance). Look at the top right corner of this panel and click on the button there. Find the words Add New Stroke, and press on it.

You just added a new stroke to the existing one, but they are still the same: both are white and use the same brush. We want to keep the same stroke color, but we want to change the brush. For the new stroke, go to the Artistic > Artistic_Ink > Galaxy. Be sure this Galaxy stroke stays behind the Charcoal - Rounded one. On the Appearance panel, you can drag it down.

how shoul Appearance panel look after applying two new brushes

This is what your pattern should look like once you have added the Galaxy stroke.

how the completed kolam pattern should look

Here is the Galaxy brush options window:

Galaxy brush options window


As you can see, you have successfully created an amazing image. It is quite amazing how Indian women can create this pattern just by using rice powder. I hope you enjoyed creating this wonderful image.

For more inspiration, feel free to check out GraphicRiver for more amazing images and more Indian patterns.

See you next time!

Looking for something to help kick start your next project?
Envato Market has a range of items for sale to help get you started.