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Quick Tip: Make a Vector Gear in 7 Simple Steps

posted by Matt Ward on Jul 18, 2009.

Today’s Quick Tip is a simple 7 step tutorial on how to create a really basic shape in Illustrator. When I say simple, I really do mean simple. I can run through these steps in about 2 minutes flat! Of course, if you’re reading and following along it will probably take you a bit longer […]

Today’s Quick Tip is a simple 7 step tutorial on how to create a really basic shape in Illustrator. When I say simple, I really do mean simple. I can run through these steps in about 2 minutes flat! Of course, if you’re reading and following along it will probably take you a bit longer than that, but it should still be a very simple process.

So, here we go.

Step 1

Create a new document of 1000px by 1000px. I use these dimensions because they are nice and even, and because it is really easy to find the center point, and important feature for what we’re going to be doing here.

Create a New Document

Create a New Document

Step 2

Create a new circle, with a width of 500px and a height of 500px. Align this circle to the middle of the art board. You can either use the alignment tools or set the X and Y coordinates to 500px each (making sure that the reference point is set to the middle).

Create a new circle shape

Creare a new circle shape and align it to the middle of the art board

Step 3

In order to create the teeth of the gear, we are going to create a star shape. First, select the star tool and click on the art board. Input the following settings and click OK.

Create a new star shape with these properties

Create a new star shape with these properties

Note that the number of points that we create on our star will be the same number of teeth that we will have on our gear. Feel free to vary this number to get more or fewer teeth.

Step 4

Once again, align the shape to the center of the art board. This will ensure that the star and the circle are perfectly lined up for step 5.

Align the star to the center of the art board

Align the star to the center of the art board

Step 5

Open the pathfinder palette. Select both the circle and the star, then click the unite button.

Caption

Use the unite tool to fuse the two shapes

This will fuse the two shapes together into a new shape, which looks more like a sun than either a circle or a star. It should like something like this:

Caption

Your new shape should look like this

Step 6

Now, create another circle, with a width of 700px by 700px, and align the circle to the center of the art board, just like we did before. We are going to be using this circle to trim off the tips of our “sun” in order to transform it into the desired gear.

caption

Create a new circle

Step 7

With the new circle in front, select both it and our sun shape. Open the pathfinder palette (if it isn’t still open) and click the intersect button.

caption

Select both shapes and use the intersect tool

The intersect tool will create a new shape based on the overlapping areas of our two selected shapes – in others words, the parts of the shape that intersect. I use this tool quite a bit less than I use unite and minus front, but it’s still a great tool to know.

That’s it! We’re all done. The result should be a gear like this:

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Your finished gear should look like this

I promised it was simple. You can use this same technique to make all sorts of different gear shapes. Just vary the parameters of the three key shapes. I already mentioned that you can get more teeth on your gear by making more points on your star. Playing around with radius 1 and radius 2 will also get you different results, as will differing the size of the two circles.

So go on and create a whole collection of gears! Or, use the same techniques to play around with creating other, more complex types of shapes. Hope you found this Quick Tip useful!

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Also from Echo Enduring Media:

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About the Author

Matt Ward is a digital artist who lances freely under the moniker of Echo Enduring Media, and specializes in graphics design, illustration and writing. He is also the Creative Director for Highland Marketing, a creative direct marketing company based out of Waterloo, Ontario. You can follow Matt on Twitter

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Comments

Apr 26, 2010

Rob says:

Thanks. Worked perfect.

Apr 29, 2010

John says:

Perfect! I’d been struggling with making a good gear all day, not sure why I didn’t think of this!

BTW, as of CS4, this works in Flash as well (since they introduced the Polystar tool)

Aug 26, 2011

nadeem says:

goog tricks thanks

Jan 17, 2012

Stefano says:

Hi Matt…thanks for your very useful and simple tip. It didn’t spring to mind using the pathfinder. Cheers

Feb 8, 2012

Summer says:

awesome. Simple, clean, concise – great tutorial!

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