Circle of Stars in Adobe Illustrator

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The following tutorial comes out of a great question sent to me via email from Daniel Bosic, a Layers Magazine Tips of the Day reader from Canada. He asked if there is a way in Illustrator to create stars that follow around a circular path – 12 five-pointed default stars, all the same size with all of their top points pointing straight up, to be exact.“Sounds simple enough,” I thought. “Something I can easily do with the Rotate tool. Or I can even make a simple Pattern Brush.” But when I tried these possibilities, I realized that neither would work. The top point of the star points out from the circle, not straight up like in the European Union logo (with a circle of 12 stars) or the original American flag (with 13 stars in a circle). I pondered, “Is this even possible?” Follow the steps below and see for yourself.Open a new document in Illustrator. Draw a star with the Star tool by clicking with the tool, typing in a size, and pressing OK. Click again with the tool a distance away from the first to draw a second star of exactly the same size.Select the Blend tool (W) and click on the top point of the first Star, then Option-click (Alt-click on PC) on the top point of the second star. In the dialog that opens, select Specified Steps from the Spacing popup and specify 11 steps. (One more than you actually need. You’ll see why later.)Click with the Ellipse tool (L) to draw a circle.Then select both the circle and the Blend by marqueeing across both with the Selection tool. Go to Object>Blend>Replace Spine and the circle will become the new Spine of the Blend.The stars will follow around most, but not all, of the circle. To fix this, first turn on Smart Guides (View> Smart Guides) if they’re not already on. Select the circular Spine with the Group Selection tool (hidden under the Direct Select tool). Choose your Scissors tool (C) and click on the top cen-ter anchor point of the circle to cut it, which makes it an open path. Because the Spine now has a beginning and an end, the stars will stretch around the entire circle. The last star is directly above the first. (That’s the reason for the extra Specified Step in the Blend.)Add any finishing touches. Sit back and admire your work! You’ve just accomplished the impossible.

37 Comments

  • sluce says:

    whoa! very nice! can see using this trick soon!

  • kevin says:

    Great tip!

  • Jeff,

    This solution was positively brilliant. I can just picture the gerbils running in their cage as you tried to figure out the solution to Daniel’s conundrum.

    Never say die. 🙂

    ~Annie

  • Derrick says:

    thank you so much! i was going crazy trying to figure this out!

  • Harry says:

    That was great indeed, is there a way to do it on Photoshop CS3 please? Thank you.

  • Brian says:

    the tutorial was great, but now I need you to take it a step further. I want to make a peace sign out of stars…is there anyway to ensure the circle and the inner part can line up symmetrically and retain the same amount of spacing in between the stars as in the circle part?

  • Otis says:

    each stars must rotate!

  • haris says:

    it’s very fine please sent me more Mr. Daniel

  • Thomas says:

    Or you could just use the polar grid to make a GUIDE…Just set the radial divider number to 12. Seems easier and more intuitive to me.

  • Ronald Stepp says:

    Couldn’t you just break the circle into 11 segments and use smart guides to copy a single star 12 times and click select the center of each of your 12 copies and drag them to the 12 anchor points between the 11 segments? Admittedly I do have a script with will break a path into equal segments.

  • Jeff Witchel says:

    Hi Ronald,

    Yes!

    But setting it up as a Blend is faster.

    And what if you decided to change from 12 to 13 stars? As a blend, you can just go to Object>Blend>Blend Options and make the change to 13 and press OK. You’re done! 13 perfectly space stars around a circle.

    Ace

  • Michel Pettigrew says:

    Oh yeah! Thanks!

  • porsellvan says:

    great work, thanks, please send me more tips

  • Jeff says:

    You can sign up for the “Layers magazine Tips of the Day” @ http://www.layersmagazine.com (half way down the right side of the Layers Magazine home page).

    Ace

  • jaime says:

    wow, what a nice tut!

  • mz says:

    wow, there seems to be an answer to every question i have on the internets. this one was bugging me. it was so simple to do in freehand, a couple of simple steps. i was cursing adobe as i was reading my tutorial book as i couldnt find the solution and here it..all be it a tad more complicated than it should be…hope adobe incorporate the best of freehand into their illustrator soon.

  • mz says:

    in my fume, i forgot to add, well done for figuring this out and thank you…i owe you a coke!

  • Conny says:

    When I do these kind of stuff I always use the rotate tool.

    Make the star and keep it selected ->
    Choose the rotate-tool in the menu ->
    Alt-click in what will become the center of the ring of stars ->
    Type in 360/12 for 12 stars (thats 360 degrees divided in 12->
    Just copy until you have 12 stars in a perfect circle with stars rotating with the circle.

    Thats just my way of doing it

  • Jeff (AdobeAce) says:

    Hi Connie,

    If you try it with the Rotate tool, you’ll see why it doesn’t work. Normally I would do the same thing, but with a star…the top point of the star will no longer be pointing straight up as it’s rotated.

    Jeff

  • Tanker says:

    I have tried this 3 to 4 times with no result. My stars are not staying pointed up. they are rotating with the circle. I have followed every step…

  • Jeff (AdobeAce) says:

    Hi Tanker,

    In your Blend Options (Object>Blend>Blend Options), make sure your Blend Orientation is to the PAGE, not the PATH.

    Jeff

  • Tanker says:

    Hi Jeff,
    Thanks a lot for your post. I have tried it again and it worked. I have been wanting to do this since I have noticed the Euro flag. The CNN Situation Room has a similar arrangement but some of their stars at the bottom of the ring are not straight. The Oval Office carpeting is supposed to be the same way if I am not mistaken…

  • ohbrutha says:

    I was looking everywhere to find an easy way to make a circular array of any object in Illustrator. Half of the people said to try a different program, the other half had extremely difficult and involved tutorials. THIS IS GREAT and super simple!! Not only can I use this to make an array of the same sized/colored objects, but if I just adjust the size or color of either object at the end of the blend it opens up all sorts of options. Arrays of objects of diminishing sizes. Arrays that blend from one color to the next, etc., etc. Can’t thank you enough! Fantastic tutorial!

  • Jeff (AdobeAce) says:

    Hi ohbrutha,

    Thanks! Glad you liked it.

    Jeff

  • Spiffy Mom says:

    That was an awesome tutorial!! Thank you tons! It’s EXACTLY what I needed.

  • rajesh says:

    Thanks ! This kinds of tutorial, I increase my knowledge.

  • Jesus says:

    great tips!! thanks a lot!

  • suntosh says:

    Thanks !

  • Wilma says:

    Now that was positively useful!! Thanks much Jeff!

  • Jana Roberts says:

    Penny wise and pound foolish

  • Eric says:

    Thank you for the tips! I’m wondering if all the stars can be made pointing to center?

  • Julian says:

    I’m designing a dial calendar with marks for days/weeks/months, and I was stuck on replacing the spine and distributing all the way around the circle until reading this. Thank you!

  • Eric Hedden says:

    I should point out that this method places two of the stars over top of each other (the final shows only 12 stars). You need to add another star.

  • Shep says:

    Thanks Jeff! I was trying to apply all that math they told me I was gonna need throughout my life….

  • Vishal says:

    Great tutorial ! Thanks !

  • Rona says:

    Great, just saved my butt a ton of time! Easier than marching stars around a circle one by one!