As mentioned on one-or-two occasions before, tutorial videos are something I watch almost every day; I’m always really interested to see how others are achieving a result and passing that knowledge on. The tutorials often provide fuel for this blog and my YouTube channel, if there are smarter, faster ways to achieve the same result, and this is one such example—one of the tutorials (actually great in content, look and production values, btw) took fifteen minutes to achieve, was dreadfully inflexible and involved tons of copying/pasting and steps that should be completely unnecessary.
So, as I do before I write a post or record a video, I reproduce the end result a few times, then once at my “normal” speed. It is possible to complete the maze from this tutorial in a little over three minutes, and slightly faster with a tablet (it’s mega-fast on something like a Cintiq) but it’s more likely to be five or six minutes; that means you could make two or three attempts in the same time as those viewing the other tutorials, so let’s make you faster!
Start by watching the maze video and then try the labyrinth exercise out,
Make A Maze in Adobe Illustrator: Video
Make A Chinese-style Labyrinth
My choice of document for this exercise was a 1920×1080 document from the Art & Illustration category in CC2017 but you can work with whatever suits you. you may find that Smart Guides are useful and you can toggle these on/off with the shortcut ⌘-U (Ctrl-U on Windows) but please note that they are usually on by default.
Polar Grid Tool
The Polar Grid Tool is nested with the line tool, and the quickest route to find that is to tap the Backslash key (\) and then press and hold on that tool to access its buddies. It’s possible to change the number of concentric circles and dividers that this tool produces by using the arrow keys on your keyboard but here we’ll use the dialog as it makes life easier, so simply click on your artboard and the dialog will appear.
The size you choose will depend on how big your artboard choice was, and how big you’d like the labyrinth to be, but choose 8 concentric dividers and 0 radial dividers then click OK. Drag the resulting group to the centre of the artboard (the Smart Guides will help with that).
Group Selection Tool
For my labyrinth, I actually only need six circles, so I’m going to delete the innermost ones. Grab the Group Selection Tool (nested with the Direct Selection Tool) then select and remove the circles we don’t need. In case you’re wondering why we didn’t start off with drawing six, give it a try in another document and you’ll see that the centre radius is too tight—you could scale the result up but that takes longer.
Now increase the stroke weight for the circles so that they are more-or-less the same width as the gaps between them; I find that the easiest way to do this is select them, then click in the stroke width field (either in the panel or the Control Strip) and then use the arrow keys to increase/decrease the width until they look right—don’t forget that you can hold down SHIFT to increase the weight by a factor of 10.
Pick up the Line Tool and draw a line as shown below; use SHIFT to keep it straight and make sure that it pokes out from the top and bottom a bit. It needs to be aligned to the centre horizontally
Leave the line selected and tap V to get the Selection Tool, then hit RETURN on your keyboard to access the Move dialog. Type in double your stroke weight—so if you decided on a 32pt stroke, type in 64pt (make sure to add the pt) and then either click Copy or hold down ALT/OPTION and hit RETURN.
Use the Transform Again command—⌘-D (Ctrl-D on Windows)—to repeat that transformation and create another copy; you need to have a line for each gap between the concentric circles (my version has six circles so five gaps).
Switch to the Direct Selection Tool (A) and click on the anchor point at the top of the last line, then shorten the line as shown below; it needs to connect with the next-to-smallest line. Now switch back to the Selection Tool (V) and select all of your lines, except the one at the centre; tap O to pick up the Reflect Tool, then holding down ALT click on the line at the centre—choose Vertical and again click Copy or do the ALT+RETURN thing. This is what you should have by this stage. Now select only the long lines then tap R to get the Rotate Tool and just hit RETURN to get the dialog up.Set the angle to 90º and just like some previous steps, create copies that are rotated as below
Drawing the Labyrinth with the Shape Builder Tool
Now select all and outline the paths (Object > Path > Outline Stroke) then switch to the Shape Builder Tool (SHIFT-M) and now all we have to do is work our way around, removing parts that we don’t want by holding down the ALT (or OPTION if you’re on a U.S. keyboard).
You can remove the ends of the strokes and the shapes in the centre of the circles using SHIFT+ALT which takes the Shape Builder into area subtract mode. Start by cutting in from the bottom as shown, then begin making your journey around the labyrinth, keeping that ALT key down to subtract. If you make a mistake, simply undo and try again!
You’re basically moving towards the centre, and then winding your way back out to the outside, finally breaking through into the next quarter.
The last bit is slightly shorter than the other winds
and from there you complete your journey by breaking into the centre
Unite The Shapes
Select everything and then use the Pathfinder (if you don’t see the panel, then you’ll find it under the Window menu) to unite all of the shapes into one Make it Gold
If you want to make it nice and gold and shiny-looking like the example below, you can load the Metal gradient set as shown below
This technique can be used on many shapes, although sometimes you really have to think about how to place the lines. To get the shapes reducing or enlarging at the right interval, use a blend with either the specified steps or distance options, then expand the blend. As with all of these things, it’s just another technique at your disposal and it’s worth doing a bit of practice to perfect it.