How to create Swirly Curls in Illustrator

posted by Audee | Monday, October 15, 2007

It’s been more than a week since my last tutorial article. Hope you would love this one ;)
Today’s tutorial is different than before. I want to share you an easy tutorial of how to create Swirls in Illustrator.

Decorative swirls are loved nowadays; people always use this style along with natural element into their design. I know that there are lots of tutorials which are sound similar with mine. Well the idea is to create swirly curls, but my technique would probably different than any others. The twirl effect result is having some hazy kind of curls, so I guess it would be interesting.

Step One – Draw a Rectangle

Create a new file and find the Rectangle Tool (press key M) in the Tool Box, then draw a rectangle in any size as you wish.
How to create Swirly Curls in Illustrator

Search a Scallop Tool and double click on it to go to Scallop Tool Option.
How to create Swirly Curls in Illustrator

Set the value that shown below:
How to create Swirly Curls in Illustrator

Back to your rectangle drawing image, and with the Scallop Tool click at one of its corner.
How to create Swirly Curls in Illustrator

You can click any corner, and here is the result:
How to create Swirly Curls in Illustrator

The corner that you have clicked would have 90 degree corner angle, while the other corners deform into scallop effect.

Step two – Creating Swirly Curls

Find the Twirl Tool and double click on it to go to Twirl Tool Option
How to create Swirly Curls in Illustrator

Set the value that shown below:
How to create Swirly Curls in Illustrator

Click at any corner and hold it in few seconds until you see the twirl effect that you want.
How to create Swirly Curls in Illustrator

You should know that in order to get nice effect, this one is little bit tricky. I suggest you to use this twirl tool at any corner point but avoid clicking on the part of deformed rectangle that has 90 degree corner angle. The possibilities of results are countless. It would depend on how long you hold the mouse click. The longer you hold it, and then you will have lots of twirl spirals. Otherwise, simple shape twirl will be created. Spend some times to experiment using different shape to twirl is also useful to try.

If you want to change the twirl shape, you can use Warp Tool (Shift + R), by dragging the end point of your swirly curl.
How to create Swirly Curls in Illustrator

The finished swirly curls:
How to create Swirly Curls in Illustrator

As you see, the swirly curl is created in a single path. You can join them into a group of paths along with other curls and swooshes. Learn how to do it in detail by reading Bittbox’s tutorialHow to make custom swooshes swirls and curls”.

Bittbox also provides series of Illustrator Brushes (free to download) to create swirls and curls using Spiral Tool.

I got another resource that came from Verlee’s Blog, where she uses different techniques to create swirly curls but also worth to visit.

How to create Swirly Curls in Illustrator

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  • Beautiful curls there :)
    I liked the presentation of your post where someone like me, just so new to graphics too could follow it all.

    Keep up the good work.I shall surely give this a try.


    By Blogger Megha Mathur, At October 19, 2007 at 11:42 AM  

  • Thank you Megh,
    glad that you enjoy reading my tutorials even they're not the best English blog ;)

    Will write more tutorials, so stay tuned!

    By Blogger Kukuh, At October 20, 2007 at 8:49 PM  

  • Excellent! Thank you for this tutorial and for sharing your knowledge.

    By Blogger DreamWarrior, At December 14, 2007 at 12:41 PM  

  • Awesome. Thanks for sharing. Keep up the good work. *thumbs up*

    By Blogger urban, At January 13, 2008 at 12:22 PM  

  • Hi, thanks for the tutorial. I'm having a few problems. Using the settins you have for the scallop tool gives me lots of jaggedy little guys instead of the picture you have where there are only a few. Also, if I click it on the corner then that is where the jaggedy guys are and not on the remaining rectange. Any help you can provide would be greatly appreciated.


    By Blogger Duke, At February 7, 2008 at 10:27 PM  

  • Hi Duke,
    Actually it’s not a big problem if you had more jagged shapes then what is shown in my tutorial. This was probably happened because you click on one of the rectangle corner longer than it should be. Try to do it at least in half second only (quick click). The twirl tool works in similar way. If you want more complicated twirls, click and hold the mouse left click button longer than 1-2 secs at one of the jagged shapes. Whenever you don’t like the result, you can always undo by hitting ctrl + z and start a new try with another jagged corner to have nice twirls. Be sure that you already turn off the rectangle’s stroke before you start using scallop and twirl tool.
    I hope this tips will help you Duke.

    ~Graphic Identity Team~

    By Blogger A u d e e, At February 8, 2008 at 8:20 AM  

  • Yay man thank you for this great tutorial!
    First time making swirly curls for a job and this one save me the life! than you and keep the good work.

    By Blogger Hideki, At May 9, 2008 at 10:13 PM  

  • Ok, so I may sound stupid but I can't find the scallop tool. Maybe I have an old version or something??? Could you please tell me where it is? Thanks!

    By Blogger Christina, At June 7, 2008 at 11:58 AM  

  • Dreamwarrior, Urban, and Hideki!
    Thank you so much for dropping by to leave your comment. Happy that I can help :D

    You can find this tool by clicking the tinny rectangle at the corner of Wrap Tool icon, and it will show you another lined up tools. Scallop Tool is one of them.
    Go to preview image to find out

    By Blogger Graphic Identity, At June 8, 2008 at 1:48 AM  

  • This is so cool. You think that it is hard to make such a nice curly thing but it is fun and not even as hard as i tought. I hope i can make some fresh webdesign with this tutorial! Thanks Again!

    By Anonymous Ruben Vandenbussche, At October 17, 2008 at 1:39 AM  

  • Hey thanks for the tutorial, i'm new to illustrator, definitely gonna try this one.

    By Blogger Snehaha, At November 23, 2008 at 12:57 AM  

  • Can you show me how to do this in photoshop.

    By Anonymous angela, At June 3, 2009 at 9:25 PM  

  • Ruben and Snehaha,
    Really appreciate your comments, and I'm happy if this tutorial helps you ;)

    I think this kind of swirl can be produced in Photoshop, but it is not going to be as easy as in Illustrator. Photoshop doesn't have any tool to twirl a shape. You have to create a swirl using pen tool and it requires advance skill techniques. Maybe I will write a tutorial to create swirls in Photoshop if I have the chance.
    Thanks for dropping question :)

    By Blogger Graphic Identity, At June 4, 2009 at 5:02 PM  

  • hi. i relly like swirls

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At August 12, 2009 at 2:35 PM  

  • Hi

    My swirls are not as smooth as yours - they end up with jagged curves and instead of tapering to a nice point they have uneven widths and look really untidy. any ideas?


    By Anonymous Anonymous, At August 20, 2009 at 8:57 PM  

  • Jane,
    You can read my previous answered comment for Duke. You had the same problem as he was I think. That was probably happened because you click on one of the rectangle corner longer than it should be.
    I hope this helps you.

    By Blogger Graphic Identity, At August 21, 2009 at 12:16 AM  

  • Nice tutorial...keep going on.

    Really interesting too...

    By Anonymous Lal Hauzel, At September 5, 2009 at 6:58 PM  

  • amazing o.o


    By Blogger soma.stardust, At February 20, 2010 at 6:29 PM  

  • Nice job! Haven't even looked at Illustrator, been using Fireworks for the longest time. Thanks!

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At July 1, 2010 at 10:17 PM

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