Adobe Illustrator & InDesign tutorial: Design a geometric pattern for an poster

Create a complex op-art design with ease using scripts in Illustrator, then lay it out on a poster in InDesign.

This tutorial explains how to create one of Simon C Page’s seemingly complicated posters via some nifty tricks in Illustrator and InDesign. Usually he uses Flash Pro’s ActionScript language – but here he shows you how to do it in Illustrator, using that application’s ExtendScript toolkit.

This part of the tutorial should give you enough to get you up and running with some basic scripting and an appetite to see the host of styles you can create with scripts – styles that would  take you countless hours to replicate by hand.

You’ll then learn how to take this artwork and turn it into a poster, drawing on the styles of classic 1950s book covers.

Time to complete 

45 minutes


Adobe Illustrator CS5 or later, InDesign CS5 or later

Project Files

Please visit the desktop site to download the project files.


The first step is to create the main framework for this artwork in Illustrator, which is created out of a very large number of concentric squares and lines rotated round into a circle. This design is going to be square, but there is no reason you couldn’t replicate it with a circle or rectangle, for example.

The artwork needs to be 22 x 22 inches square, and so the first square to draw should be around 21 x 21 inches, giving you a nice one-inch border. Make sure you leave the black 1pt border on, this will also be useful later on.


Centre this square on the document and, while selecting it, bring up the Scale dialog box (Object > Transform > Scale). From this enter 98% and then select Copy. This will then create a centred copy of the square at 98% of its size.

Select the Transform Again function for this second square (Cmd/Ctrl + D) to duplicate this. Hold the keys down to repeat this until the square look very dark in the centre. Zoom in and remove any squares that have overlapping borders.

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Now we need to do a similar technique but with a line. Create a new layer and add a 1pt black line down the middle of the page. Now bring up the Rotate dialog (Object > Transform > Rotate). We want 200 lines, which equates to a 1.8° rotation on each to make a circle.


Enter 1.8° in the dialog box and again select the Copy button, which will leave the original line but also creates a copy that has been transformed with a 1.8° rotation. Select this new line and hit (Cmd/Ctrl + D) repeatedly to run the ‘Transform Again’ function until you have made a complete circle.


Ensure that all the contents of both layers are centred on the document, and that the lines from the second layer all overlap outside of the document edge. Hit Select All (Cmd/Ctrl + A) and make sure the Line and Fill properties of all objects are transparent.

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You will need to use the Divide function from the Pathfinder tool (Cmd/Ctrl + Shift + F9) to divide up where these objects cross over. When you are doing more complicated dividing, it’s worth noting that the Pathfinder window has a dialog that allows you to change the level of precision and removal of redundant points.


The next step is to fill all of these objects with a seemingly random pattern of colours. Doing this with the current framework will end up with a bunch of irregular shapes in centre of the design that don’t match. For the cleanest look, remove these by selecting them from the centre and deleting.


Now that the centre is removed we can get on with painting all the thousands of elements randomly, with a set of colours based on a swatch. Here I am using a palette of purple, pink, red, orange and yellow.

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Doing this by hand would take hours or even days, but using Illustrator’s scripting capabilities we can reduce this to mere minutes. Select all the objects and then select File > Scripting > Other Script and load Random_Fill_With_Swatch_Time_Curve.jsx. If you have a high-end desktop this will take a few minutes to execute.

However, if you are running this on a laptop, simply select just a few objects at a time and run the script on each in turn to complete the entire set of objects. To finish off the design, select all and give it a 0.5pt white border line – and there you have it.


We now want to turn this piece of art into an A2 poster print. Open InDesign and create a new document with the dimensions of our output size – in our case 360 (width) x 554 (depth), ready to be produced in sheets and cut to size at our print house. Leave the other settings as they are.


Draw out a frame from the top left margin corner across and down towards the bottom of the right margin, leaving space between the bottom of the frame and the bottom margin for our text. Ours is 334.427 x 495.017mm.

Select File > Place (or Cmd/Ctrl + D) and select your artwork. As the artwork is square and this is a portrait poster, we’ll need to crop some off while still maintaining its symmetrical structure. First, right-click on the image and select Fitting > Fill Frame Proportionally.

Move your mouse over the image, and a semi-transparent doughnut will appear. This is the new Content Grabber, which allows you to do many of the functions of the Direct Selection Tool using the standard Selection Tool. Hold Shift to allow movement in only one direction, grab the doughnut and drag to the left so the images moves within the frame. Move it until the pink vertical line tells you it’s in the centre.

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The artwork would look better against black, so draw out a text frame that extends beyond the document frame (to allow for bleed) and fill it with a rich black (C40, M40, Y40 and K100).

We could put this in the back using Cmd/Ctrl + Shift + [, but it’s time to check out InDesign CS5’s new Photoshop-style Layers palette. Each object becomes a sub-layer, so it’s best to learn how to use this with only a few layers.

Select the Layers panel (F7) and open Layer 1. Click on the layer, click again and change its name to Black Background. Drag this layer below the main artwork.


To give this a look drawn from classic 1950s and 1960s book covers, we’re breaking out the rounded corners. Zoom so you can see the top right corner close up. Select the main artwork and click on the yellow box on the right of the frame. This opens up the corners for editing.

Grab the yellow triangle that’s appeared on the top of the frame and drag it to the left to curve the corner. Pull it out to 4.233mm. This affects all corners – if you want to affect just one, hold down Shift when dragging.


To add more of book-cover influence, add some measured typography in the space at the bottom to complete its stylish appearance.

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