Deke’s Techniques 101: Creating a Jaunty Star of David in Illustrator

In this week’s free Deke’s Techniques video, Deke McClelland gets in the Hanukkah spirit and creates this festive, jaunty Star of David in Adobe Illustrator. Starting with the simple circle on the left (below), Deke cuts, twists, warps, and strokes it into the complex shape on the right:

Honestly, how awesome is that?

He begins with a hypnotic deep blue radial gradient as a background, with nothing but a center point to guide him:

Using the Ellipse tool, he creates a 600 point circle that expands out from that center point:

Illustrator creates a standard circle or ellipse using four smooth points. So to create the six-pointed star, he’ll need to make six points instead. Deke starts with line segments spaced every 60 degrees then converts them to guides using the View > Guides > Make Guides command.

The next step is to cut the bottom section of the circle off by cutting the shape with the Scissors tool at the bottom left and right intersections. Once the shape is separated, you can simply delete the top part. If my high school geometry serves me correctly, what’s left is technically a chord:

Using the Rotate tool set to 120 degrees, Deke creates a copy of this new chord shape by clicking the Copy button in the Rotate dialog box. Once you have made the first copy, you can press Ctrl-D (Cmd-D) to create another duplicate rotated to the next 120-degree position. (Illustrator magically knows you want your duplicate to rotate another 120 degrees.)

The key to making six points along the circle is to average and then join the points where two chord shapes meet. (They look like they already do, but they’re not quite on top of each other at this point.) With the White Arrow tool, Deke marquees a pair of points and brings them together by choosing Object > Path > Average to put them both in a location that’s the average of their two original positions. To merge the two points into a single a smooth point at that new location, press Ctrl-Shift-Alt-J (Cmd-Shift-Option-J on the Mac) and select Smooth from the Join dialog box. This needs to be repeated for the other two intersections as well.

With all that boring point-level housekeeping done, let the jaunty holiday fun begin. After swapping the fill and stroke colors to better see what’s afoot, Deke sets the fill to None. To make the curves into a star, Deke selects all the curving segments without their anchor points and rotates them by using the Rotate tool set to -90 degrees. If you concentrate, you can already see the Star of David living in the middle of this festival of curves:

Can’t see it? If you select the paths and press Shift-X, you once again swap the fill and stroke, it becomes a little easier to spot.

The next step is to burst the path to pieces so we can get rid of anything that’s not the star. From the Window menu, choose Pathfinder. Then in the Pathfinder panel, select the second from the right icon in the lower row (called Outlines) to separate the path into pieces. After thickening up the stroke and ungrouping all the segments, Deke selects the key bits that make up the star and deletes the rest:

After grouping each of the triangles together (for later convenience), Deke then rotates the star into a more upright (as upright as jaunty can be, anyway) by -7 degrees with the Rotate tool.

To emphasize the effect, Deke groups the objects together and applies both a Twist warp and an Inflate warp to get a little more curve going and pinch it in a bit.

Since the pinching of a reverse Inflate warp caused the star to shrink, Deke uses the Scale tool to restore the star to its former glory. An adjustment applied to the Weight, Cap, and Corner effects of the stroke ensures that the points of the star are sharp and crisp. 

The result is this decidedly jaunty star: 

Finally, Deke makes a few stroke and group adjustments that don’t really change this project but do set up the shape for the embellishments that Deke applies in this week’s member-exclusive movies, “Interweaving star shapes, adding gradients” and “Casting shadows between interwoven shapes.” (See, the gifts just keep on coming.) In these, you’ll see how he made the two triangles interlock and applied the striking gradients and shadows that you see here:

Next week, Deke will be back with another holiday-themed technique. That is, if you’re one of the zillions who consider the release of The Hobbit movie a holiday. Which Deke says it is.

Next entry:Illustrator One-on-One CS6: Advanced Is Now Out at

Previous entry:Illustrator Advanced on Its Way; Same Goes for Deke’s Techniques


  • Amazing!

    You’ve outdone yourself.

  • Thanks, yerachmiel!

    Your comment just adjusted my attitude on a questionable day. (Although I’m sure you were talking to Deke, I’ll pretend like you were overwhelmed by what kind of beautiful graphics I can make when I’m given a gorgeous tutorial to work with!)


  • Happy Holidays

    Happy Holidays to you both!

    Looking forward to some new music videos from you guys in the new year smile

  • Merry Christmas

    All the best to the Dekemeister and family .. and an eggnog martini for Colleen… Thanks to you, your production crew and everyone involved for all your hard work and making learning fun.

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