Make an Atom Symbol with Dynamic Effects in Adobe Illustrator

In this week’s free Deke’s Techniques episode, Deke “draws” an atom symbol in Adobe Illustrator without actually drawing (well, he does make an ellipse and a circle to start with, but filling out dialog boxes doesn’t really count as drawing does it?

An ordinary ellipse and circle

Nor do you need any illustration skills to use the Transform effect to copy and rotate two more ellipses around, turn the circles as guides, and then create some well-placed (some might say meticulously placed) nucleus and electrons. At one point, Deke can’t imagine why you would need to zoom into 1200 percent to make your electron positioning exact, but I can imagine that Deke definitely needs to. This is chemistry after all!

An atom created with Illustrator dynamic effects

If you’re a member of, then Deke has an exclusive movie in which he shows you how to hollow-out those electrons and rotate the whole symbol without leaving said electrons outside their designated orbits. Check out that Appearance panel where all the atomic magic is happening:

Rotated atom symbol and Illustrator's Appearance panel

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Deke’s Techniques, making chemistry and Illustrator more fun, while still keeping some of the math!

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