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by JuliannaKunstler.com

Mandala. Creating a mandala design in Photoshop and Illustrator. Lesson plan.

Learning targets:

Adobe Illustrator:

  • Transform panel
  • Symbols
  • Clipping mask

Adobe Photoshop:

  • Gradient layer mask
  • Combine images
  • Remove backgrounds
  • Filters




Adobe Illustrator

Open Adobe Illustrator.

New file:

12" x 12"

Adobe Illustrator

Insert a circle (d=11")

Click on the artboard with Ellipse tool and enter the values.

Center it on the artboard (use Align palette, change options to "Align to Artboard", align horizontal center and align vertical center).

Adobe Illustrator

Use Line tool and draw a vertical line that extends past the circle borders.

Hold SHIFT as you draw.

Center the line on the artboard.

COPY the line (Ctrl/Option C)

PASTE IN FRONT (Ctrl/Option F)

Adobe Illustrator

With that line still selected...

Open Transform palette.

Make sure the Reference point is in the center.

Rotate at 30 degrees.

Adobe Illustrator mandala

This is what it should look now.

Adobe Illustrator mandala

PASTE IN FRONT the first line again.

Rotate at 60 degrees.

Continue pasting and rotating every next line with additional 30 degrees.

(30, 60, 90, 120, 150, 180)

Adobe Illustrator mandala

Select All (Ctrl/Option A)

Use Pathfinder palette, click Divide button.

Adobe Illustrator mandala

Object > Ungroup

Adobe Illustrator mandala

Select the top segment.

COPY it.

Adobe Illustrator mandala

In Layers palette:

Lock your layer.

Create a new layer.


You are going to convert this shape into symbol - so keep it selected.


In Symbols palette:

Click New Symbol button.

Move Registration point to the bottom right.

Click OK


You are now in the Symbol editing mode.

You can check it by looking at the upper left corner of the image window.

(To switch back to normal mode - click on the arrow; or just double-click outside the symbol)


Once you created a symbol, it will appear in the Symbols palette (Window > Symbols).

Double-click on the symbol thumbnail to enter symbol editing mode.

clip mask

Paste (or drag) your first image onto symbol window.


If you drag an image - you will have to rasterize it first (remove link): Object > rasterize

It will appear on the top of the base shape.

clip mask

To move the image below the shape:

Object > Arrange > Send to Back

clip mask

You top base shape will act as a "window for the images that you place beneath it.

It will show everything that's inside the shape and hide the rest.

So remove the fill property of the shape

If you need to - change the stroke color to contrast the image. The color of the stroke does not matter as it will be gone in the next step anyway.

clip mask

Move the image, rotate it, resize, etc. until you are satisfied with what you see inside the shape.

Then select both shapes.

Object > Clipping Mask > Make


You have your first slice done!


The symbol thumbnail got updated.

Adobe Illustrator mandala

Turn on the Layer 1 (with the grid).

Select the symbol.

Align it with the grid slice.

Then copy (Ctrl/Command C)

Paste in Front (Ctrl/Command F)

Adobe Illustrator mandala

Flip the copy:

Object > Transform > Reflect



Adobe Illustrator mandala

Align the second slice.

The two slices should be perfectly aligned to each other and to the grid, especially the center point.

Adobe Illustrator mandala

Select both slices with Selection tool (black arrow).

Group them (Ctrl/Command G)

Select Rotate tool.

Move the Rotation point (blue) to the perfect center of the mandala grid.

Adobe Illustrator mandala

Now copy the group (Ctrl/Command C)

Paste in Front (Ctrl/Command F)

Rotate the copy 60 degrees.

Adobe Illustrator mandala

Paste in Front one more time.

Rotate -60 degrees.

Adobe Illustrator mandala

Now select all three groups.


Paste in Front

Object > Transform > Reflect



Adobe Illustrator mandala

The first part is done!

Don't forget to save!

add images with transparent background

Adobe Illustrator mandala

In Photoshop:

Save for Web an image with no background as a PNG-24 file.

Adobe Illustrator mandala

Drag an image onto the symbol's editing mode.

Open Links palette: you will see the link to the original image.

Adobe Illustrator mandala

Symbols do not support linked images.

We need to embed it. Use Links palette.

Position and rotate, resize the new image.

Exit Symbol editing mode.

Agree to apply changes to all instances.

Adobe Illustrator mandala

Continue adding more images to the symbol.

Make it fun!

Save when you are done.

Adobe Photoshop

New file in Photoshop:


Find a background image for your mandala.

It should not be too complex - it's only a background...


Adobe IllustratorIn Illustrator file:

Select your entire mandala (skip the grid).

Adobe PhotoshopIn Photoshop file:


In the Paste window choose Pixels.



You are almost done with your mandala now.


In the Layers palette:

Duplicate Layer 1 and 2

Keep both of them selected.


Merge them into one layer (right click > Merge Layers)

Next, we are going to add a soft mask to this layer.

So Add Layer Mask (at the bottom of Layers palette)


Choose Gradient tool.

Choose Linear option.

Black to White.


Drag the gradient from left to right across the image.

Make sure you are on the Layer Mask.

gradient layer mask

This is what it should look like now.

layer mask

Switch to Layer thumbnail.


Experiment with filters.

Filter > Filter Gallery

Choose the one (ones) that you like.

Remember, you can apply multiple filters!


You should get a nice transition from original mandala to a "filtered" one!