Create a 3 or 4 Leaf Clover in Illustrator

To help celebrate St. Patrick's day and the luck of the Irish is an Illustrator tutorial on how to create a clover, four-leafed or otherwise. The basics of this project involve the use of 3 circles and some Pathfinder magic to create the clovers.

1. Draw the first circle

Create a new document using pixels or points as the unit of measurement. Set the Fill color in the toolbar to no color and leave the Stroke color black.

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Select the Ellipse tool and click once in your document. Enter the values shown and click OK.

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2. Create the remaining circles

Using the same technique, create two more circles using the values shown below.

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The reason for varying the sizes of the circles is to ward off symmetry and perfection. I like to have a little human touch in my work so changing things up with sizes and shapes helps. Here's what you should have so far.

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3. Positioning

To make life easier for this step, enable Smart Guides (View > Smart Guides). Next, use the Selection tool and hover over the right side of the smallest circle until you see the "anchor" label appear.

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Now that your cursor is over the anchor point, click and drag the circle (using the Selection tool) into the larger circle and line up the selected anchor point with with the right anchor point on the larger circle. See the image below for guidance.

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Select the left anchor point on the remaining circle and click/drag it to line it up with the larger circle's left anchor point.

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4. Make it pointy

Click and hold your cursor over the Pen tool in the toolbar until the flyout menu appears. Select the Convert Anchor Point tool.

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Click on the bottom anchor point of the large circle to change it from a smooth point to a pointy corner point.

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To make this point even pointier, use the Direct Selection tool (the white arrow) to select just the bottom point and then click and drag it down while holding down the Shift key to keep things aligned.

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5. Divide then merge

Select all of the shapes and click the Divide command on the Pathfinder panel.

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Pathfinder commands typically group shapes together. Ungroup them (Object > Ungroup) and click an empty area of your document to deselect the shapes. Use the Selection tool to select the top shape amongst the now divided shapes and hit the Delete key on your keyboard. You should something similar to what's shown below.

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Select the remaining shapes and click the Unite command on the Pathfinder panel to merge the shapes into one. At this point, if it were Valentine's Day, you could stop and you've got yourself a heart to work into a design. Alas, this is isn't the end result we're looking for.

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6. Coloring time

Select the clover shape and swap the Stroke color and Fill colors in the toolbar by holding down the Shift key and then hitting the X key on your keyboard. Choose a shade of green for the clover. I took advantage of the built-in color libraries (Window > Swatch Libraries > Nature > Foliage).

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7. Copy and arrange

Make several copies of the clover. Two for a three leaf clover, three for a four leaf.

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Select one of the clovers and use the bounding box to rotate a clover 90 degrees. Press and hold down the Shift key as you click and drag a bounding box handle to constrain its movements to 45 degrees.

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Repeat the process (but in the other direction) with the other clover.

Line up the pointy ends of the clover with one another. Smart Guides are helpful for this.

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8. Add a stem

A clover's not a clover until it has a stem. Set the Fill color (in the toolbar) to no color and use the green from the clovers as the Stroke color.

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Open the Stroke panel (View > Stroke) and set the stroke weight to 10 points.

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Use the Pen tool to draw a simple curved path that starts in the center of the clovers and ends a little ways down from them. Here's what I've got.

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Raise a pint of good cheer as you've just made a lucky clover. But why stop there? With the various tools and features in Illustrator, you can customize your clover beyond the basics. I'll now walk you through a few techniques.

9. Divide and color the clovers

You can use the Pen tool to divide the individual clover leafs to vary the color on them. Use Smart Guides to locate the top and bottom anchor point on a clover and then draw a gentle curved path to connect them. Move other objects to avoid interference.

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Keep the path selected and go to Object > Path > Divide Objects Below to slice the shape.

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Repeat with the other clovers and then simply recolor. Reposition the pieces back.

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10. Flare the stem

Select the stem object and use the Width tool to drag on an anchor point at the bottom to flare the end.

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The result.

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11. Add depth with meshes

Take note of an object's fill color and then look for a brighter shade of it in the color libraries. Once selected, click the Mesh tool and click once on an object to add depth.

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Continue with all the clover shapes.

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Select the stem and select Object > Path > Outline Stroke to convert it to a regular object. Apply a dark mesh color to that.

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This concludes the tutorial. Use your newfound knowledge to create new clovers with different shapes and sizes.

About the author

My name is Mike Hamm. I like robots. I'm a designer, author, teacher and illustrator. I currently work as a Senior Designer at Expedia. I'm co-author of Introduction to Web Design Using Dreamweaver and have contributed articles and artwork to Layers Magazine as well as several Illustrator WOW! books. I've also been teaching and developing Adobe Illustrator courses for Sessions College for Professional Design since 2003. You can view my never complete portfolio website: hammbience.com.

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