Quick Tricks are a series of blog posts shedding light on easily-missed features in your favourite design software. This time I am explaining how to repeat items around a central point in Adobe Illustrator.

I have two techniques to show you, which should make the process of creating things like radial diagrams much easier.

Radial Repeat

Radial Repeat is a fairly new addition to Illustrator, so if you are running an old version then you may have to use the manual method detailed later.

a red curved triangle

The initial item, which might usually be a circle or square; but this effect even works on text boxes!

To start with, select your object that you would like to repeat. Now go Object > Repeat > Radial.

a red curved triangle repeated in adobe illustrator

The live radial repeat

You will be presented with something like the above. You can change the overall size of the repeat by dragging on any of the corner nodes (just like any other object in Illustrator). You can edit the effect variables in three ways:

  • With the element selected, go Object > Repeat > Options…
  • Using the Control panel at the top of your workspace. If it isn’t active, then go Window > Control
  • Using the on-canvas controls detailed below

a diagram showing the radial repeat tool from adobe illustrator

A: Drag this element to change the radius of the circle, note that this adds space between the objects.
B: Drag this tool up and down to change the number of instances.
C+D: Drag either of these to change the start and end points of the repeat, you’ll see that this removes instances.

When you are happy with the arrangement, simply go to Object > Expand and you will now have a set of grouped shapes.

The manual way

The manual method requires a grid and some simple mathematics! Firstly, turn your document grid on – go View > Show Grid. You can change the grid itself in the Illustrator settings menu. Turn on grid snapping (View > Snap to Grid) and turn off any other snapping action.

a red square on a gridded background with a central anchor point to its right

The initial item with a central anchor point

Using the grid, draw your first item so it is aligned centrally with your intended radial centre. Now, with that item selected, pick the Rotate tool, hold the Option key and click on the central point. You will then be presented with an options window.

repeated squares around a central point

The item repeated around the centre point

Now we can use some mathematics to arrange our elements. If we want a total of eight objects, then for Angle, we would type 360/8. Now click Copy — this makes a duplicate object that appears at a 45° angle. Press Command+D multiple times to repeat this action until your radial is closed.

Header Image: Hatched from the quite brilliant Everett Collection on Shutterstock.