swirly eye

In Adobe Illustrator, how can one recreate the eyeball in this image? The best method I have is to create a stack of parallel lines (alternating black and white, evenly sized, evenly spaced) and warp them over and over (any combination of warp-twist, warp-wave, warp-fisheye) until I get something close to this. But it doesn't seem very efficient and the result is not as precise as this image.


2 Answers 2


You can use Illustrator's Twirl Tool. It's under the Width tool (at least in the version I'm using.)

enter image description here

Note: Explaining this (or reading the explanation) takes considerably more time than actually doing it does. From rectangles to mapped symbol really only takes a couple minutes.

Create a series of rectangles.

enter image description here

  • You want the rectangles to have a lot of anchor points. So... repeatedly choose Object > Path > Add Anchor Points until you've got way more anchors than you think you need. The more anchors you have the smoother the "swirls" will be.

enter image description here

  • You need all these anchor points to be smooth points.
  • To convert them all to smooth anchors... select them all, then deselect just one of the anchors by holding down the Shift key and clicking an anchor using the Direct Selection Tool (white arrow).
  • You can then click the Covert to Smooth Point button (enter image description here) in the Control Bar to convert all the anchors to smooth.
  • Afterwards, go back and select that one anchor you deselected and convert that to smooth as well.

(It's not possible to select all then convert the anchors. At least 1 anchor on a path has to not be selected for the convert buttons to appear.)

Typically you see the ends of the rectangles bulge a bit once the anchors are converted.... This doesn't matter and is expected.

enter image description here

Grab the Twirl Tool in the toolbar..

enter image description here

... then double-click the Twirl Tool after it's selected. I've tried double-clicking in the popup tools but that never works. One has to choose the tool first, then it can be double-clicked it in the toolbar. Or detach the popup so it becomes a floating tool group... then you can double-click the Twirl Tool.

Adjust the tool options.... I'm using a legacy version of Illustrator. So, your Options dialog will probably look different. But the options available should be similar.

enter image description here

I prefer to deselect the Simplify option (for pretty much any warp tool, every time) ... and often also the Detail option.. but sometimes Detail can be helpful. It is here. And I'm using a tablet so I've got the Intensity set to Pen Pressure but 40-50% is a decent setting. You can always undo and change this and try again if you find it's too intense.

Now... simply hover over the rectangles and click..
(I've "hidden edges" in the animation below so it's clearer, but all the rectangles are selected.)

  • To change the size of the Warp Brush hold down Option/Alt and click-drag. Also holding down Shift will constrain the brush to a circle. You want the warp brush to be a circle that falls within the area of rectangles. You do not want the brush larger than the rectangles.
  • The longer you hold down the click the more twirling will occur.
  • You can use Edit > Undo and keep experimenting.

enter image description here

You can reduce the Twirl Rate in the Twirl Tool Options to slow down the twirl if necessary.

enter image description here

(Open this image in a new window/tab to see it better.)

Then, once you have a twirl you like... You can create a Symbol of the artwork by dragging it to the Symbols Panel...

enter image description here

And then map the art to a 3D sphere (using legacy 3D effect in Illustrator here)...

enter image description here

So you get a swirl for the eyeball...

enter image description here

Then, if necessary..

  • Object > Expand Appearance
  • Delete all no-fill no-stroke objects (there's typically a few, using Select > Same > helps.)
  • Then hit the Merge button on the Pathfinder Panel.

enter image description here

  • You dont need to add detail upfront. You can just take the detail slider up it does more or less same thing dynamically. This is the answer i didnt want to write :)
    – joojaa
    Sep 12, 2023 at 19:56
  • Ooop.. You're correct @joojaa Rather than adding anchor points, one can simply increase the Detail option for the the Twirl Tool. (I almost always disable that option for warps.. seems it's actually handy for "twirling".) I do find though, adding the anchors up front helps a bit around the edges of the twirl though.
    – Scott
    Sep 12, 2023 at 20:10
  • @Scott I would love to email you about a project if you don't mind.
    – trndjc
    Nov 5, 2023 at 17:46
  • @trndjc be aware, I'm an inherently skeptical person. :) but.. check my profile.
    – Scott
    Nov 5, 2023 at 19:02

Non-human iris, no pupil

You can use the classic 3D effect "Revolve" to force your pattern to spherical:

enter image description here

In the left there's your array of lines, actually rectangles because the strokes are outlined. It has got a little bloat and twirl effects to break the regularity. It's not the same as the one used in your role model, but that's not the point. I show a way to spherize it with the classic 3D effect Revolve.

The distorted pattern must be dragged to the symbols panel to be able to use it in 3D effects.

In the middle there's a strokeless white half circle. Effect Revolve makes it sphere. It has still shading, but that must be changed to "no shading".

In the right option Map Art is applied to the sphere. The Artwork is the distorted line array. The 2 different versions are got by rotating the view angle.

  • Hi. Welcome to GDSE. While this does work, I think it would be better to have shown a twirl pattern like the OP's mapped to a sphere. Something like this perhaps. Feel free to use this image in your answer if you want.
    – Billy Kerr
    Sep 11, 2023 at 18:29

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.