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I'm interested in learning how to create v. decorative vintage-style graphics like this one by J C Desevre. However, I can't figure out how, assuming the original image is drawn by hand, such regularity is achieved. For instance, all of the curly bits are the same shape, size, distance from each other... and the whole thing looks so symmetrical! Does one just have to be a MASTER of illustration or can this kind of scratchboard drawing effect be achieved in illustrator/photoshop? Do you think some elements are drawn and then reflected digitally to create perfect symmetry?

  • Either or, but if you're drawing by hand you just need a good ruler and protractor
    – Cai
    Commented Nov 6, 2016 at 13:49
  • 1
    Symmetry painting is supported by a number of current painting and drawing applications. The general idea is that you only have to create one quarter of a design like yours, and the other quadrants are copied in real time. As for mechanical devices to do similar things and which could have been use to create the original graphics - or the printing plates to print them - have a look at Pantographs and Polygraphs. Commented Nov 6, 2016 at 17:05

1 Answer 1


For actual drawing of curves on physical medium one would use some kind of guides. Rulers, curve templates, and physical splines are readily available. Rulers and french curves are surely in the toolkit of any artist striving for accuracy by hand. Likewise a spiral can be easily made with a bit of rope and a pin. Or you can go crazy and use a pantograph.

French curves

Image 1: French curves

Splines are basically metallic, wood, sinew composite or noways plastic rulers that can be shaped with weights or holes in a template. For more info see history of spline and the wonderfully informative draftsman's spline.

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Image 2: Wooden spline assemblies that could be used to draw curves.

In digital art its trivial to do this, all you need to do is cut shapes up and mirror them about.For more info you should probably read:

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