Introduction: Spirograph Art Cards

When I was a child one of my favorite toys was Kenner's Spirograph. The little gears going round and round fascinated me. The mathematically perfect hypocycloid that came to life on paper via these little gears boggled my mind. As an adult, I am still playing with this toy and have been using it over the years for creating various greeting cards and artwork.

Step 1: Materials

A spirograph set can be bought online or from any toy store. It may not be like this elaborate vintage set, but even a few gears will provide a variety of patterns that are fun. Some fine tip, felt markers will be a great way to start and other types of pens and pencils will work as well. Use any type of card stock or you can make your own blank cards.

Materials:

  • spirograph
  • felt markers of various colors
  • card stock

Step 2: Draw Out Your Patterns

Use a black marker with various gears and radii to trace out your patterns. When overlaying patterns take care not to move the outer ring; it needs to stay centered.

Here are some suggestions on creating patterns:

  • For the pattern on the left, one gear was used. The most outer radius was used to create the flower pattern. Once completed, the pen was moved closed to the center of the gear to draw the second pattern. The Celtic knot look was created by leaving the second pattern about 2/3's unfinished
  • The center flower was created using two gears. The first gear creates a flower with eight petals. Using it twice, creates the two different sizes of petals. The inner pattern was created using a gear with a slightly different ratio
  • The spirograph on the right was created by using an egg shaped gear instead of a circular one. The odd shaped gear was used three times with three different points

Step 3: Color Them

There are two steps to coloring the patterns:

  1. Plan out with the black marker some negative space in the pattern by coloring in some shapes in black. The added black will make the spirograph more dramatic.
  2. Color in the rest by playing around with colors. The patterns will look fun either multicolored or monochrome.

Other colors can be used to draw contours and this gives the spirograph drawing a more translucent look. Sometimes color is used to create a lace-like texture and overlaying colors gives an interesting effect.

Step 4: Some Creative Ideas

Ordinarily, spirographs were used with a couple of colors to create patterns as suggested on this retro box. At one point the patterns reminded me of lace and stained glass windows so I started coloring them in or overlaying them. Using a black marker for outlines makes it easy to use the spirograph and color in later. Using lighter colors for contours works too and makes the drawing more translucent.

Some things to try:

  • Try using different colors
  • Draw out your spirograph with a black marker then color it in
  • When you draw one spirograph, draw a few more over it with the same gear but different radius (the little holes inside the gears)
  • Overlay two spirographs drawn with two different gears. The trick here is not to move the outer ring when swapping the gears
  • Sometimes spirograph toys come with odd shaped gears. Those are usually the most fun but often require a little more skill, try them!
  • Try using different pens or mediums. Some of these were created with watercolor!
  • Embrace the happy mistake it can create some interesting, unrepeatable patterns

Comments

author
MacCupcake made it!(author)2015-12-01

Love this! I am a big fan of the recent upswing in coloring pages for adults and recently found a really big set of gel pens - both glitter and not - for a pittance at one of the big box office supplies store. So, for little investment, I can keep my hands occupied while watching movies and satisfy my creative outlet! Go for it and make art!!

author
artsybot made it!(author)2015-12-01

Thank you! I found personalized doodles make great gifts and cards.

author
Laral made it!(author)2015-11-22

These look great. I never tried coloring the patterns. Just multicolor patterns themselves like on the box. I did that multicolor 'torroid' on the endpaper of my algebra textbook. I remember well how difficult it was to keep the gears on track, especially when using a large radius on an inside gear or using any gear on the outside of another gear or circle or the diabolical straight tracks. Your set is complete and in pristine condition. I see that there is a new version in a tin box for $15, but it has a limited number of gears. Only the Kenner version has all the gears. I don't have my old set but I do have the Magic Designer, which was around since the 30s well into the 70s I believe. It was much easier to use. It was a mechanical device with many different settings. It used fairly large circular paper discs.

author
artsybot made it!(author)2015-11-22

Ah yes, some of the old sets, like this Kenner one, had a thick piece of carboard and some pins in the set. You would put your paper on the cardboard, and pin the ring down into the cardboard so it wouldn't move. I see on Amazon that they have a really elaborate set: http://www.amazon.com/Kahootz-01016-Super-Spirogr...

but they don't use the pin down method.

author
Laral made it!(author)2015-11-22

I did see that but I thought that the only added items are those shaped tracks that allow fancy borders. My experience with the straight tracks was that they were hard to use without the wheel coming off the track, so I wouldn't want to even try these more complicated ones.

There's a good comparison here:

Comparing the new Spirograph® Deluxe Set to the old Super Spirograph: In-Depth Review - SpiroGraphicArt

The new one uses putty instead of pins to hold down the gears. The gears are lighter, more flimsy, and prone to bend while using--definitely not good. The hole placement is imprecise and can result in misaligned patterns--even worse.

The reviews on Amazon bear this out:

Amazon.com: Customer Reviews: Super Spirograph Kit

There's nothing like the toys made in mid-century America.

author
Laral made it!(author)2015-11-22

At that site, which has more than you'll ever want to know about everything Spirograph, they review a laser-cut 'adult' version of the toy for zillionaires:

Wild Gears: Spirograph for Grownups - SpiroGraphicArt

It sounds fantastic but the prices…

author
artsybot made it!(author)2015-11-22

I found my old Kenner set on eBay, of course. Although, I often use the ones I got from the $1 store because the main ring has extra plastic around it making it easier to hold. Also, I found that I can mix and match the sets and they are all interchangeable and standard size, so unless you are a hardcore spirograph enthusiast, there is no reason to pay a bunch of money for one :)

author
Laral made it!(author)2015-11-26

I thought, from the intro, that you had your old original set. I just bought two different vintage sets on the 'Bay in incredible condition, for little money. The original 1967 Kenner Spirograph, with 18 wheels, in the red tray, and the ORIGINAL 1965 English Spirograph By Denys Fisher, same parts but very different tray, and I don't know if the wheels are slightly different but it will be interesting to compare.

author
artsybot made it!(author)2015-11-27

Yeah, let me know if they did metric vs British units, although I would imagine Kenner being in British units as well being an American company. If you find some German ones, then compare them to the British gears and let's see.

author
Laral made it!(author)2015-11-27

Yeah, I don't think the UK converted to metric yet at that time. And the U.S. (maybe Canada?) is the only country stupid enough not to have converted by this time.

I didn't know there was a German version but I'm very happy to get the original British version. My main goal is to create a detailed guide to the Kenner version anyway.

author
Laral made it!(author)2015-11-22

Even if I were an enthusiast, I wouldn't pay those prices. They should be made of solid brass for those prices. I might get one on the 'Bay but only if it is cheap and has all the gears. I like the Magic Designer. It is all metal and lasts forever.

author
Laral made it!(author)2015-11-22

I can't believe how many different sets there are:

http://www.originalspirograph.com/products.html

There is even a Die-Cast Collector's Set but I can't find it anywhere on the net. I'll bet it's expensive.

author
artsybot made it!(author)2015-11-23

LoL!

author
Tigger32810 made it!(author)2015-11-22

LOVE, LOVE, LOVE THIS!!

author
artsybot made it!(author)2015-11-22

Thanks! :)

author
creaky made it!(author)2015-11-22

http://nathanfriend.io/inspirograph/ - an online one.

author
artsybot made it!(author)2015-11-22

That is really a nice app. I have seen others that draw hypocycloides but not ones that had the gears in the app as well. Thanks for sharing!

author
Lee+Hernandez made it!(author)2015-11-22

You are so talented! those are great! I still have 2 sets from the 70's. I'll have to bravely try again. Thanks

author
artsybot made it!(author)2015-11-22

Thank you! I love the vintage ones :)

author
chcarlson57 made it!(author)2015-11-22

I teach high school art. My students often feel uninspired by "typical" art lessons. This will be a great addition to line and color lessons, in addition to using the spirographs as a reward for work finished. Thank you. I will be purchasing a set or two.

author
artsybot made it!(author)2015-11-22

I'm am so glad this will be used in a classroom! I often see simple spirograph sets in $1 stores. The black marker is also a great way to mask any mistakes they might make. So if the students get a little frustrated with it, it's a way to fix what they did. Also, the spirograph can be used/adapted to make decorative holiday cards :)

Thank you!

author
chera3 made it!(author)2015-11-22

In your full-page one, I love your use of the long bar as a base. I can never seem to find a way to use it but that is perfect. Also, it's harder to do than one would think so kudos on so many beautiful examples.

author
artsybot made it!(author)2015-11-22

Thank you so much!

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Mrballeng made it!(author)2015-11-19

Favorited.

author
artsybot made it!(author)2015-11-19

Thank you!

author
Salamendrexy made it!(author)2015-11-19

Oh man; These are wonderful! I remember playing around with these when I was younger. It brings back memories of doing nothing but trying out every pattern every Wednesday afternoon at my Grandma's.I'm so happy to see someone is still rocking these. Thank you very much for posting this!

author
artsybot made it!(author)2015-11-19

My pleasure! They are fun!

author
micheemoo made it!(author)2015-11-18

I love knowing other folks out there are still having fun using spirograph besides me.

Thanks for putting this up.

author
artsybot made it!(author)2015-11-18

Glad you enjoyed!

author
seamster made it!(author)2015-11-17

Nicely done! This is great way to make some colorful, custom cards.

Now I need to dig through some boxes and find my old spirograph set! :)

author
artsybot made it!(author)2015-11-17

Thank you!

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