Circular Key Patterns

There are two ways of drawing key patterns to fill circles, one very rare in traditional Celtic art, the other fairly common. Strangely, the easier of the two is hardly ever seen, while the more common is slightly more complex to draw and the end result is less obviously a key pattern.

We will draw the easier of the two first. As with all these variations, it is always best to have an idea of what the basic rectangular key pattern looks like. In this variation we are only going to need the central section, which we will bend to fit the circle.

Traditional Chinese Key Pattern

Start with a circle with a square grid inside, centred on the centre of the circle. The number of units in the grid depends on which key pattern we are going to use, but in general it is best to have the width and/or height as a multiple of the section size.

Now we just fill in the pattern, using repeats of the central section, starting at the centre of the circle, but stopping short of the edge by a unit or 2.

Texture Drawing

Now all we have to do is draw in the lines, as similarly as possible to the original, curving them so that the outer lines curve parallel to the outer circle.

Notice that the short lines that have been cut off should be turned into spirals to complete the S-curves.

Chinese Circle Pattern

This variation has very strong similarities to Chinese lattice work, but it should not be assumed that the Celts and Chinese had any contact, The pattern as drawn is a very basic geometrical design, which does not stand out as Celtic because it is not edged with the traditional triangles.

The simplicity of this method may be the reason that there are so few archaeological examples of this style. Much more common is the following method, which uses the geometry of the circle for its grid. Both variations have their advantages and disadvantages, as we will see. The choice is up to you when you draw your own. This one looks more Celtic, though many possible versions do not look much like key patterns. To make an even more Celtic-looking key circle, there may be ways to combine the formation of the outer edge of an annular pattern and the inside of the second way of forming a circular pattern. However, I have never seen one.

On to the second method of creating circular key patterns. Instead of using a square grid, this one uses a grid made up of lines radiating from the centre and concentric circles. For this example we mark off the radial lines at 6° intervals, so that there are 60 of them around the circle. This we can then divide into 6 wedges of 10 units, so we may as well use 10 units going the other way as well. It is best to add another unit for the centre of the circle because the radial lines are so close by now that they are impossible to work with.

Radial Lines

Now the main disadvantage of this variation is that, unlike all other key patterns, it does not use the diagonals, but follows the grid lines. This not only makes it look slightly different from the other keys, but gives it a tendency to revert to the classical S-curve shape q_| There are quite a few Celtic decorations like this, where the pattern is self-contained in each section, and rotated or reflected to fill the other sections, but this example will be based on the traditional key pattern shape.

So we divide the circle into equal sections, in this case 6 of them. The reason for choosing these dimensions is that the S-curve is generally roughly as wide as it is long. We will only draw the lines to 1 unit away from the outer circle and the centre of the circle. This is because these lines are to be the 'backbones' of the keys.

Then we draw the other 'backbones' down the middle of each space, again stopping 1 unit away from the outer circle and the centre of the circle. Then draw the next line, a curve, until it again is 1 unit away from the repeating section's edge. Then we draw the third lines, which stop 1 unit short of the centre of the section. This gives room for the opposite key line to be drawn in later. We carry on until the key is complete.

Patterns Gaelic CultureRadial Grid Paper

After all these key patterns, it should be fairly clear where the other keys have to go.

Then we do the same to the original dividing lines.

After all these key patterns, it should be fairly clear where the other keys have to go.

Although, as we can see, the classical S-curve manages to insinuate its way in even here.

Antennen Charakteristka

And there we have it. We can add weight to the pattern by 'flagging' the inner and outer edges, triangulating the ends or any of the other variations. Increasingly thickening the lines as you move further from the centre can be particularly effective.

Variation Lines

A variation of this variation can be made by changing the grid. The concentric rings and 6

Free MandalaCeltic Key Pattern

Then we just follow the same procedure as we did for the last variation, starting with the central line 'backbone'.

radial lines stay, but the other radial lines are drawn parallel to these 6 lines.

Then we just follow the same procedure as we did for the last variation, starting with the central line 'backbone'.

The result is a good-looking pattern, and one that is not too hard to create.

Chinese Lattice Designs
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  • Kisanet
    Why do parralel line patterns appear to move when you stare at them?
    8 years ago
    How to construct a celtic key pattern?
    8 years ago

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