Italian artist Daniele De Nigris blends geometry and artistry to build impossibly complex designs from simple tile patterns. His approach is both meticulous and methodical as he adds, subtracts, and repeats shapes, colors, and gradients until he arrives at his mosaic masterpieces. Here’s how he created the image that was selected for the Adobe Animate 2017 splash screen.

Design the base pattern

Daniele creates a square tile that includes points of engagement on three of the four sides — hence the “3/4” title of the piece. The foundation of Daniele’s design is this square pattern he repeats and rotates
throughout the composition.

Daniele uses basic shapes — a rotated square containing concentric ellipses and lines — to form the base pattern. He then uses the Divide function in the Pathfinder tool to trim the concentric circle pattern that falls outside the square. 

Pathfinders tool used to trim circular pattern overlapping edges of a square. Top half of the square has horizontal lines.

Daniele adds grayscale fills to distinguish parts of the pattern. He then creates a cross section of the base tile to connect larger sections of the pattern later in the project. To do this, he duplicates an empty rectangle from the top left of the tile, brings it to the front, and uses it to cover the bottom right side of the base pattern. Then, he uses the Crop function in the Pathfinder tool to create a portion of the main pattern. He hides this extra layer until he needs it.

Square with horizontal and curved lines is colored in gray tones, duplicated, and cropped to connect other square pieces.

Rotate and repeat to create a tiled effect

Daniele is now ready to create the larger pattern. He duplicates the original square pattern and rotates it -90 degrees. He repeats this process until there are four tiles to complete the internal square pattern.

Square is duplicated and rotated 90 degrees to create a pattern consisting of four tiles.

Daniele repeats the four-square pattern so it extends off the canvas. Then, he copies the cross-section layer, the portion of the main pattern he created earlier, and places it so it connects the internal four-square section to the layout just outside the area. To finish the layout, Daniele copies the connecting layer and rotates it for the remaining three corners.

Four-square pattern is duplicated multiple times, creating a larger patterned grayscale image with straight and curved lines

Color the pattern

Daniele creates a palette of custom color swatches that he uses across multiple projects. Once he adds
color, Daniele removes the black outlines from all the shapes.

The larger image is colored in diamond-shaped arrangements with custom color swatches

Simulate dimension with gradient blends

Daniele uses a system of applying gradients to individual path segments that combine to form the illusion of depth. It’s a multistep process. To begin, he creates a new layer and quickly creates concentric circles with the Polar Grid tool.

Close-up of the larger image shows the Polar Grid tool being used to divide segments and apply gradients.

He eliminates all but the two arcs that bisect the colored part of the circle using the Divide function in the Pathfinder tool. Then, he changes the stroke color of those lines from the default, white, to a linear gradient with no fill. To create a smooth gradient, he sets the Location of the start of the gradient, white, to 1% (not 0%) and the end, black, to 99% (not 100%).

Arcs inside the circles on the patterned tiles are given a gradient stroke with no fill.

He increases the stroke weight to 52 points, so it fills the space between the two arcs and creates a smooth gradient.

The stroke weight is increased to fill in curved segments and create a smooth gradient.

To blend the gradient, Daniele selects the color at the start and endpoint of each arc to create the gradient. He repeats this for the second arc.

The gradients are changed to reflect the start and end colors of the circles for better blending.

He then reflects the two arcs vertically to create the other quarter circle, and repeats the process to add a gradient to the top half of the circle.

The arcs are reflected on vertical axes to create a gradient-filled half circle.

Daniele shades half the circles and then reflects them to fill in the other half of the pattern. He repeats the process on the curves of the long edges.

Add black holes for contrast and illusion

Daniele creates striking contrast when he fills portions of the design with black. To do this, he selects the elongated ovals, copies and pastes them to the top layer, deletes the original ovals, and colors the new
ones black.

Circles are shaded and reflected within the artwork to create interesting color patterns.

To create the illusion of depth, Daniele sets the circle at the center of the pattern with a gradient fill and no stroke. He replaces the black to white endpoint colors of the gradient with colors from the top and
bottom of the circle, then reverses it to give the impression of depth. He repeats this for the rest of the circles in the pattern.  

Gradients are reversed for the centers of the circles, and black is added to the centers of elliptical shapes to add depth

Make it 3D

Daniele uses shadows to make the design appear three-dimensional. He draws two circles and overlaps them with a rectangle that intersects the center of the circles at a 45-degree angle. He uses the Shape Builder tool to select, or keep, the middle portion of the rectangle (the shaded area below), and deletes the remaining pieces.

The Shape Builder tool is used to make shadows to help the design appear three-dimensional.

With the shape selected, Daniele colors it with a gradient set to black — 100% opacity at one end and 0% opacity at the other — set with a 45-degree angle. For the complete effect, he sets the Transparency setting to Multiply and 50% Opacity.

Opacity settings within the gradients are changed to make the shadows appear more realistic.

Add lines and texture

Daniele uses the Blend and Shape Builder tools to add concentric lines and circles, then adds a scanned paper texture to finish the piece.

Blend and Shape Builder tools are used to add fine lines to the insides of the shapes, and a texture is added to complete it.


About the artist:
Daniele De Nigris’s love of geometric patterns and art began when he was a boy growing up in Bologna, Italy. Thanks to a supportive family and a design professor who saw his potential early on, Daniele was able to turn his passion to create into a professional and personal artistic journey. 

Daniele finds inspiration in everything around him, from nature to architecture to the details in everyday objects. He appreciates artists from all over the world and likes to learn from art manuals, particularly those that focus on geometric design. Daniele was blown away by the work of noted Dutch artist M.C. Escher, whose creations were strongly rooted in architecture and mathematics.

Daniele starts with quick sketches on paper, then focuses on the ideas that interest him. In the most time-consuming part of his process, Daniele studies the piece and determines the coloring and structure of the overall design. Finally, he moves to Illustrator and Adobe Photoshop to create the final composition.

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