Step-by-step tutorial on how to draw a perfect cog, or gears, with perfectly spaced symmetrical teeth in Illustrator. In twenty seconds, give or take.

The Logo Factor designer editionWhen we were messing about with a logo rework for The Logo Factory, we decided to add some cog elements into the mix. So, how does one get vector artwork of a perfect cog or gear? I’ve never been a fan of clip art (even for simple graphics) for anything. so stock art was out. As I wanted to draw a perfectly flat and symmetrical cog, without too many teeth, tracing photography was out too. Needed to create my own from scratch. How? Here’s a very simple technique that you can use to draw a perfect vector cog, using Illustrator, in under 20 seconds.

The tutorial.

First, you need to draw out a circle. Hold the ‘shift’ key so that it’s perfectly round. Then, we need to set up the size and shape of teeth. I wanted rounded teeth, so I used an oval shape.

Step 1

Align the center of the tooth shape with the outside edge of your main circle. Then we need to center the tooth shape vertically, and drag out a cloned copy down to the bottom, once again centering the oval over the outside circumference. Like so.
Step 2

Once you have your two teeth shape ovals centered vertically, group them as a single object (Apple + G).
Step 3

Now, we’re going to decide how many teeth your cog has. That’s decided by the number of degrees you’re going to rotate the teeth around our main circle (this is also dictated by the width of the oval you’re going to use for carving out the teeth). For this, you’re going to use the rotate function in our toolbar. Rotating the cogs 90 degrees will give you 4 teeth. 45 degrees 8 teeth. 22.5 degrees will give us 16 teeth. And so on.
Step 4
For this exercise (and the logo that this artwork was used for) we’re going to need 16 teeth. Simple rotate a clone of our original artwork 22.5 degrees using the rotate and copy function.
Step 5

Repeat the function (using Apple + D) 7 times, rotating copies of our teeth object right round the circle.
Step 6

Once all your teeth shapes in place, simply group them up, and using the Pathfinder ‘trim’ function, carve the shapes out of your main circle.

Step 7

Once the Pathfinder has cut out the teeth shapes, ungroup the objects again (Patherfinder will group them), deselect the main circle and delete our teeth shapes.
Step 8

And there you have it. A decent looking gear that’s control point light, symmetrical and ready to use in any artwork. Total elapsed time – about 17 seconds.

As mentioned earlier, the same basic idea can be used to develop other types of cogs and gears with various ‘teeth’ shapes. Here’s a more traditionally shaped gear. When using teeth shapes of this nature, there’s additional step to keep in mind. No big deal really – you just have to flip the tooth shape vertically when you drag it out to the bottom of the circle (see below).
Traditional cog artwork

Here’s what the final cog looked like once we added some typography and accents.

The final cog artwork

Alas, that logo was scrubbed for the one upper left. Still not sure if we made the right decision.

This was originally published in the older version of our Designer Lounge but due to some housecleaning and moving things around, we’ve republished it here to fit it on our Design Tutorials section as well. It’s still a pretty solid tut that nobody found in its old spot, so we’re golden.