How To: Create Concentric Circles, Ellipses, Cardioids & More Using Straight Lines and a Circle

Create Concentric Circles, Ellipses, Cardioids & More Using Straight Lines and a Circle

Using only a circle and straight lines, it's possible to create many different curves that are quite pleasing to look at and well known mathematically.  Most of the curves that are going to be explored in this post are featured at this site, which has a program for generating them, and this site which explores some of the geometry used in creating these curves. I recommend exploring both of them if you are going to create any of the designs below.

I created all of these with a pencil and a ruler, or with the free computer program Geogebra. They could be created with any tool capable of making a straight line as discussed in the previous post on creating string art.

  • Concentric circles:

How to Create Concentric Circles, Ellipses, Cardioids & More Using Straight Lines and a Circle

  • Concentric circles showing 6 pentagrams of different colors:

How to Create Concentric Circles, Ellipses, Cardioids & More Using Straight Lines and a Circle

How to Create Concentric Circles, Ellipses, Cardioids & More Using Straight Lines and a Circle

How to Create Concentric Circles, Ellipses, Cardioids & More Using Straight Lines and a Circle

  • Heart composed of lines, partial concentric circles, and sections of a cardioid:

How to Create Concentric Circles, Ellipses, Cardioids & More Using Straight Lines and a Circle

Materials and Tools

  • Paper
  • Ruler
  • Pen or pencil
  • Compass for drawing circles (or images of circles or regular polygons)
  • Protractor for marking circles with even marks

Making Concentric Circles

Take a circle and mark it at even intervals. In the picture below, I marked it every 10 degrees.

How to Create Concentric Circles, Ellipses, Cardioids & More Using Straight Lines and a Circle

Connect one mark to another mark. The amount of marks skipped determines the size of the concentric circle created.

How to Create Concentric Circles, Ellipses, Cardioids & More Using Straight Lines and a Circle

Take the next mark and connect it to the mark ahead of the one you connected the previous one to. Continue doing this.

How to Create Concentric Circles, Ellipses, Cardioids & More Using Straight Lines and a Circle

This could be an interesting stopping point.

How to Create Concentric Circles, Ellipses, Cardioids & More Using Straight Lines and a Circle

Here is the completed concentric circle. It's actually a polygon with the same number of sides as there were marks on the original circle.

How to Create Concentric Circles, Ellipses, Cardioids & More Using Straight Lines and a Circle

You can use the inside circle as a starting point for creating another circle.

How to Create Concentric Circles, Ellipses, Cardioids & More Using Straight Lines and a Circle

These concentric circle designs are really creating star polygon,s as discussed in the posts on creating star designs on pumpkins and creating torus knots.  In the image below, I took a circle with 30 marks and connected them in a design with 6 pentagrams. This works because 30 / 5=6.  

How to Create Concentric Circles, Ellipses, Cardioids & More Using Straight Lines and a Circle

I decided to fill in some of the kites created by the intersecting lines.

How to Create Concentric Circles, Ellipses, Cardioids & More Using Straight Lines and a Circle

Making Ellipses

There are lots of ways to create ellipses, but this one is pretty fun. Start with a circle with a number of evenly spaced marks. I again picked marks every 10 degrees on this one. I connected two of the marks that were 180 degrees apart. This line will become the major axis.

How to Create Concentric Circles, Ellipses, Cardioids & More Using Straight Lines and a Circle

Mark a point on your major axis. Making this point further from the center of the circle makes the ellipse longer and narrower.

How to Create Concentric Circles, Ellipses, Cardioids & More Using Straight Lines and a Circle

Make a right angle on one of the marks on the circle so that one of the sides of the angle goes through the focus. Connect the line from the mark to where it intersects the circle.

How to Create Concentric Circles, Ellipses, Cardioids & More Using Straight Lines and a Circle

Continue this process for all of the marks on the circle.

How to Create Concentric Circles, Ellipses, Cardioids & More Using Straight Lines and a Circle

Here it is halfway done. Notice the increased resolution as it gets further from the focus.

How to Create Concentric Circles, Ellipses, Cardioids & More Using Straight Lines and a Circle

The completed ellipse. You could improve the resolution near the focus by repeating the process using the focus on the other side.

How to Create Concentric Circles, Ellipses, Cardioids & More Using Straight Lines and a Circle

Taking parts of two ellipses intersecting each other at right angles creates a heart shape.

How to Create Concentric Circles, Ellipses, Cardioids & More Using Straight Lines and a Circle

This heart shape made me think of a curve in mathematics that is named after the heart. The cardioid is a very interesting curve.

How to Create a Cardiod

Start with a circle with a number of evenly spaced marks. I picked marks every 10 degrees on this one yet again.

How to Create Concentric Circles, Ellipses, Cardioids & More Using Straight Lines and a Circle

Starting with one mark, connect a line from it to a mark that is two marks away.

How to Create Concentric Circles, Ellipses, Cardioids & More Using Straight Lines and a Circle

Take the next mark after your starting point and connect it to the mark that is two beyond the ending point of the last mark.

How to Create Concentric Circles, Ellipses, Cardioids & More Using Straight Lines and a Circle

Repeat. You are basically counting by ones on the starting points, and by twos on the ending points.

How to Create Concentric Circles, Ellipses, Cardioids & More Using Straight Lines and a Circle

It's starting to become more curved:

How to Create Concentric Circles, Ellipses, Cardioids & More Using Straight Lines and a Circle

Halfway done:

How to Create Concentric Circles, Ellipses, Cardioids & More Using Straight Lines and a Circle

Continuing on the other side by still counting by ones for the starting points, and by twos for the ending points:

How to Create Concentric Circles, Ellipses, Cardioids & More Using Straight Lines and a Circle

The completed cardioid:

How to Create Concentric Circles, Ellipses, Cardioids & More Using Straight Lines and a Circle

You can follow this same process only by counting by threes on the ending marks or fours and you will get more sharp points. If you skip less often, you will get a more gradual spiral. The curve below was generated by counting by twos only every 4th time.

How to Create Concentric Circles, Ellipses, Cardioids & More Using Straight Lines and a Circle

I really need to find a color scheme other than ROYGBIV.

How to Create Concentric Circles, Ellipses, Cardioids & More Using Straight Lines and a Circle

How to Create a Heart

I decided to try and design a curve that looks more like a heart by combining linear sections, concentric circle sections, and cardioid sections. I think the final design looks pretty good. To start, you again mark a circle evenly. I used 10 degrees again. I also made the marks at 90 degree intervals more visible. These will be important marks.

How to Create Concentric Circles, Ellipses, Cardioids & More Using Straight Lines and a Circle

Draw a line between two of the marks at 90 degree intervals. This will become part of the pointy end of the heart.

How to Create Concentric Circles, Ellipses, Cardioids & More Using Straight Lines and a Circle

Connect the next marks as if you were making the concentric circle design.

How to Create Concentric Circles, Ellipses, Cardioids & More Using Straight Lines and a Circle

Stop when you get to the line that connects to the point 180 degrees from the starting point.

How to Create Concentric Circles, Ellipses, Cardioids & More Using Straight Lines and a Circle

You could do the same on the other side. You might not want to do this until you are completely done. All of the marks might be a little bit confusing for the next part.

How to Create Concentric Circles, Ellipses, Cardioids & More Using Straight Lines and a Circle

Continuing the curve will be a section of a cardioid. Now you must connect the marks by counting by ones for the starting point of the lines, and by counting by twos for the ending points.

How to Create Concentric Circles, Ellipses, Cardioids & More Using Straight Lines and a Circle

When you reach the halfway point you should have a line that connects marks that are 180 degrees apart.

How to Create Concentric Circles, Ellipses, Cardioids & More Using Straight Lines and a Circle

Repeat with the other side:

How to Create Concentric Circles, Ellipses, Cardioids & More Using Straight Lines and a Circle

Here I did it on a computer using 59 marks:

How to Create Concentric Circles, Ellipses, Cardioids & More Using Straight Lines and a Circle

I attempted to color it:

How to Create Concentric Circles, Ellipses, Cardioids & More Using Straight Lines and a Circle

Show Off Your Artwork

If you make any of these designs, any from the post on creating parabolic arcs,  or any of your own, let us know by posting a picture or video to the corkboard. We'd love to see them. Can anyone make them using other materials?

12 Comments

An easier way to describe the cardioid is that you number your points from one to n. With 36 points, number them clockwise from 1 to 36. Then, connect each number to its double. 1 goes to 2, 2 goes to 4, etc. 19 would go to 38 which doesn't exist. Think of the circle as a clock with 36 hours. 38 o'clock would be like 14 o'clock on our system - it would be 2 o'clock. So, connect 19 to 2, 20 to 4, etc to complete the cardioid. You can, of course, multiply by 3 or 4 for different results. Antiprism.com has the results of the times 2, times 3, and a lot more very nice 2D string formulas.

Thanks. You are probably correct on that being an easier way to describe it. Also your string art is very beautiful. If I was still running this blog I would definitely ask to share your work with everyone. :)

How many formula's did this have ???

I was so delighted that I discovered KUDOS!!! Kudos to you, KUDOS!

i have a doubt. when you make a chi ball , which is the repetitive form of cardioid curve , where do start the next layer ? it would be very helpful if you could respond back .

I'm an art teacher and I'm trying to help a student figure out how to draw this. The simpler designs I have mastered but this is beyond my skill set. Has anyone done it? Can/would you provide a step-by-step?

Just added a step-by-step onto this thread. Took me a while to work it out but I had fun doing it!

Hello my fellow parabolic art lovers,,, I have been looking for other people that draw this stuff for about 25 years and tonight I found you... I have my art at this website http://www.artwanted.com/bubbabiscuits

but I will soon add mine to this site as well. It is great to see all of your art on here. Awesome...

Whitney Frann Beeson. Start with vertical, horizontal and diagonal construction lines. Measure 2cm from centre and make 10 marks as shown. The distances will determine the symmetry of the final shape.

Start to join the marks:

Continue all the way round

By varying the distances from the centre and between each mark, you can alter the symmetry of the final drawing.

An attempt using Illustrator.

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