For my most recent t-shirt design, I wanted to surround a quote with wavy sun rays, sort of a “Sun Ray Frame.” I remembered a simple technique for creating a sun in Adobe Illustrator that turned out to be perfect for my design.
Here’s what the Sun Ray Frame looks like. It has a space for adding text, graphics or both. One more step, filling in the center with a circle, easily turns it into a full sun.
If you want to learn how to create a wavy-rayed sun in Illustrator, read on. To get the files from our Resource Library, click here.
I used the most recent version of Adobe Illustrator (currently Version 23.0.2), but any version of Illustrator should work. Because the toolbars often look different between versions, I give keyboard shortcuts wherever possible.
This tutorial relies heavily on precise measurements so make sure to use the values I provide when filling out fields.
NOTE: If you want to learn a simpler way to distribute shapes around a central object (like the circle and the rays in a star), try this post: How to Use the Rotate Tool in Illustrator to Make Easy Flowers .
Ready to start? Launch Adobe Illustrator and create a 12 inch by 12 inch file.
Create the First Sun Ray
1 From the toolbar, choose the Rectangle tool. (shortcut M).
2 Tap on the artboard. The Rectangle panel appears. Enter these values: Width: .75 inches Height: 2.5 inches, You should get a tall, thin rectangle.
3 From the toolbar, select the Add Anchor Point tool (+on your keyboard). Add a point to the top center of the rectangle.
4 From the toolbar, select the Delete Anchor Point tool (– on your keyboard). Click the top left and top right anchors to delete them.
5 From the toolbar, select the Anchor Point tool (Shortcut: Shift + C).
6 Use the Anchor Point tool to click and hold the top point of your triangle, hold down the shift key, and drag out the control handles to create a slightly rounded tip.
7 Let’s make the sun ray wavy. Use your Selection tool (black arrow, V on your keyboard) to select your triangle. From the top menu, click Effect –> Distort & Transform –>Twist.
8 In the Twist panel, type 24 in the Angle field and click OK. Your triangle should now look more like a wavy sun ray.
9 Select your “twisted” sun ray and click Top Menu –> Object –> Expand Appearance. This incorporates the preview effect into your shape. You should now have anchor points defining the new shape.
Create a Circular Guide for Placing Sun Rays
Next we’ll create a circle with a dashed line that will act as a guide for placing the 15 sun rays that define the sun.
1 Select the Ellipse tool (keyboard shortcut: L).
2 Tap the Ellipse tool on the artboard. In the Ellipse panel, define a 7 by 7 inch circle and click OK.
3 Use the Selection tool (black arrow, keyboard: V) to select the circle. Use the swatches at the bottom of the toolbar to set the Fill to none and the Stroke to a color. (I used red.)
4 We’ll define the guide circle as a dashed line made up of 15 dashes equally spaced. Each dash represents where a ray will be placed.
A) Click Stroke in the control bar just above the artboard or access the Stroke panel (Top Menu –> Window –> Stroke).
B) Change the Weight of the stroke to 3 pt.
C) Select the Dashed Line checkbox and enter 50 pt into each of the dashed line fields.
The circular guide is complete!
Duplicate, Rotate, and Place 15 Sunrays
Now that we have a guide, we’ll use the sun ray you just created as the source for 14 more rays which we’ll rotate and place as needed to create the sun.
1 Align your original sun ray to the top dashed segment of the circular guide.
2 Next we’ll duplicate and rotate the original sun ray to create the second ray. Select the existing ray and click Object –> Transform –> Rotate.
3 On the Rotate panel, type -24 in the Angle field. Click Copy. Make sure you use Copy rather than OK. You want to leave your original sun ray intact.
4 Place your rotated copy onto the next dashed line to the right of the circular guide.
5 Repeat the process using the second ray to make the third. Select the second ray. Click Top Menu –> Object –> Transform –> Rotate. The Rotate panel will appear with the -24 value still in the Angle field. Click Copy.
6 You’re on a roll now! Continue the process of selecting the most recent ray, copying it using the Rotate panel, and placing it on the next dashed line of the guide. By the time you’re done, you’ll have 15 rays radiating from the guide.
7 Delete the circular guide. Marquee around all of the rays to select them all (or click command A on a Mac or ctrl A on a PC). From the top menu, select Object –> Group (or click command G on a Mac or ctrl G on a PC).
The Sun Ray frame is complete. Select it and choose a color you like from the Swatches panel. Use it to frame text or graphics as shown in the examples below or if you want to complete the sun continue reading.
T-Shirt design with a lettered quote
My t-shirt used a 19-ray version of the Sun Ray frame to encircle a quote. The lettering was created in Procreate and imported into Illustrator to finish the design. The image was cut out of Cricut glitter iron-on vinyl using a Cricut Maker.
Design to highlight a graphic
This rubber ducky design would look cute on a kid’s t-shirt or onesy.
Complete the Sun
1 Select your grouped sun rays. Access the Ellipse tool (shortcut L). Tap the artboard to bring up the Ellipse panel. Complete the size fields: Width: 7.5 in and Height: 7.5 in. Click OK.
2 Select both your grouped sun rays and your new circle (click command — A on a Mac or ctrl A on a PC to select all). Access the Align Panel (Top Menu –> Window –> Align).
3 Click the Horizontal Align Center and Vertical Align Center icons to perfectly line up the circle and the rays.
4 To make the rays and the circle into a single image, access the Pathfinder panel (Top Menu –> Window –> Pathfinder). With your rays and circle still selected, click the Unite icon. Notice how the resulting graphic is now a single shape.
The Final Sun
Want the Finished Files?
You can download copies of the Sun Ray Frame and Full Sun versions of the graphic from our free Resource Library along with other great resources.
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