Islamic Geometric Patterns


I’m making an effort (not always successful) to avoid falling down the Google/Facebook/Youtube hole vortex in the evening. The siren song of internet distraction rarely leads anywhere useful and I’ve never regretted turning the damn thing off and taking up pencil and paper.

Through some library serendipity, I discovered Islamic Geometric Patterns by Eric Broug. It’s a book of step by step drawing instructions. All you need is a ruler, compass, pencil and pen. While the geometry behind theses patterns is enormously sophisticated, actually drawing out the shapes is surprisingly easy and relaxing. It’s also a fun and painless lesson in geometry, especially for those of us not inclined towards math.

The first chapter breaks down the basis of all the patterns–squares, hexagons and pentagons–and how to generate these shapes with just a compass and ruler. Here’s the square and hexagon:


Starting with these basic shapes, you then do further subdivisions. Once the pattern is penciled out you start using ink to make the final design. Add color and texture and these basic patterns can become enormously complex, what David Wade calls “windows into the infinite”:


So what can you do with this arcane exercise in geometry? Just look at some of the amazing things Broug has done with these patterns on his website. I’m particularly fond of simple applications for patterns such as the way he painted his garage door. If only my school geometry was as┬ámuch fun as spending an evening drawing these patterns.

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  1. It reminds me of zentangle. I wished I’d jumped on that when it was popular.

  2. Seeing that makes me want to get my kids Spirograph out of the closet. But Islamic design always puts me in mind of fractals, which are equally beautiful. Math is awesome!

  3. the most spectacular place: the alhambra in spain – gorgous. islamic design is incredible…

  4. Yes! Spirograph!! Wish I still had mine, too! Was in Cairo few yrs ago, saw the most breathtaking mosques. The artisans of so long ago created so much beauty.

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