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celtic knots


learning objectives

  • working through a process of recognizing and identifying patterns and sequencing, predicting patterns
  • types of patterns:
    • linear,
    • grid,
    • center (radial),
    • mirror,
    • free-form (random)
  • balance: symmetrical harmony
  • values and space: 3-D shading
  • reflection (mirror imaging) in a pattern

Celtic knots:

celtic design

Celtic knots are complete loops without any beginning or end.

In earlier times these designs were mainly used for decorative purposes.

Over time people started to interpret them as physical and spiritual crossing of paths, eternity, and the endurance of life, love and faith.

Celtic knot designs are constructed using a grid method. The design consists of units (elements), that are repeated throughout the layout.


celtic border


One-string design

Basic unit:

basic knot unit

Place basic units in a string:

basic knot unit

Link units with curves:

unit links

End the string with an End unit (half the width):

one string design

Shade it with a pencil to add shadows to overlapped bands.

double string design

Start with basic units. Link tops and bottoms with curves. Connect the middle ends with straight lines. Make sure the bands that start on top - go under, the bands that start below - go above. Shade when you are done.

double string design


celtic border

Strings of basic units make nice borders, but you need to come up with a corner unit to connect the units seamlessly.


They can be as simple or as complex and elaborate as you want.

Make sure you keep the width of the "band" consistent.

Use practice border worksheet and complete the design.

celtic corner unit

Now design your own corner unit.

Use corner unit worksheet. There is already a set of knot units that form a border.

You need to come up with your own design that is:

  • symmetrical
  • continues the "bands"
  • does not leave any loose ends
  • "bands" interweave inside the corner

You will have to connect the bands that face outside the border.

... and the bands that look inside the border.

Instead of connecting the loose ends with a straight line - create a knot in each corner trying to tangle these bands.

Follow the steps below.

celtic knot corner

Extend one of the "bands" into a curve that ends on the axis.

Curve can be any shape and complexity.

celtic knot corner

Note (and mark) a few key points - points that cross the axis, the most left/right/top points, etc.

celtic knot corner

The opposite curve should be a mirror image of the first one.

It should go through the same key points on the axis.

The other key points should be the same distance from the axis.

celtic knot corner

The two curves should be connected at the axis as they are connecting the two parts of the same "band".

celtic knot corner

Extend the other band with a differently shaped curve.

make sure it stops at the axis.

celtic knot corner

Draw a mirror curve.

example 1

example 2

example 3

celtic knot corner

Now add width to your curves.

celtic knot corner

Now that you have all these lines drawn, it's time to make them interweave.

Erase parts of the bands that are overlapped.

The general rule is :

If the band is on the top on one side of the axis, it should be overlapped on the other.

If the band is on the top at one crossing, it should be overlapped at the next one.

celtic knot corner

Erase all pencil lines and outline everything with a marker.

Shade the elements that are overlapped. Create a smooth blending effect for a realistic drop shadow effect.

Use a tortillon for blending.

As an option - you can use colored pencils for shading.

art 2 celtic knots