Making Snowflakes in Fireworks

By: Jim Babbage

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Set for printing


One of those homespun Christmas crafts I used to do as a kid was to make my very own snowflakes by folding a sheet of paper into overlapping triangles and cutting shapes into it with a pair of scissors. When I finished cutting, I would unfold the paper and there would be my own unique snowflake!

Well, the cool thing is you can also make your own digital snowflakes in Fireworks, and not run the risk of a single paper cut. In keeping with the spirit of the original craft, this snowflake will be created from one - count it - ONE triangle. By using symbols, we can cut the shaping time to a minimum and get very accurate results. Below is one example.

example of finished snowflake, created in Fireworks

In this tutorial we'll be using:

  • Guides
  • Grid
  • Snap-to features
  • Symbols
  • Scale Tool (for rotating)
  • Punching vectors

This tutorial can be done in FW MX, MX 2004 and even FW 4.

Getting Started

  1. In Fireworks, create a new document, 400 px square.
  2. Choose a background color other than white or blue. I'll be using green for my demo here.
  3. To start, we need a grid. Go to VIEW > GRID > EDIT GRID. Leave the color as black, and put a check mark in both Show and Snap to Grid. Change the grid dimensions from the default settings to 20px, both horizontally and vertically. The Grid will help us when we are drawing our shapes, and help us draw our triangle.
  4. Select the Polygon vector tool by pressing the "U" key until the polygon icon appears in the toolbar, as seen in Figure 1.

Polygon tool is foudn in the toolbar.
Figure 1 - Polygon Tool

  1. In the Property inspector, make sure that your Shape is set to "Polygon", Sides are set to "3", and Angle is set to "Automatic". Figure 2 shows you the settings.

A screen grab of the Polygon settings, found in the Property Inspector
Figure 2 - Polygon Settings for Our Triangle

  1. Set the Edge to "hard", rather than the default of "anti-alias".
  2. Move your mouse to the center of the image and line up the cursor with an intersection of the grid.
  3. Press the Shift key and drag straight down the the Y axis of the grid line (the vertical line) as you hold the mouse button down. This will give you an equilateral triangle, with one side that is perfectly horizontal. Make the triangle about 250 px high.
  4. Flip the graphic so that the pinnacle is now point up by right-clicking (CTRL+click on the Mac) and selecting TRANSFORM > FLIP VERTICAL.
  5. Align the triangle so that the pinnacle lines up with an intersection of the grid.
  6. Rename the layer that holds the triangle as "triangle".
  7. Lock the layer in the layers panel and save the file.

Creating the Cut-out

  1. Create a new layer in the Layers panel and call it "design".
  2. Here's where you can let your creative juices flow. Keep in mind that real snowflakes are water crystals, so their shapes would be geometric in design. This means that the left and right "sides" of the triangle should be identical. Don't let this stop you from creating what you want, however. I mean, how accurate was I as a kid with a pair of scissors, after all? The grid will help you to keep things matched up, or at least help you correct things after you've drawn your shape.
  3. Zoom in to at least 150%. This makes it easier to draw your shape.

If your image is larger than your window area, just hold down the Space Bar while drawing to scroll around the canvas area.

  1. Select the Pen tool and set its Edge to "hard" as we did with the triangle.
  2. Using the Pen tool, begin to draw your shape. You may want to select a stroke color temporarily, to help you see what you are drawing. If you use the grid as a guide, and click-move-click, the pen tool will draw straight lines only. If you click and drag, the Pen tool will create Bezier curves. I want to avoid curves in this case. An example of my shape, as an active path, is in Figure 3 below. You'll note that this shape differs from the finished sample above. That's because all snowflakes are different!

An example of the design I drew for my snowflake
Figure 3 - My design, drawn with the Pen tool and adjusted as necessary with the Subselection tool.

  1. Before we close the path, use the Subselection tool to make any corrections or alterations to your design. I used the grid to help me draw my lines to get a mirrored result right and left. Also, make sure that your path start and end points fall below the triangle by a few pixels.
  2. When you are satisfied with the shape, we need to close the path. Select the Pen tool again. Click once on the bottom right handle, then move your mouse to the bottom left point and click again. This will join and close the path.
  3. Unlock the triangle layer.
  4. Select both layers and go to MODIFY > COMBINE PATHS > PUNCH. Presto! Your cut-out is created.
  5. Scale the triangle so that it is about 150px high. We'll need more working space in the next section of steps, so shrinking the triangle will give us that room.
  6. Press F8 to create a graphic symbol. Name it "flake design".
  7. Save the file.

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Fireworks, snowflakes, symbols, punching, vectors