Foolproof by design

Some time ago I had an idea that was a good fit for a venn diagram, so I went looking for a generator that would let me input three sets and generate a nice looking diagram, but didn't find anything that was exactly what I wanted, so of course the only option was to make my own. This was the the original diagram I made.

Here's how to make your own.

Step 1

Make a tall document, say 600px and has the width of your circle, let's say 250px. This document will become the smart object that gets duplicated. Make sure to set the document background to transparent. Save the document so it can be added as a smart object to another document. (There are multiple ways of creating this smart object, so you could create it without saving it separately, but that has its own steps, this is one way to do it.)

Step 2

Draw a circle at the center and offset it up from the center a suitable amount. You can guess something, since you can adjust the offset later on. Set the fill to transparent and stroke to something nice. I drew a circle that's the width of the document, set the stroke to 3px and aligned the stroke inside the shape, then moved the circle up by 60px. But that's all up to you.

Step 3

Make a new document that's 600 × 600 pixels. Now drag the file you made in the last step into this new document. The dragged file will become a smart object. When you drag it in, it should get inserted at the center of the document automatically, if not, align the center of the object to the center of the document.

Step 4

Duplicate the smart object three times. Rotate the first copy by 120 degrees and the second one by -120 degrees.

The diagram might look a bit off, so now we can adjust it by modifying the smart object. When you change the circle inside the smart object, all the copies will be updated too when you save.

Mine had a huge center and I wanted it smaller. I double clicked the object and moved the circle up a bit. After I hit save, all the circles moved away from the center a bit and made the center area smaller. You could also change the style of the circle too.

Step 4

Foolproof by design

Time to add your favorite retro-futuristic colors with some small, all caps Futura. The text is just regular text layers on the final document, nothing inside the smart object. You could add a small dot to the circle in the smart object and use that to align the text perfectly, but I just eyeballed the text, because it could be different shapes and sizes.

Go ahead and grab the finished psd file for reference.

This technique works only for three sets. You could use this method for more than three objects to make some beautiful patterns, but they wouldn't be venn diagrams. I just figured that out myself when writing this. See the Wikipedia article on Venn diagram higher number sets.


That original diagram was of course made before I thought of this technique. It's divided into vector shapes with different effects and all that. So if you're into making fancy photoshop venn diagrams, here's the original file: venn-diagram-fx.psd.