Math + Making

A student blog for Math 189AH: Making Mathematics at Harvey Mudd College

Parametric Curve Posters

Vicente Valdes Pineda
Ashley Kim

For our final Making Math project, we decided to create visually-aesthetic posters of parametric curves. This class has truly made us appreciate the beauty of mathematics, and we thought it’d be super cool to wrap up the semester by creating posters that highlight just that – how a relatively simple mathematical equation can create aesthetically pleasing figures.

Creating SVGs of Parametric Curves in Python

The first step of our project was creating a program that would convert our desired parametric equations into SVGs. By creating an SVG for our parametric curves, we could freely manipulate the size and colors of the lines in the curve, and also ensure that our rendering of the parametric curve would keep its quality when we increased its size. Not to mention that with an SVG we could set the canvas background to be transparent, making it easier to create a poster with the curve.

To do this we created a short Python script that would take in a specific function for the x and y parameters of a parametric curve, and then create an SVG for it by first scaling the values to fit the desired canvas size and then creating line elements between points of the parametric curve at very small intervals. We then colored these different line segments using a list of color gradients created by the colour Python library. Here is the main logic for our Python script.

In the code above, the “detail_level” specified how many line segments were used to create the SVG, and the colors defined the range of the color gradient for the line. Using this code, we were able to get SVG files for our desired parametric equations, like the one pictured below:

Once we had the SVGs for our desired parametric curves, we were ready to begin creating and designing our posters!

Designing Posters in Figma

We imported the SVGs into new Figma Design files and created the posters from there. We were able to play around with the background colors, fonts, and layout. We chose background colors that would allow our SVGs to pop with high contrast, and also added the equations of our parametric curves to the posters. Here are some of the posters we created:

Once we designed the posters on Figma, we exported them as PNGs to print them out using the Makerspace Large Format Printer.

Printing Out the Posters

Once we had our poster designs, we headed to the Makerspace to print out our posters using the Large Format Printer. We asked a Makerspace Steward to help us out with this, since it was our first time using the machine. It was pretty simple to upload our images and get two of our posters (Blossom Variations and Silken Web) printed out. The quality of the paper was really nice and sturdy and also had a glossy finish which made it look super professional! We used the large paper cutter in the back of the Makerspace to cut the borders of our poster. This took a lot of trial and error since it was hard to know how much of the border we were cutting off, but after a couple of tries, we developed a good sense of where to cut! Here are the two posters we printed out side by side:

Looking Ahead

Because of time limits, we weren’t able to finish everything that we had hoped to, but if we could continue the project in the future, here are some things we would focus on. We really wanted to try out the pen-plotter in the Makerspace since we were graphing parametric curves. So this would be something that we’d like to explore. Additionally, we wanted to try graphing some 3-dimensional curves and thought it would be cool to use color to do this (thank you Prof. Kagey for the idea)! Some curves that we were interested in but didn’t get to create were:

  • Lissajous
  • Moire
  • Bezier
  • Torus Knots
  • Fourier

So these curves would be pretty cool to explore as well!

Overall, we’re really happy with our final results and learned a lot through the process of creating the SVGs, designing the layouts, and getting the final posters printed!


One response to “Parametric Curve Posters”

  1. Peter Kagey Avatar

    Can you modify a couple of these to a 20″ x 30″ format so that I can print them for my office? 😊

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