CATS Method

So, you want to build your first flow and don’t know where to start? The CATS method is a mental helper to setup flows.

Result graphic for this tutorial

The artwork we are creating now with OMATA.

What is the CATS method?


CATS stands for:

C = Create
A = Arrange
T = Transform
S = Select

How to use it? Read it as a sequence.

  • First create objects like rectangles or ellipses
  • Then arrange them (e.g. layout as grid)
  • Then transform (change) properties like opacity or rotation
  • After that select some objects (e.g. pick from current selection) and transform them some more

Note: Omata doesn’t force you to build flows this way. But it helps as a starting point. You can order and build your flows the way you want. Soon you will start to experiment and have flows like CAT, CAST or CATSTTSTTSCASA.

Let’s start

In Illustrator create a new document. We will work in the first (empty) layer. Set the document fill color to something different than white so that we can better see what we are building.

Change default color

Now open Omata. After installation you will find it in the main menu under Window > Extensions > Omata.
In „My Flows“ click on the plus icon on the right and create a new flow.
Open it by clicking „Edit“.

Add from gallery
Add from gallery

1. Create

Let’s add our first command by pressing the plus icon on the right. The commands library is opening.

Add from gallery

What we need is “Create ellipse”. It is in the first section but you could also use the search bar at the top. Type “ellipse” and click on the item to include it into your flow.

Add from gallery

Click on the command on the left pane and you will see the options for it on the right pane.

Set these values to the „Create ellipse“ command:
Number: 24
Width and Height: 50

Add from gallery

Run a quick test by pressing the play button.
You can only see one ellipse? That is because they are all sitting on top of each other. Open the layers panel. You can see there are 24 sublayers with 24 ellipses.

Delete them (or use Undo) to get a clean layer again.

Add Create Ellipse command

2. Arrange

Add the second command. Press the plus icon again and add “Grid Layout” from the commands. It is in the “Arrange” section.

Drag and drop “Grid Layout” onto “Create ellipse”.


Important – don’t miss this:
You need to nest “Grid Layout” inside “Create ellipse”. A command always works with the results of its parent command (in this case with the 24 created ellipses).

Add Grid command

 Adjust values:
Columns: 12
Gutter w / h: 10
x / y: 0 (this is the position where the first item will be placed at)
Anchor: activate the anchor in the center

3. Transform


Let’s style our ellipses.

Add the “Opacity” command from the library and drop it onto “Create ellipse”. It should now be below “Grid layout” and is nudged to the right (check the screenshot).


You will now learn about another great feature: Modes.

In the opacity command on the right click on the empty square icon next to the input field. The list shows you available modes: choose “Random”. The UI changes and you can now input a minimum value and a maximum value. Omata will choose a value between min and max for each ellipse.

Choose random mode


Add a “Colors” command right below “Opacity”. Choose a color value that you like.
You can open a color picker by clicking on the color square.

Choose random mode


Set random mode for width. For now this will give us random width values but the same height value everytime.
To get perfect ellipses click on the lock icon at the bottom. „H“ or height will now be calculated by the aspect ratio – 1:1 in this case. (You can set manual ratios of course or choose one from the options menu).

Choose random mode

Note: If you want the same random value for all ellipses then change the icon next to Modes. “For each” is default. Choose “Once” and a single random value will be produced and applied to all ellipses.

And as we are talking about mode options let’s also talk about “Abs” and “Rel”. These stand for “absolute value” and “relative value”. Abs treats your input as absolute values (e.g. 10 = 10% opacity). Rel adds the input value to the current value (e.g. 50% current opacity + 10 (rel) = 60% opacity). It works with negative values, too. – the value will be subtracted from the current value.

Set these values for size:

Mode: Random
Min: 20
Max: 45

Remove all generated objects from the steps before and press play. Congratulations, you just produced this little grid with dynamic ellipses.

Add Opacity command

We are now at the CAT stage of the “CATS” method. S for “Select” is missing. Like I said before this is only a helper to get you started. You can stop now and be happy about your results. Or you can take the final step with „Select“.

4. Select

Let’s change the first and the last element in our grid. From the commands library add “Select first” and “Select last”. Drop them onto “Create ellipse”. They are now at the last and second last position.


Duplicate the Opacity command from above by clicking the “3 dots menu” and choosing duplicate. Drag and drop it onto “Select first” so that it is nested inside it (it is nudged to the right). Set Alpha to 100.


Duplicate this opacity command again and drop it onto “Select last”.


Run your flow and the first and last item will always have an opacity of 100. To take it further you could do the same with size, color or other properties.


Pro tip: If you want to have the last ellipse not be selected anymore after your flow finishes use “Deselect all” at the end of your flow.

Add Pick from selection

Where to go from here?

1. Modify the values in this flow. Play, experiment.

2. Import other templates from the gallery.
Try „Particle ring“ or „Soundbars“. Experiment with the values there.

Graphic audios bars