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Deke's Techniques is a collection of short Photoshop and Illustrator projects and creative effects that can be completed in ten minutes or less. The series is taught by computer graphics guru Deke McClelland, and presented in his signature step-by-step style. The intent is to reveal how various Photoshop and Illustrator features can be combined and leveraged in real-world examples so that they can be applied to creative projects right away.
In this movie, I'll show you how to use the variable width tool, to give your 2D character illustration a little more nuance. So, the idea is this, we take for granted, I think when we're working inside vector based drawing applications that the strokes have to have a uniform thickness, which is not the way that it works in the real world at all, and as a result, your illustrations can end up looking very synthetic. However, by using the variable width tool, which came to us in Illustrator CS5, we can create strokes like this, that end up tapering very naturally.
And what we're going to do is, we're going to transform the helmet and some of the shapes around it into these variable width strokes right here. So, you can really see it In this region and right at this location, and at some other points as well. And it gives us the option of making these strokes over on the right side of the helmet, thinner than the strokes over on the left hand side. So I'm going to switch back to the drawing as we last saw it in the previous movie and I'll go ahead and scroll up here to the top of this helmet line. And order to select it, you're going to have to select the Wide Arrow tool by pressing the A key.
And then go ahead and Alt + click or Opt + click on that line, switch to the whip tool which can also get by pressing Shift and W. And then there's a couple different ways to use this tool. One is to click and drag like so in order to make the stroke thicker or thinner at this particular location, but the way I prefer to work just because I feel like it gives me more control is to just double click on that point right there in order to bring up this point at a dialog box. And I am going to go ahead and change the total width for this point to 0.5 so that we have a very tapering stroke indeed, and now click Okay. Now I want the stroke to taper pretty erratically, so I'll go ahead and double click on this location, and set another point, and bring up the dialogue box. And I'll change this width point to 2.5 points, and I'll click okay. Then I'll go head and scroll down a little bit.
Now the thing about the width tool that you have to bear in mind as you're working inside of illustrator Is that it really doesn't matter if the line is selected or not. So it's very easy to switch to a deselected path outline, which is exactly what would happen if I double click right at this location here. I'm going to move my cursor up ever so slightly so that I know I'm working on the same path and I'll double click right at that location. Above the eyes, and I'll change this width value to 1 point. Now you have the option by the way of changing the sides independently.
I'm not going to do that however where this illustration is concerned. So I'll go ahead and click Okay, and I actually have to say, alright, just don't work that way, just much easier to double click at a point, set a width and go. Now I'm going to double click at this location. Not all the way down here because if I did that, then I would end up setting a point on the wrong path outline. I'll double click right there. And I'll set this guy to 2.5 points like so. And then go ahead and accept that change. And now I'll switch back to the Black Arrow tool by pressing the V key. And I'll press Ctrl + Shift + A or Cmd + Shift + A on the Mac. In order to deselect the path outline.
And you can see how it tapers upward toward the eyes and then becomes thicker again toward the center of the top of the helmet and then grows very thin at the top. The next path we want to adjust is this one here. But it's going to be easier if the path is toward the front so that we can get to the various anchor points. So I'll press Ctrl + Shift + Right Bracket or Cmd + Shift + Right Bracket on the Mac in order to bring you to the top of the stack. And then I'll press Shift+W in order to switch over to my Width tool once again. And you're going to see a lot of flashing occurring at different locations here.
If you want to limit some of the flashing on screen then you can go ahead and lock down the body layer. And now we'lll keep those elements on that layer to view. We're going to start with this point right there. You don't have to set with points at anchor points by the way but that's how we're going to work where this path is concerned. I'll double click at this location and I'll set the Width value to 1 and then I'll accept that change. And notice that illustrator goes ahead and automatically sets a couple of width points on either side of that anchor point. And I'm going to change this guy right there to 2.5 points.
And then I'll change this guy, to 2.5 points, as well. It's really up to you, but these are the changes that I came up with. And then I'll go ahead and double-click at this point and change it to 1.5 points. I'll double-click right here and change it to 2.5 points as well. So obviously, I'm being pretty fussy as I work through this. You don't have to set that many width points if you don't want to. Now, I'm going to double-click right there and set that guy to one point five points. I'll double-click at this location and set this one back to 2.5 points.
And then I'll double-click here and set this one to 1.5 points, so I'm varying back and forth from one anchor point to the other at this point. I'll double-click at this location and change this guy to a mere 1 point. So that the path outline is growing very thin. Now let's put this guy back where he belongs. Now any time you want to shift to adjusting the paths, actually working with the path outlines like you normally do, then you really need to switch back to the Black Arrow tool. And so I'll do that by pressing the V key and then I'll press Ctrl + X or Cmd + X on the Mac In order to cut that shape, I'll go ahead and select the big helmet shape right there, and I'll press Ctrl + B or Cmd +B on the Mac in order to paste that modified path and back.
The next path I want to modify is the general path around the helmet; however, the problem with this guy is he's part of a clipping group. So if I were to click on this path outline to select it and then press Shift + W to switch back to the Width tool and lets say I increase the width of this point right here. That's not going to effect just that one point, it's going to effect the entire path outline uniformly again because its part of a clipping mask. So, here is what you do, go ahead and press Ctrl + Z or Cmd + Z on the Mac to undo that change. Press the A key in order to switch to the Wide Arrow tool, click off the path outline to deselect it and then Alt + click or Opt + click on the path outline to select it independently of the rest of the clipping group. Then go up to the Edit menu and choose a Copy Command or press Ctrl + C or Cmd + C on the Mac.
And now we want to get rid of the stroke that's currently assigned to this path outline so click on the second swatch up here in the Control panel, and change it to None. In order to produce this effect here. I'll go and press the Esc key in order to hide that panel and press Ctrl + Shift + A or Cmd + Shift + A on a Mac, in order to deselect the artwork. And then I'll press the V key in order to switch to the black arrow tool and reselect that path outline. This time I've selected the entire clipping group. And I'll press Ctrl + F or Cmd + F on a Mac, in order to paste that path in front. Now, it's just a path as you can see on the far left side of the Control panel. So we can apply as many width points as we want.
But before I do, I'm going to change the fill to none. And so we just have a stroke assign to this path outline and nothing more. There is a path that's going to get in our way here so we need to hide it temporarily, and that's this guy right there. Go ahead and select that path outlined that's covering up the right hand whiskers, and then go up to the object menu choose hide and choose selection. Now that we can see what we're doing. I'll go ahead and select the path outline and zoom in. And then I'll press Shift+W to once again switch to the width tool. And I'll double-click on this anchor point and change its width to 1.5 points like so.
And then I'll double-click on this guy and change it to one point and I'll double-click on this one and change it to 1.5 point again. It's totally up to you how you work, these are just values that I came up with. Notice what Illustrator's done, I went ahead and changed this point to 1,5 and then it restored this point right here back to 2.5 points. That's not actually what I want, I want to set an area that will remain 1.5 points that goes down to this location right there. So I'll double click on that anchor point and change it to 1.5 points like so.
And then I'll click on this width point, the one that Illustrator created for me. You can tell it's selected because it has the little handles on either side of it. And then press the Backspace key or the Del key on the Mac, in order to get rid of it. And now notice we have 1.5 point, point right there and another 1.5 width point at this location. So this range of the stroke is uniform. Now double click at this location, change it's width value to 1 point. I will double click at this location right there and change it to 1.5 point and then I also want to double click at this location and change it to 1.5 point like so, we don't want a width point at this location that's one Illustrator created for me, so I'll just go ahead and delete it.
And we don't want one here either, how ever as soon as delete it, I'll going to get really strange problem. Now that's we got a 1.5 point, point right there, then we got a 2.5 point there and I'm not sure if I can modify it, I was able to just by zooming in, I was ale to find it and change it, so that ends up not working. However, basically what's happening is the Illustrator is seeing that point, even though it's a closed path outline. Closed paths always begin and end somewhere. It's a mystery where, quite frankly, but in the case of this path, it seems to be right at this location. What you need to do, in order to solve this problem, is switch from the Eraser tool to the Scissors tool and create a cut, right there, at that location I'll switch to my Wide Arrow tool, which I can get by pressing the A key. Click off the path outlines, to deselect them.
Click at this anchor point and drag it up and out of the way like so. And then I'll go ahead and select this guy Press Shift+W to switch back to the Width tool, double click on this anchor point and change it to 1.5 points. I'll go ahead and press the A key to switch back to the White Arrow tool. Click on this anchor point to select it, Shift + click on this one to select it and just press Ctrl + J or Cmd + J on a Mac in order to join them together with a straight segment. Then, click off the outline path again, click on this anchor point to just drag it so it's coincident with the other one, and that will solve the problem. It's not the most elegant solution but it does work. Just one more point to set.
I'm going to scroll down here to the bottom of the helmet. And press Shift + W to switch to the Width tool. And double click on this anchor point, and change it to two points. So, pretty small change. But just something I wanted to do. I'll go ahead and press Ctrl + 0 or Cmd + 0 on the Mac to zoom back out. And we want to bring back that one path outline that we hid just a moment ago. And to do so, go up to the object menu, and choose Show All, and that will bring that guy back. And actually I'm going to zoom back in on it, and double click at this point, because this needs to be variable width as well because it's sitting on a variable width segment, and I'm going to change its Width value to 1.5, and then I'll double click at this point and change that Width value to two. Then I'll press the V key in order to switch back to the black arrow tool and click off the path outline to deselect it.
Might as well press the F key a couple of times in order to switch to the full screen mode. And that friends is how you use the Width Tool to add nuance to your strokes around your 2D video character.
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