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When I first saw this next feature touted as something new, I was a little surprised. In fact, I was almost certain that this was possible in a previous version of Illustrator, but it wasn't. Thankfully now it is possible, because now that I have this feature, I find myself using it all the time. I'm talking about adding gradients to strokes. As I said, in previous versions of Illustrator, you couldn't add a gradient swatch as your stroke color. It just wasn't possible, but now in CS6 you can do just that and it's really simple.
So as you can see here I have two stars both identical on my artboard. The one on the left already has a gradient stroke applied to it. As you see, it's just a yellow star with a blue gradient that fades to transparent. On the right I have just an ordinary star with no stroke applied to it. So let's see how easy it is to add a gradient swatch to the star. I am going to make sure I am working on the stroke color, and I'll come over here the right and I will find one of the gradient swatches, and I will simply click it. Once I do that it automatically adds the gradient swatch to the stroke.
You can't really see it, because a stroke is so thin. So let's go ahead and bump up the size a little bit. I'll go ahead and bump it up to about 20 Points so it's big enough for you to see. Once I have that done, I can then go into the Gradient Section, and I can edit my gradient. So for this stop over here on the left, I am simply going to take the Opacity to 0, and then I will take a blue color and I'll drag it down and drop it right on top of this stop. Now I have a gradient stroke that fades blue to transparent going all the way around my star. Once you've got your gradient applied you can even use the Width tool to vary the width of your gradient stroke simulating a hand-drawn look or even creating something crazy like I have got over here on the left.
All you have to do is go over to your toolbar and find Width tool, or hit the keyboard shortcut, Shift+W on your keyboard. Once you've got that you can come in here and actually expand and contract your stroke in different areas to create a really cool effect. So I will just manipulate this a little bit to show you exactly what I mean. Once you have got that applied, simply click away from it and you are done. As you can see, adding a gradient stroke to your artwork lends itself to a whole range of creative possibilities. Try it out and see what you can come up with in your next project.
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