Creating variable-width strokes
Video: Creating variable-width strokesOne of the most basic ways of adjusting the appearance of artwork inside of Illustrator is by using Fills and Strokes. In fact, these settings are so basic, we often take them for granted. Well, now in Illustrator CS5, Strokes take on a whole new meaning. And that's because you now have the ability to control variable width on each individual Stroke. Let me explain what I mean. I'm going to zoom in on this piece of artwork right over here, this little leaf, which is actually made up of two Paths that just kind of cross each other. Notice right now that we have a single Path over here that has the Stroke applied to it.
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In Illustrator CS5 New Features, author Mordy Golding discusses noteworthy features and improvements in the latest upgrade of Adobe's vector graphics editor and drawing program. This course includes overviews of perspective drawing, expressive bristle brushes, and variable-width strokes, as well as anti-aliasing features for web design, a new Artboards panel, improvements to symbols and drawing modes, and integration with Adobe Flash Catalyst. Exercise files are included with the course.
- Creating complex art from basic shapes with the Shape Builder tool
- Transforming flat artwork using perspective grids and vanishing points
- Creating variable-width strokes
- Controlling dashed line length, corners, and gaps
- Creating original brushes using the Brushes panel
- Adding arrowheads to strokes
- Creating web-ready graphics, text, and slices
- Integrating with Flash Catalyst
Creating variable-width strokes
One of the most basic ways of adjusting the appearance of artwork inside of Illustrator is by using Fills and Strokes. In fact, these settings are so basic, we often take them for granted. Well, now in Illustrator CS5, Strokes take on a whole new meaning. And that's because you now have the ability to control variable width on each individual Stroke. Let me explain what I mean. I'm going to zoom in on this piece of artwork right over here, this little leaf, which is actually made up of two Paths that just kind of cross each other. Notice right now that we have a single Path over here that has the Stroke applied to it.
The Stroke has a weight of 4 point. We will refer to the Stroke weight as the width of the appearance of that Path. Normally, inside of Illustrator, that 4 point weight is distributed evenly across the entire Path. It's consistent. The Path is always 4 points in width, no matter which point of the Path you're looking at. However, now in Illustrator CS5, through the use of this Width tool here in the Tool panel, I have the ability to come over to any Path, click and drag with this Width tool to adjust the weight at any point on that Path. What I've done here is I've made the width a little bit wider at this point of the Path right here as my Path begins over here.
If you look at my Smart Guides that are turned on, you can see that as I move this tool over to one end of Path, at this point, the Path is 4 point. But now, at this point over here, it's grown to a width of little bit over 8 points, and then it reduces back down to 4 points over here. It's important to note that what I've just done here as I've not added an additional anchor point to my Path. In fact, if I switch to my Direct Selection tool, you'll see that this Path still has its original two anchor points. However, what I've added is something now called a width point on the Path itself. If I switch back to the Width tool and I mouse over this part of the Path, just by simply mousing over the Path I can view the exact width of that Stroke at any point along that Path.
I'll create another width point at this point of the Path here and click and drag just so that the Path is a little bit more narrow at this point. Notice how Illustrator automatically, seamlessly connects these two Stroke weights by creating a smooth appearance. At any time, with the Width tool selected, you can go over to one of these width points and double-click on them to see their exact settings. This brings up the Width Point Edit dialog box where I could see the actual width on either side of the Path - we'll talk about that in just a moment - the Total Width of the Path at that specific point, and they also have the ability to delete that point if I'd like to.
Another way to delete the point is simply to click OK here, select it with my Width tool and then hit the Delete key on my keyboard. I'm actually going to undo that action, because I want to show you that now that I have two Width Points on this Path here, I can click on one of these and move them back and forth. Notice that right now I'm only moving one Width Point along that Path. See how right over here Illustrator automatically connects these two Stroke widths with a smooth line. But as I move this width point, only this one is moving. If I hold down the Shift key on the keyboard, now you'll notice that both of them are moving together.
This gives me the fine control that I need in order to make adjustments to the width of my Stroke anywhere along the Path. Another thing that I can do with the Width tool is also just adjust the Stroke Width on one side of the Path. To do that, I would simply grab one of these handles that I've drawn out from the width point, hold down my Option key, or the Alt key on Windows, and click and drag. Now you can see that I'm only adjusting the width on one side of the Path. In fact, using that same technique, I can even remove the entire width from one side of the Path completely so that my Stroke weight is all entirely on one side of this Path over here, but then comes back across the Path on this side.
Now that we understand how the Width tool works, let's take a look at how I might stylize this one piece of art. I'm actually going to come over here to this width point and then delete it, and I'll do the same thing for this one here. Now I'm back to my original Stroke weight of 4 points. I'll come here to this end of the Path and drag out my Stroke width so it's just a little bit more thick over here. Next, I'll take a look over here to top of the Path, and I'll make this one more narrow. This gives me a much nicer appearance to that piece of artwork. Next, I'll come over here to this part of the leaf, and what I'll do is I'll simply come over to just about this part over here and click and drag to make this part thicker.
I'll add another width point right about over here and make this one just a little bit more narrow. Now if I deselect this, you'll see that I have the ability, using the same Path as before, to get much more control over the appearance of the Stroke of my artwork without having to create specific expanded Paths. No matter what kind of art you draw or create inside of Illustrator, you no longer have to put up with Strokes that all look the same. Using the new Width tool inside of Illustrator CS5, you can draw a Path with thick and thin nuances and easily add expression to your drawing.
Find answers to the most frequently asked questions about Illustrator CS5 New Features .
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- Q: In the “Mapping flat artwork to perspective grids” video, directions for moving a box in a perpendicular direction say to use the Tilde key. However, upon attempting to move the box using this method, the box continues to move in the same plane, not in a perpendicular fashion. Is the technique in the video incorrect?
- A: Adobe changed this keyboard shortcut just before the final release. The shortcut is the "5" key. The video tutorial has been updated to reflect this.
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