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In this installment of the Illustrator Insider Training series, Mordy Golding shows how to draw vector artwork quickly, precisely, and efficiently—without having to think about technical concepts like anchor points or control handles. The course highlights intuitive drawing techniques using the Pathfinder functions, Live Paint groups, Shape Builder tool, and variable-width strokes. It also describes the sketching workflow and features in Illustrator that use pressure-sensitive drawing tablets, allowing designers to focus more on their creativity.
So we know that the Width tool creates something called width points which control the appearance of the stroke that's been applied to a path. Now that we understand that let's actually have some fun applying it to real artwork and more importantly in the process we will learn about some of the other ways that we can control these width points as well. I am going to zoom in over here and let's start off with just the back over here of the zebra. In fact, let's kind of come down over here to this line over here that shapes his hind leg. Let's see how we might be able to use the Width tool to get a nicer looking appearance, add some more expression to the artwork that we have over here.
The way that we want the artwork to kind of go here is we want it to be thicker at the bottom over here and then get more narrow as it gets towards the top. Now one thing that's important to note about working with the Width tool is that you don't need to select artwork first. You can actually just go to town straight by using it. So I am going to switch over here to the Width tool. I am going to move over here to this part of the path right here and again because I have Smart Guides turned on, it tells me that my path right now has a stroke width of 1 point. Again, if you don't want that you can actually just hit Command+K or Ctrl+K. In fact, let's do that now because we don't really care very much right now about actual sizes; we care about the visual appearance of our artwork.
A little bit later on in this movie though we will find out that if we need to we can always be as precise as we want to be even without the Smart Guides turned on. So let's go here and let's go to Smart Guides. I am going to turn Measurement Labels off and click OK. We will zoom in actually a little bit closer here to this piece of artwork. Very good! So now I am going to move my cursor over the path here and I can see that I am able to add a width point. I want it to be a little bit thicker here towards the bottom. So I am going to click and drag to make it a little bit wider. I can drag out to the right or if you drag to the left you will notice that nothing is added because that's the gesture that we would always use to make your path narrower.
So that would actually reduce it. It does not look like anything is happening. What I'm doing right now is actually setting my stroke weight to 0. So let's bring it out a little bit heavier over here, just about this. Again, we are doing things by eye right now. And you notice that Illustrator automatically kind of figures out how to taper this line very nicely along the path. It actually ends over here with 1 point over here, and if you zoom in just a little bit closer here, it would be easier to see it. When I click on this point here there are actually these two anchor points. There is a half of point of width here. I could just drag these two little points here and drag them in so the path goes completely to 0.
So now you can see it tapers out really nice to be thin that way. That's one way to do it. I am actually going to press Undo and zoom a little bit closer here because I want to show you yet another way to make the appearance of strokes look really nice. So if I right now take a look at this path, I am using my regular Selection tool because I just want you to be able to see the end of it over here. So it kind of ends abruptly here, which is the way that strokes normally do end. However, if I go now to my Stroke panel here and I specify a Round Cap ending instead of a Butt Cap ending then I kind of get a nice rounded edge over there which really kind of looks nice in this piece of artwork.
So if I zoom out now I don't have to have it taper completely to 0. I can have it go to 1 point and that looks very nice, and again, the same thing applies in this end. With Illustrator you can't have a round cap on one end of a path and then on different kind of cap on another end, but likely this is going to now kind of run into the leg anyway so I won't see that. So this gives me a nice way to add a nice width to this path itself. Now let's take a look at another situation here along the belly here. I am going to click on this path over here just to select it because I want you to see that it has a stroke weight here of 1 point. So I am going to go ahead and deselect it.
I use my Width tool over here to kind of come right about over here and click and drag and make it a little bit thicker here and maybe I want it to be a little bit thicker here as well, so now I kind of get thin stroke and then it kind of gets little bit thicker and it tapers down a little bit more narrow and then back to this weight again over here. Now let's say I wanted to dial in a very specific thickness. What I can do is I can take this same Width tool and mouse over the actual width point right here and you will notice by the way as you are doing this it will kind of snap to it. And when I double-click on that width point the Width Point Edit dialog box appears.
Here I see the exact width right now at that point. So again this is why I would not need to have Smart Guides. I can always see what any width point is set to right now just by double-clicking on it and I can see now that my Total Width here is 4.379. Let's say I want it to be precise. I want it to be exactly 3.5 point. I could type in 3.5 and click OK and now I can dial in a very specific thickness as well. But if I double-click once again on that point you will notice that I also have the ability to set different values for Side 1 and Side 2. There is a lock icon here, and if I click on it this means that the weight will always be evenly distributed along the path.
But if I don't have that icon turned on I could set let's say Side 1 to be maybe 2 points in width and Side 2 to be 1 point and that gives me a total of 3. Now when I click OK you can see how there is more thickness on one side of the path than there is in the other. I can also do that by eye simply by clicking on the actual little outer diamond shape over here and when I do that both sides kind of get stretched, but if I hold down the Option key or the Alt key on Windows while I am doing it, you can see that I am only adding thickness or adjusting the thickness along one side of that path.
Now you will also notice that if I click on the width point itself and drag left or right I can reposition it along the path and you could even see how Illustrator is kind of readjusting the way that the path tapers from one width point to the next. Illustrator will always create width points for you on either end of the path but as you're dragging you'll only see that the path right now is moving up until this point right here because I've already defined another width point. So right now as I adjust this one it's kind of adjusting the width between the width points that already currently exist.
However, there is a way to proportionally move all the width points at once. So as I was doing before if I click and drag on this width point you can see that it adjusts along the path by itself. But if I hold down the Shift key while I do that you can see now that the other width point is also moving. So this way I'm able to take multiple width points and move them proportionately along a path. Now let's say I realize you know what, I kind of messed up on this one. I really don't want this width point here at all. There are two ways that I can get rid of it. One way is to double-click on it and then simply hit the Delete button or I am going to click Cancel and with my Width tool if I click on the width point you'll see that it's selected. Right now, it's highlighted in red, which is my layer color.
I can hit just Delete on my keyboard and it won't delete my path. It will just delete that width point and evenly redistribute the weight along the path. So for example, if I don't want a width point here as well I can click on this, hit Delete and now I am back to a single path that has a consistent stroke width of 1 point along the entire path. So you can see that it's not only easy to adjust the width of a stroke along its path, but it's also a lot of fun and you can really add a lot of expression to your artwork. Problem though is that if you have a lot of paths in your artwork like we do here with Mister Zee, it could be quite tedious to have to go with you every single path and modify each thickness manually.
The good news is that there are ways to automate this process or at least make this process a little bit easier to accomplish. We will cover that in the next movie.
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