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Saving time with width profiles

From: Illustrator Insider Training: Drawing without the Pen Tool

Video: Saving time with width profiles

Perhaps one of the most powerful aspects of variable widths inside of Illustrator is not the Width tool, but something called width profiles. You see whenever you have a selection, for example, I'm going to use my Regular Selection tool here to select this path, which we already applied a variable width to. Now, we've discussed that any path with variable widths show up with an asterisk here inside of the Appearance panel. However, if I look towards the top here of my Control panel, I'll also see another shape over here which is called a variable width profile.

Saving time with width profiles

Perhaps one of the most powerful aspects of variable widths inside of Illustrator is not the Width tool, but something called width profiles. You see whenever you have a selection, for example, I'm going to use my Regular Selection tool here to select this path, which we already applied a variable width to. Now, we've discussed that any path with variable widths show up with an asterisk here inside of the Appearance panel. However, if I look towards the top here of my Control panel, I'll also see another shape over here which is called a variable width profile.

Instead of manually going into a path and adjusting individual width points, I could choose to add a width profile which is a preset way that weight is distributed along a path. So for example, let me come back down here towards the belly of Mister Zee. If I click on it right now and let's say I increase the stroke weight to around 2 points, but I'd want it to taper towards the ends, but be thicker here towards the bottom of the belly. So what I could do is I can come to this Profile pop-up over here and I can choose different profiles.

For example, if I click Uniform that I'm just going to get a solid 2 point stroke, but if I choose this option right here called Width Profile 1, it will make it so that it's tapered on both ends but heavier here towards the middle. If I choose a different profile, for example this one over here, you can see that it starts out thin, gets a little bit thicker, gets thin again, then gets thick again and then goes back to being thin again. So I have the ability to take preset settings which are called profiles and apply them which is one click to a path.

So let me actually zoom out for a second here so we could see the back of the body here of Mister Zee. If I choose this path right now and choose this option here, then I can maybe increase the stroke weight just a little bit, and I can see that when doing so, it's going to be 6 points in weight at its thickest point which is right about over here, but it tapers towards a nice point the end on both ends of the path. This can save me a tremendous amount of time especially when I want similar looks for similar types of adjustments. For example, let's take a look over here at the eye of Mister Zee.

I'm going to zoom in a little bit over here, and you have these nice little eyelashes. I'm actually going to choose to select all of them right now and I'm going to choose a different profile here, kind of towards the bottom here where it's thicker on one end and thinner on the other. So you can see how now it looks a little bit more like eyelashes. Now they kind of come to an abrupt end here. So what I might do is open up my Stroke panel and choose to give it a round cap, and that makes it look really nice. Now, one thing that I'll note is that sometimes when you apply a profile to a path, it gets applied in a backwards way.

For example, right now, you can see that my profile looks correct. It's thin, and tapered on one end, and then it gets thicker on this end which is what I want. However, it's possible to actually flip a profile, so that it actually gets applied to the other side of the path. So I can do that at the bottom of the Stroke panel here where I can see that I can apply a profile. There's also a button that lets me flip that profile along the path. So with one click of the mouse here, I can actually make it thicker on this side and thinner on this side. Let's go back though and flip it along back to the way that it was and let me apply the same settings here to these eyelashes as well.

Just apply that profile and actually click on Stroke here and give it a round cap. And with just a few clicks of a mouse, I can get a really nice look and add a ton of expressions to my artwork. Even if I zoom down here to this part of the nose, I can add a little profile here. Maybe make it like this and maybe kind of make it a little bit thicker and again add a round cap here. So I get a really nice look to that nose for Mister Zee. If I come down here to this part of his snout, I can select these two areas here and once again maybe choose a tapered option.

So it looks just a little bit more expressive and a little bit nicer. Take a look at that. With just a few extra clicks of the mouse, I can now add a ton of expression to my artwork. I'll actually hide the Sketch layer so it doesn't get in the way, and see how nice and expressive that artwork is. All you need to do is simply add a profile and it can change the entire look of your artwork. If you want to, you can also create your own width profiles. In my own work, chances are that almost everything that ships by default with Illustrator, which are these default profiles, are probably going to be enough for you.

But if you wanted to, you can simply take any stroke that you've already applied a width to and then come up over here and choose to save that as your own width profile. When you do so, it will actually get saved as an application setting, so it will be available in all other documents that you're working in. I'll close with one other note about working with profiles. One of the really nice things about working with profiles is that when you define a graphic style inside of Illustrator, the profile that you've applied to the paths are also captured and stored inside of that graphic style.

So if you're working on a project and you want to have a consistent look throughout that entire piece of artwork, using width profiles together with graphic styles can really help you out, and saving time and ensuring consistency. Perhaps most importantly, when that client requests those changes which you know are going to happen, all you need to do is modify the graphic style and that ripples through the entire document.

Show transcript

This video is part of

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  1. 7m 4s
    1. Welcome
      1m 21s
    2. The evolution of vector drawing
      3m 46s
    3. Getting the most out of this training
      1m 30s
    4. Using the exercise files
      27s
  2. 39m 2s
    1. Plotting points vs. drawing paths
      5m 36s
    2. Drawing artwork vs. building artwork
      7m 59s
    3. The keyboard shortcuts you HAVE to know
      8m 52s
    4. Groups and layers really do matter
      3m 11s
    5. Taming Smart Guides and the Bounding Box
      10m 53s
    6. Do you need a drawing tablet?
      2m 31s
  3. 47m 51s
    1. To sketch or not to sketch?
      2m 32s
    2. Setting up a template layer for your sketch
      3m 37s
    3. Optimizing default settings for drawing
      5m 27s
    4. Using the primitive shapes tools
      5m 7s
    5. Mastering the modifier keys
      2m 8s
    6. Mastering the transform tools
      6m 37s
    7. Creating curves with the Reshape tool
      6m 44s
    8. Using the Smooth tool
      3m 35s
    9. Using Simplify to create smooth paths
      3m 2s
    10. Recording an action for the Simplify command
      5m 2s
    11. Mirroring art for speed and accuracy
      4m 0s
  4. 50m 18s
    1. Deconstructing the Pathfinder panel
      1m 56s
    2. Using the Shape Modes functions
      12m 4s
    3. Using the Pathfinder functions
      13m 4s
    4. Understanding how compound shapes work
      11m 45s
    5. Understanding why compound shapes exist
      7m 32s
    6. Exploring additional Pathfinder options
      3m 57s
  5. 52m 51s
    1. Why Live Paint was created
      10m 45s
    2. Creating a Live Paint group
      4m 21s
    3. Using the Live Paint Bucket tool
      7m 8s
    4. Using Live Paint with open paths
      5m 6s
    5. Detecting gaps in Live Paint groups
      3m 42s
    6. Adding paths to a Live Paint group
      5m 34s
    7. Using the Live Paint Selection tool
      6m 28s
    8. Releasing and expanding Live Paint groups
      2m 59s
    9. Understanding how Live Paint works
      6m 48s
  6. 27m 37s
    1. Why the Shape Builder tool was created
      4m 18s
    2. Focusing on the big three: Add, Subtract, and Divide
      2m 27s
    3. Using the Shape Builder tool to add and subtract artwork
      9m 50s
    4. Using the Shape Builder to divide artwork
      3m 48s
    5. Building and coloring artwork at the same time
      3m 50s
    6. Using Gap Detection with the Shape Builder tool
      3m 24s
  7. 23m 2s
    1. Understanding how variable widths work
      8m 25s
    2. Modifying width points along a path
      7m 9s
    3. Saving time with width profiles
      5m 14s
    4. Turning variable width strokes into filled paths
      2m 14s
  8. 28m 21s
    1. Understanding how the Pen and Pencil tools differ
      4m 41s
    2. Adjusting the behavior of the Pencil tool
      7m 5s
    3. Using the Path Eraser tool
      1m 17s
    4. Drawing with the Calligraphic Brush tool
      5m 43s
    5. Drawing with the Blob Brush tool
      5m 53s
    6. Using the Eraser tool
      3m 42s
  9. 3m 44s
    1. Looking at the VectorScribe plug-in
      2m 16s
    2. Next steps
      1m 28s

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