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In Illustrator CS5 Essential Training, author Mordy Golding explains the core concepts and techniques that apply to any workflow in Illustrator, whether designing for print, the web, or assets for other applications. This course includes a detailed explanation of the elements that make up vector graphics—paths, strokes, and fills—and shows how to use each of the Illustrator drawing tools. Also demonstrated are techniques for combining and cleaning up paths, organizing paths into groups and layers, text editing, working with color, effects, and much more. Exercise files accompany the course.
We know that in Illustrator we have two basic types of attributes: Fills and Strokes, and they both behave differently and have different settings. However, there may be times when you want to turn, or convert, a stroke into a filled path. Let me give you an example of what I mean by that. I'm going to zoom in on this middle flower right here, and maybe I'll change the Stroke Weight here to about 10 points. Notice there, that I have a thickness now applied to that stroke, but the attribute itself is a stroke. There may be times where I want to actually convert it to a filled object.
So what I can do is go to the Object menu, choose Path and then choose Outline Stroke. This converts it now to a filled path, which means that I could use my Direct Selection tool and just move individual anchor points like this, or even move entire parts of it as well. One reason why you might want to do this is that Illustrator does not have the ability to apply a gradient color to a stroke. So, if you have some kind of stroke that you apply to an object and you want it to have the appearance as if it were filled with some kind of a gradient, you could convert that stroke into a filled path, and then fill it with the gradient.
Another time that you might want to convert paths to outlines are when you want to make sure that the integrity of your artwork will remain correct, no matter how it's being used. For example, if you define some kind of a logo, and that logo has a certain Stroke Weight, you might want to make sure that anytime somebody scales that artwork that the Stroke Weight remains correct. You see there is a certain setting you have to pay attention to when you scale objects inside of Illustrator. If I double-click on the Scale tool icon, you can see over here, that there is an option at the bottom that says Scale Strokes & Effects.
This means if I have let's say 1-point stroke applied to an object, and I now increase the size of that whole object to 200%, my Stroke Weight will grow from 1 to 2 points. However, if I uncheck that option, my artwork will indeed scale 200%, or twice in size, but the Stroke Weight will remain set to 1 point. So, to avoid potential problems where I may have a Stroke Weight that does things that I don't wanted to, before I release a logo out into the wild and have other people work on it, I may choose to convert all of my strokes into filled paths and showing that they will always scale correctly.
Finally, another reason why I might want to go ahead and convert my strokes to filled paths is that I'm working with a dashed line, and I want to change some of the appearances at different parts of that dash line. For example, I'm going to press Cancel here, and I'm also going to press Undo to go back to the shape as it was before back to a Stroke. And I'm going to change a Stroke Weight back down a little bit to maybe 5 points here, but I'm going to turn on a Dashed Line setting and choose a dash setting of about maybe 12 and a gap of around 4.
So, I have these nice dashed lines in my shape, but maybe I want to make some kind of alternating colors. I want one of those dashes to be black, but then I want it to be red, and then black, and then red. Well, there is no way for me right now to specify that, while this is still a stroke. However, if I go to the Object menu here, and I choose to convert that into an Outline Stroke, meaning it's now a filled path, I can use my Direct Selection tool to select individual dashes and change their color by changing the Fill setting right here.
In this case, because Illustrator turns this into a compound path, these specific dashes turn red, but as you can see, I was able to make changes to adjust these dashes without affecting some of the others. So, these are just a few examples of times when you might decide that you want to convert your strokes into filled paths.
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