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- Drawing artwork versus building artwork
- Sketching ideas on paper
- Creating curves with the Reshape tool
- Recording actions for speed and accuracy
- Working with the Pathfinder functions
- Understanding how Live Paint works
- Using the Shape Builder tool
- Building and coloring artwork at the same time
- Turning variable-width strokes into filled paths
- Adjusting the behavior of the Pencil tool
- Drawing with the Calligraphic brush
Skill Level Intermediate
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.
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