Join Rufus Deuchler for an in-depth discussion in this video Variable-width strokes, part of Illustrator CS5 New Features Overview.
This next feature as a designer is truly a dream come true. Basically what this feature allows me to do is to easily create and save variable width strokes. Let me show what I would have done in the past to actually add a little shape and movement to that drawing. I probably would have selected one of those vector paths, and changed the stroke width, to something thicker like this. And then select it, and under Object, I would probably expand the appearance. And then, expand the object itself. With the fill and the stroke, to access the bezier curves of that shape. And then I put, probably take my Direct Selection tool here. And move some of those anchor points closer to this. And maybe take another anchor point over here, and move it overlapping it here. And maybe change these curves a little bit, okay? So this way, I could give that specific line a shape. But I would have to do that on all of these lines. Well, in Illustrator CS5, I can now make changes on lines. And actually save these as a profile.
And apply them very very quickly to other lines as well. So let me move back from here, and go back to my original line. Just to show you how that actually works. We'lg go back to one point here and use the new tool that we have here in the toolbox which is called the Width tool and it can be invoked with Shift + W. When I use that tool on a line what I can do then is click on an anchor point, or anywhere on the path actually, and make it thicker. And may be make sure that these lines here are little bit more open and right here may be I want to make it very, very pointing, okay. So very quickly using this tool I can now apply a profile to that path, I can now also save that profile and apply to these other pass this well just Cmd + Z out of that a second and go back to the original line because I want to show you that there's a whole bunch of presets already in the Control panel. And one of those is this, I can select it.
See, it gets applied, but it gets applied to a one point stroke width. So if I want these to be a little bit thicker, all need going to do is select my whole drawing and change the stoke width to maybe something like. Ten points, OK, and as we can see, this shape has been very, very quickly added through the Profiles panel up here. So I, let's choose another profile. Actually let's select these objects again, go into my Profiles, and select maybe something like the triangular shape, which could be very nice for this leaf drawing, and apply it. And as you can see,the stroke opens wide and goes into the very thin area over here.
It's a little bit like using the art brushes, only that you can apply this to the strokes. Let's just create one of those variable width strokes a second. And all I need to do really is to take any drawing tool here and create a line or a bezie path. Then to make it easier on myself I will simply up the stroke size and use that new tool. And as I drag along the path you see that there's a little widget there that tells me how much is the area on the sides of the path because the path is always in the center and if we have an 11 point path here, we have a 5.5 on one side and 5.5 on the other side.
In this case the measurement unit is set to millimeters and that's why I see it as millimeters in that widget. But I can see that On each side I have 1.94 millimeters. Now, if I start clicking and dragging, you can also see in the widget that these values change. I can change the path on the sides. I can go back here to the beginning of the anchor point. Close it, okay. It's almost closed. Let's see if we control it little bit more like this, and maybe I can go and change the path in here as well, and create a shape like this, which I will then be able to save into the profiles.
But another interesting thing is that I can change the sides of these profiles independently. If I hold down the Alt or Option key, I can now change only one side of that profile. Therefore creating very, very interesting profiles that are not equal on both sides, Okay. Also if I press the Shift key while maybe adding a profile path here, let's say something like this, I will also be able to actually adjust the neighboring points in that path.
So let's first move this variable width point without holding the Shift key and see what happens. You see that the points, or the neighboring points, which are this one and this one, are not actually moving from their position. Now, if I hold down the Shift key, you will see that these points will actually adapt to the width that I am applying to that third point here in the middle. And that can also be very, very useful to create very personalized variable stroke width.
So being able to create these variable width strokes without having to expand the strokes themselves and then move around the vector points is really, really a big, big time saver. Another interesting fact about variable width strokes is that these can be applied to brush strokes as well. So if we open our Brushes panel over here, we can use either Art brushes or Pattern brushes, to be used together with the variable Width tool over here. So let's try that out for a second. Let's take my chalk brush here and go over to my Brush tool and start painting on the art board.
Then with my Selection tool I will select the object, go to my Width tool, and start working on that path. And as you can see I have total control over how these lines actually move. So I can make them a little bit thicker here, and maybe make it thicker here in the middle. So that goes to thin, thick, thin and maybe here make it thicker again over here. And therefore, having total freedom and control over how my brushstrokes can be applied on my art board. Another thing that we can do, and that's using our pattern brushes, let's use this pattern brush here for example.
And if I use a Rectangle tool right here. This is how this pattern would be applied to that object. Or if I use my Ellipse tool, this is what I would get. Let's draw here from the center to see how that works, and something like this, and apply that same pattern to it. So, again, I can select these objects and decide here with the width tool where these width actually change so maybe I can make it a little bit thinner here in the middle and you see, I can make it go down like this, I can make it maybe a little bit thicker over here so that it bulges, okay, let's try that a little bit more.
Something like that. Okay. So that we have a bulge over here. Or, if I go onto the circle that I have created here, I can make, thin areas. Such as this. To make it almost go into the depth of my panel here. Or I can even go here and maybe change some of these anchor points and get a completely different pattern that I initially had. The combination of art brushes or pattern brushes together with the width tool allow you to create even more personalized drawings inside of Illustrator CS5.
- Segmented art brushes
- Variable-width strokes
- The Bristle Brush
- The perspective grid
- Path > Join enhancements
- Multiple artboard enhancements
- Pixel-perfect drawing
- CS Review online commenting