Steven Bonner digs a little deeper to get past Illustrator’s basics and unearth some cool tricks using strokes
- Software Illustrator CS5 or later
- Time needed 10 minutes
- Create custom strokes with the Brushes panel
- Make the most of the Width tool
- Master the Appearance panel
Strokes are one of the core foundations in Illustrator. Adding a stroke to a simple shape is one of the very first things most of us did when we first used the software.
Adobe has improved the humble stroke in some interesting ways that can really enhance your work with CS5. Over the following steps, I’ll show you some nice features that you can use to add more character to your work.
01 Strokes can be added using the Color panel – which will add a basic 1pt stroke to any object using your selected colour – and edited through the Stroke panel, which offers a whole range of customisation options.There are some great new features in CS5, in the shape of preset width profiles, which let you apply width variations to your lines, as well as improved arrowheads.
02 The Width tool is a new addition to the Illustrator toolset, and enables you to create custom strokes of varying thickness, with full control, either symmetrically or asymmetrically. Simply draw a line, select the Width tool, and click-and-drag anywhere along the line to fatten up or thin out the width. By holding the Opt/Alt key when dragging, the line will adjust on one side only, giving you control over the profile.You can also double-click on a point to bring up a Width Point Edit dialog box, enabling you to adjust each point with precision if preferred. Once you’re happy with a line, you can save its profile for later use by going to the drop-down menu in the Stroke panel and selecting Add to Profiles.
03 More in-depth stroke shapes can be made by creating a shape and then dragging it into the Brushes panel and selecting Art Brush from the options. Once your shape is added, you can edit the orientation and width to customise it further.This is a good way to quickly create childlike or painterly strokes in your work and great fun to experiment with.
04 Multiple strokes can be created on one path by making use of the Appearance panel. Simply draw a line, and click on the Add Stroke button in the Appearance panel to insert a new stroke on the same line. From here, you can adjust each stroke that you add individually, changing the width, colour and various effects to create some interesting looks.
05 One thing that was always a little annoying in earlier versions of Illustrator was the way it handled dashed lines. If you drew a square, for example, and added a dashed stroke, you would end up with ugly corners as it preserved the exact gaps and dash lengths specified. Now, however, Adobe had added a nifty little option to the right of the Dashed Line checkbox in the Stroke panel, which aligns the dashes in the corners and subtly adjusts the gaps to fit more pleasingly.