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Strokes and Variable Strokes in Adobe Illustrator

Lesson 18 from: Adobe Illustrator Creative Cloud: Essentials for Creating Projects

Brian Wood

Strokes and Variable Strokes in Adobe Illustrator

Lesson 18 from: Adobe Illustrator Creative Cloud: Essentials for Creating Projects

Brian Wood

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Lesson Info

18. Strokes and Variable Strokes in Adobe Illustrator


Class Trailer

Class Introduction


What is Adobe Illustrator?


Explore the Interface


Create and Save New Documents


Zoom and Navigate


Working with Artboards


Introduction to Layers


Rulers and Guides


Shapes and Drawing


Aligning and Combining Shapes


Pen Tool


Manipulating Stroke and Fill


Creating and Editing with Color


Painting with Gradients


Getting Started with Patterns


Adding Text To Your Document


Formatting Text


Strokes and Variable Strokes in Adobe Illustrator


Rotating Objects in Adobe Illustrator


Effects and the Appearance Panel in Adobe Illustrator


Adding Photo Images in Adobe Illustrator


Working with Linked Content in Adobe Illustrator


Packaging your Project for Handoff in Adobe Illustrator


Best Formats to Save Your Files


Select Like a Pro: Layers, Groups, & Other Unique Tools


Edit Paths Like a Pro in Adobe Illustrator


Editing Paths: Pen Tool in Adobe Illustrator


Creating & Applying Brushes to Artwork in Adobe Illustrator


Editing Paths: Knife & Scissor Tool in Adobe Illustrator


Editing Paths: Join Tool in Adobe Illustrator


Editing Paths: Isolation Mode in Adobe® Illustrator®


Pen Tool Shortcuts in Adobe Illustrator


Other Drawing Tools & Methods in Adobe Illustrator


Transforming Techniques in Adobe Illustrator


Shortcut to Reflecting Artwork in Adobe Illustrator


Get to Know Your Appearance Panel in Adobe Illustrator


Exploring Effects in Adobe Illustrator


Work Smarter with Graphic Styles in Adobe Illustrator


Color Inspiration in Adobe Illustrator


Type Effects in Adobe Illustrator


Masking Your Artwork in Adobe Illustrator


Using Creative® Cloud® Libraries in Adobe® Illustrator®


Capture Artwork with Creative Cloud Apps & Adobe Illustrator


Tracing Raster Images in Adobe Illustrator


Blending Artwork in Adobe Illustrator


Using Symbols in Adobe Illustrator


Using a Perspective Grid in Adobe Illustrator


Crash Recovery in Adobe Illustrator


GPU Performance in Adobe Illustrator


Curvature Tool in Adobe Illustrator


App Integration in Adobe Illustrator


Creative Cloud Libraries in Adobe Illustrator App


Shaper Tool in Adobe Illustrator


Smart Guides in Adobe Illustrator


Text Enhancements in Adobe Illustrator


SVG Export in Adobe Illustrator


Lesson Info

Strokes and Variable Strokes in Adobe Illustrator

We're gonna take a little tack here because a lot of times when you're working in Illustrator, there's an assumption that it's just vector artwork. You're drawing things, you know, and when I talked to Adobe, we wanna kind of say that there's much more that you can do. Let's just say that. So what we're gonna do is we're gonna talk about how to maybe create a layout for a brochure using raster images. Talk about how that works, how we can place it, how we can place PSD files, like Photoshop files. How we can do a little bit with text. I also want to dip our toe into effects and talking a little bit about the appearance panel and just some things that's gonna, you know like adding drop shadows. That type of thing because everybody wants to do it. And we're gonna kind of wrap things up by talking about how to best save out your files and I think that kind of gets lost a little bit. So we'll talk a little bit about web versus print and PDF and things like that. So we got some stuff to cov...

er so I'll tell you what, let's get a file open here. We got a file that we're gonna start with. I'll open the final file but what I'd like you to do is come under file and choose open. And open up, now we're going to go into the Day one, segment four folder, and open up Now, in that folder I've got some images that we're gonna use during this process if you will. So go ahead and open that up. And I'll open up the final just to give you an idea of what we're gonna sort of want to create if you will. We could do this. Tell you what, why don't you do this with yours. Let's fit both our boards in the window. Okay, so if you come into the view menu, you should see fit all in window. There we go, nice. All right, the final poster is gonna look something like this. Okay, we're just gonna kind of try some different things. But what we're going to start with is we we're just talking about color and strokes and doing different things like that. And I kind of want to extend that just a little bit and talk about a few more things we can do with strokes and show you guys something that blew my mind when I saw it, this just, awesome. So we're going to create this ship wheel over here to start with and instead of, this is the coolest thing ever. But instead of going in and making you draw each one of these with the pen tool, thank you very much, I will not make you do that. We're gonna take a line we create and just stretch and pull it and push it and make this shape. It's so cool. I'm going to show you how we can do that. Then we're gonna go in and we're gonna just put a little bit of text out there. I'm going to show you how to work with effects and we'll kind of start running from there. Okay? All right, so let's start out. We're gonna start with that shape right there. So why don't you come to this artboard right here. This smaller artboard and let's zoom into that a little bit. So go ahead and click on it and let's go view, fit artboard in window. That way we're fitting that artboard in the window, right. All right. Now we're gonna start out that ship wheel. We're gonna start with just a circle. Okay, get that out here and we're gonna do a little bit with strokes and just show you some kind of cool things we can do. So let's go over to the left over here and you should see in your tools panel, we've got the rectangle tool, go ahead and click and hold down. Since we reset the workspace, it put all the tools back over there, which is fine. Come to the ellipse tool and just select that one. Come out to the page here now. I mentioned early on that were two ways to create shapes. You can either draw them or use numbers. I didn't show you how to use the number one because well, you gotta know what you want to draw to use it basically. So I just want to quickly show you, don't do this, okay? If you want to, you're gonna do this by accident a thousand times. If I click on the artboard with one of these tools selected, it's gonna okay, what do you wanna do? This is being extremely precise. So if you know, if you're doing something and you're like I need a two inch by two inch blah, this is probably going to be the way you're going to do it. At least one way to do it, okay? All right, we're gonna go in and create ourselves an ellipse. So what I want you to do is we're just gonna click and drag. We're gonna create ourselves a perfect circle. So what key should we hold down? Shift. There it is. That's the other thing you're gonna remember from today. All right, let's make it kind of big-ish. That's about big-ish, that's good. Release the mouse button first, shift key second. There we go. Okay, I wanna get that in the center of the artboard. Should I test you on how to do that? You two out there, all right. So we're gonna use the align methods. Now I'm gonna do this, instead of going to the align panel, if you look up in your control panel you should see that icon right there, which is the align to icon somewhere. If you click on that thing, you should see align to artboard and you gotta select it if it's not selected already. What happens is when you select that, you're gonna start to see alignment methods show up. Just the bare minimum. Does everybody see those out there? Okay, now what we can do is just pick 'em. So let's do the horizontal align center and the vertical align center just to get it in the center of the artboard. There's a bunch of ways we could have done that using smart guides and whatever but that's an easy way. All right, now we're gonna take this circle and we're just gonna make this part of the ship wheel. So what I'd like to do is I'd like to make it look sort of like a donut. We're gonna cheat. We're just gonna make this have a really big stroke. Just really simple. So if you come up to stroke up here, you're gonna see we've got the one point. Go ahead and select there, let's change that stroke to something like 40 point. Let's go kind of big. You can use the arrows, you can do this, you can do that. And just a little tip for later, the further you get into Illustrator, you're gonna find that if you click on these little arrows, you can change it like one point at a time. I can't tell you how many times I, I'll show someone and they'll be like this, I got to get it to 20 now. (clicking) Doing that for like an hour. It's fun. You can also type in the value but one of the fastest ways I find, your friend the shift key. Any time you see a unit like this, something like this, you can use the shift key and jump by 10 points every time. Just throwing that out there, all right. Okay, now what we're gonna do is just do something a little different to it. So come to the stroke panel and click on the word stroke right there so we can open that up. And what I'd like to do is in this case we're gonna create a dashed line. Some kind of like chip wheel thingy, all right. So in order to create a dashed line, this dashed line could be on any, almost any path we have. Just go ahead and select dashed line and it's going to do it's thing out there, you should be able to see it. Now, the way it does it in here is actually pretty cool. You first see this and I didn't even know what to make of it at first but you can actually set it up so it creates a dash that has like a thick part, a gap, a thin part, a gap. You can tell it how to set up the dash within reasoning. It gives you a few spaces. If you look at these spaces out here. Why don't you do this, change the dash to maybe, I don't know, 20. Another note in illustrator, if you see a unit already in the field and by unit I mean PT for point like we just saw, you don't have to type that in. It will do it for you automatically. Go ahead and click in the gap field, the next one over and you'll see it change out there. Now, what happens is when you create a dash, it's going to make the dash colored part 20 point, in this case. And it's going to make the gap 20 point. It's just repeating what you did. So I'm gonna make the distance between each of these little dashes smaller. So if you come to gap, let's change that to like five. And then you can actually hit the tab key or you can click in the next field to do it and you'll see what it's doing out there. So it's kind of making it so that we're doing exactly what we wanted to do. Now dashed is in here. There's there's some really cool things yo ucan do. I've experimented so much with these. I mean, you can make it to where like if we create a dash that's 200 point long with like a one point gap, you can do some really cool things. You make like bike tires and all kinds of crazy stuff but what I'd like you to do is come to the dash here and we're gonna make it about 120 point. And maybe the gap a little smaller. I'll make the gap maybe like one or two or something like that. But you can see based on my size, it's actually not doing a bad job. I mean, it's kind of getting it but there's some cool things you can do. All right. I did want to show arrowheads quickly. I'm not going to go nuts with these but it's not gonna work in our context here and I'm just gonna throw an arrowhead in this just to have an arrowhead. I cannot tell you how hard it is in the book to come up with an arrowhead every time we changed the project file. But if you come to the arrowheads here, you're gonna see on a line you can actually add a beginning and an end. And just to show you real quick, this is cool. There's not just arrowheads. They actually have like fingers. I don't know how cool that is I guess but it's it's there you have fingers and you have scissors for like coupon cutting and different kinds arrows. And okay, it's not cool, whatever. So you have arrows. Anyway, if I put an arrow on this, don't do it, Okay because what it actually does is it's thinking that this is a path that's connected. So the beginning and the end one are gonna be right next to each other and be like a billion point in size. So don't do that. I'll remove it. So but this is where we would go to add arrowheads to something. Okay so now what we're gonna do is we're gonna change the color of it and then we're gonna get in and we're gonna make the little part you grab on the wheel. So let's go up and change the color. Where we gonna go to do that? 50 places right. So easiest way I think beginning, just come up to stroke up top in the control panel and just pick a color. I'll do like an orange, you could do whatever. It's not really a ship wheel color, isn't it? Like a brown, I'll do a brown. There we go. Okay. Now this is a little bit crazy, a little out there, but we just took a path and we put a big old stroke or border on it, right? I see that, I'm looking at them like okay that looks fine but now I want to put like another stroke around the outside of it. Well we already have a stroke and an object can only have one stroke by doing this. So there's reasons why you might or might not create something some way. Tomorrow, I'm gonna show you guys how we can use something called the, where are we at here. We can do something called the appearance panel to add like 50 strokes to one single object. To create some really cool effects. We're gonna do some awesome things there. Okay so let me add that. So let's get in and let's draw what we're gonna draw. First of all, I want to lock this object so we don't accidentally move it. And then we'll unlock it later. So come up to object, lock, selection, and just temporarily lock it. And now above it we're gonna draw a line. So we really didn't we draw any lines or do anything like that but let's just do that quickly. Lines over here in the line segment tool, relatively straightforward. Not too much going on here. So go ahead and select the line segment tool. Come out here. Now, the idea here is that we actually start drawing. Just click, drag, and draw a line. It's pretty straightforward. I want to draw a straight line though. I want to constrain it. So we're gonna hold down our friend the shift key. Okay, so hold down the shift key. You can do it before or while you're drawing it, doesn't matter. Just drag here, let go of the mouse first then the shift key. I know you're tired of hearing that. Now you'll notice that it is picking up the properties from the last object, the appearance. So we got to fix that up a little bit. So why don't you come to the stroke and let's make this stroke maybe 10 point. You know what, let's go a little bigger than that. Let's yeah, stroke 10 point, that's fine. It'll be good for what we have. Okay, what we're about to do is we're about to create a shape and this is actually gonna be a symmetrical shape. That's gonna involve just a path and a stroke. So what we can do is we can actually go to that stroke and simply pull it or push it to create some kind of organic shape. If you look over on the left over here, you're going to see something called the width tool. The width tool, I use this thing all the time for just different things. But if you come to the width tool and select it. Come out to that shape. Now, just up here, just watch for one second. I just want to show you how this works. You know you guys we might want to zoom into that first. We're kind of far away from it. So I tell you what, why don't you go to the zoom tool first, and let's just zoom in a little bit to that. I can click and drag across or I can go in and click a couple times. Then go back to the width tool and just watch up here. Now, with the width tool, we can go in, and we right now we only have two points set on this line. There's one at the top and one at the bottom. If we want to we can go in and adjust the stroke by simply coming to the path itself and clicking and dragging. So watch, I'll just click and drag. The crazy thing about this is it's still a stroke on a path. It's not something like a shape we drew. So I could keep going here. As long as I come into it, I could just start dragging this thing and making some wacky shapes here. I always think of lamps when I make this thing but you know, you can do whatever you want. Okay, I undid that. I went to edit, undo a couple times. So let's try this out. So why don't you come kind of towards the top and just come up, you're gonna see a plus show up when you hover over the middle the path, and just click-and-drag. Now, be slow about it and watch what it does. You can go really close. You can go really far. Pull it out a little bit further. That's kind of cool. Go something like that. So this is gonna be a handle that they're gonna grab essentially so we want to be a little bit bigger on top and just let go. And this is going to create a width point, it's called. Now, this point that's sitting out here, it's just for the stroke object here. We can if we want to, you can actually come up to that little point right there and you can drag it. So I could drag it up and down. So why don't you drag that little point out. You got to have a little squiggle next to the actual pointer. So if I click and drag, you can take that thing, and adjust the path in different ways. So it'll kind of work it a little bit. I'll pull it down just a little bit, there we go. You got a figure too, if you want to make it narrower or wider, you can go to the ends of these little handles, these little arms by the width point and you can drag these little guys on either end and go you know left or right. So kind of make it narrower or whatever. Now, what we're gonna do is we're gonna get a little fancier down here and just kind of do like a little like woodwork thing. So I'd like you to come, now just come into the brown area. You don't have to go back to the middle. Just come into the brown area. Click and drag when you see a plus and just make it a little bit thinner here. There we go and this is looking a little bit weird. So what I'm gonna do is just drag that point down maybe. So I'll drag the middle point down like a little bit, there we go something like that. That's a little bit better. Now what we can do is we're gonna add just a little detail to this, a little funky detail. So I'm gonna come right down here. We can add as many of these width points as we want. You can just push and pull as much as you want. So if I come below this one, I'm gonna click and drag a little bit, pull out just a hair, come right below that one, and just pull in a little bit like that. And I'm just gonna kind of go in and out just a little bit to give it a little bit of a wood work feel. Is that working, you guys? Is that kind of happening? Okay. It takes a little getting used to where you click how you click how far you can drag, that type of thing. You know, honestly, sometimes I find that if you drag too close to another point, you're gonna start to see something like that weirdness happen. I do this all the time by accident so what you can do is if you click on one of these width points like right in the middle of the point on the line itself, You can just hit delete and get rid of it. So you can get rid of that one. Now, I want to fix the top a little bit. If you look at the top of the path, it's still got kind of the stroke on it. The stroke width it's kind of flat up there. If you come to the very top point up here, you're gonna see the top point of the bottom point. You can do the same thing. I can just click and drag. So come up here and I'm gonna come to this right here, this width point arm and just drag it in a little bit. You can see we could if we wanted to make it looks you know something like that, I don't know. It's kind of wacky but there it is. If you ever want to adjust these points, I kind of wish the points would show there all the time but you have to hover over parts of the path to see those little points again. And if you ever want to edit one, you can just come up to it and just click on it to select it and you can just start working with it a little bit.

Class Materials

Bonus Materials with Purchase

Project Files Part 1
Project Files Part 2

Ratings and Reviews


I am a pretty computer literate person but an Ai beginner i.e. I am completely new to the Creative Cloud/Adobe Illustrator. (This is also the first time I've used CreativeLive.) I think this course it is fantastic. The pace is good as is the content which progressed logically and covers all the basics you'd hope it would. The course is 2 full days' worth of material but it is broken down into segments so you can revisit or skip through as you need to. The presenter is really personable and easy to watch (even for me, a Londoner!). I would also say I think it is pretty good value for money -- I am currently enrolled on a part time course, basically doing the same sort of stuff, and I have to say this is better and a bit cheaper! I definitely recommend it to you!


A brilliantly designed course. it's almost magic. It's everything you hope for in a follow-along software class. Brian Wood has engineered it so that you start on a project that just needs basics, and then you move on to more & more complicated projects, and almost without realizing it you've learned Illustrator. This doesn't just happen -- Wood has clearly put a LOT of effort into creating this course. Here's one trivial example: he doesn't overload you with a lot of keyboard shortcuts right at the beginning -- you start with the actions themselves, using the (admittedly tedious but easy) pulldown menus, and then after you're comfortable with what you're doing, he'll throw in the shortcut. It may seem obvious, but so many instructors feel they have to give you an extensive foundation of definitions, shortcuts, interfaces, etc., before you ever do anything. Good stuff to know, but you'll never remember it. Wood has you up and working almost immediately. And he's a joy to listen to, at a perfect pace. Highly recommended.

Philippe LIENARD

Top course. Very well explained, clear, good examples, pleasant teacher. I like it and recommend it. One suggestion, it would be nice to have a detailed table of content of the course in the material. For instance, it took me quite a while to find back the part of the course where how to make a gear was explained.

Student Work