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Adobe Illustrator CC for Beginners

Lesson 17 of 23

Strokes and Variable Strokes in Adobe Illustrator

Brian Wood

Adobe Illustrator CC for Beginners

Brian Wood

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Lesson Info

17. Strokes and Variable Strokes in Adobe Illustrator

Lesson Info

Strokes and Variable Strokes in Adobe Illustrator

We're gonna take a little different 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. And when I talked to Adobe we wanna kind of say that there's much more 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 wanna dip our toe into effects and talking about a little bit of the Appearance panel and just some things that's gonna, like adding drop shadows, that type of thing. 'Cause 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've got some stuff to cover. 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 up a final file, but what I'd like you to do is come under File and choose Open and open up, now we're gonna go into the Day 1, 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 are gonna sort of want to create, if you will. Let me do this. Tell you what, why don't you do this with yours, let's fit both our boards in the window. So if you come under the View menu you should see Fit All in Window. There we go, nice. All right, the final poster, it's gonna look something like this. We're just gonna kind of try some different things. But what we're gonna start with is we were just talking about color and strokes and doing different things like that and I kind of wanna extend that just a little bit and talk about a few more things that we can do with strokes and show you guys something that blew my mind when I saw it, it's just awesome. So we're gonna create this ship wheel over here to start with. And instead of, it's 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 gonna 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 gonna show you how to work with effects and we'll kind of start running from there. 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. All right, now we're gonna start out that ship wheel, we're gonna start with just a circle, 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 that, 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 there were two ways to create shapes. You can either draw them or you can use numbers. I didn't show you how to use the number one, because you gotta know what you wanna draw to use it basically. So I just wanna 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 say, OK, 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 block this is probably gonna be the way you're gonna do it, at least one way to do it. 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? (audience member speaking off-microphone) There it is. That's the other thing you're gonna remember from today. All right, let's make it kind of biggish. That's about biggish, that's good. Release the mouse button first, Shift key second. There we go. OK, I wanna get that in the center of the artboard. Should I test you on how to do that? You two out there. 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? OK, now what we can do is just pick them. 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've 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 doughnut. 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'll show someone and they'll be like this, so they're like, I gotta get it to 20 now. Doing that for like an hour. It's fine. 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. I'm just throwing that out there. OK, now what we're gonna do is we're gonna just do something a little different too it, so come to this 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 ship wheel thingy. 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 gonna do its 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 generates or 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 all 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 P-T for point, like we just saw, you don't have to type that in, it'll 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. And what happens is when you create a dash it's gonna make the dash, the colored part 20 point in this case, and it's gonna make the gap 20 point. It's just repeating what you did. So I wanna make the distance between each one 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 want it to do. Now dashes in here, there's some really cool things you can do. I've experimented so much with these. You can make it to where, like if we created a dash that's 200 point long with like a one point gap you can do some really cool things. You can 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 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 wanna show arrowheads quickly. I'm not gonna go nuts with these, but it's not gonna work in our context here and I'm not 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 change 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 there. You have fingers and you have scissors for like coupon cutting and different kinds of arrows. OK, it's not cool, whatever. So you have arrows. Anyway, if I put an arrow on this, don't do it, 'cause 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. All right, I'll remove it. OK, but this is where we would go to add arrowheads to something. 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 that little, the part you grab on the wheel. So let's go up and change the color. Where are 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 do whatever. That's not really a ship wheel color, isn't it? Like a brown, I'll do a brown, there we go. This is a little bit crazy, a little bit out there, but we just took a path and we put a big old stroke or border on it. I see that, I'm looking at it, I'm like, OK, that looks fine, but now I wanna 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? How we can use 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. 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 didn't 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 wanna draw a straight line though, I wanna constrain it. So we're gonna hold down our friend the Shift key, 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 gotta fix that up a little bit. So why don't you come to the Stroke and let's make the Stroke maybe 10 point. You know what, let's go a little bigger than that. Lets, nah, Stroke, 10 point, that's fine. That'll be good for what we have. OK, 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 in the left over here you're gonna 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 wanna show you how this works. You know, you guys, we might wanna 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. OK, let me, 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 of 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 it to be a little bit bigger on top and just let go. And this is gonna 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. Now you gotta 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 gotta figure too, if you wanna 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 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 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. Now 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, make it 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 and 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 woodwork feel. Is that working, you guys? That kind of happening? It takes a little getting used to, where you click, how you click, how far you can drag, that type of thing. You know what, 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 wanna 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, and it's kind of flat up there. If you come to the very top point up here you're gonna see the top point or 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. And you can see, we could if we wanted to make it look 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 wanna 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 Description

This course is part of: Adobe Illustrator Creative Cloud: Essentials for Creating Projects 

Gain the fundamentals necessary to tackle the world’s best vector-based illustration software Adobe® Illustrator®. Brian Wood will take you step-by-step and explain everything a beginner needs to know to get up and running with Illustrator, including:

  • Interface & tools
  • Using the pen tool
  • Applying color
  • Formating Text 

In Adobe Illustrator CC for Beginners Brian will use a series of projects to teach you everything you need to create your first graphic or illustration. 

Software Used: Adobe Illustrator CC 2015



I've been trying to learn Illustrator on and off for years. This is the best instruction I've had! Brian is a great instructor. Finally feeling comfortable with it. It does use an older version but I just adapt.

Bill Neill

Great content and a good instructor. Not his fault the world marches on and doesn't stay in 2015. Any reasonably intelligent person will be able to figure out the changes since 2015 and how they relate to this course. It is early 2019, and I'm not having any trouble, but then I am reasonably intelligent and not to lazy to do some thinking.

a Creativelive Student

Pretty good so far but he's using a very different version of Illustrator and my currently updated version does not have the tool bars top and bottom for dealing with artboards.