In Adobe Illustrator, the strokes of an object can be just as important as the object itself. This post is about a few things you can do with strokes in Illustrator. There are some toolboxes and windows in Illustrator that let you control different details of strokes, including the ends, the width and the shape. For this tutorial, I will be using a design that says “The Spark” made with the brush tool. It’s a collections of strokes that I freehanded on the computer.
Stroke Caps (End Points)
To change the look of the shape of your stroke, you can go to the stroke window. It should already be on your screen, but if not, go to Window on the top of your screen and then Stroke. The window should pop up, including information about the weight, cap, corner, and alignment. This is what the box looks like:
Stroke Window in Adobe Illustrator.
The default cap is one where the stroke ends at the anchor point. In some situations, you may want the stroke to extend past the point (Projecting Cap) or even have a round cap for a more finished look. Make sure to try out the different ends to see which one you like best and which goes best with your overall design. See the options below.
Butt Cap (Option 1)
Round Cap (Option 2)
Projecting Cap (Option 3)
Stroke Shapes define how the stroke will change in width as it goes from one anchor point to the next. When you highlight a stroke, the panel will change on top and you can change the shape using a drop down menu next to the stroke weight. The default is uniform; the weight stays the same throughout the entire stroke (shown above). There are a bunch of profiles you could use and it depends on your taste and what you are working on. I personally like when the lines look like I have used a marker or paint brush so some areas are thicker than others depending on the part of the line.
Width Profile 1
Recently, I have been playing with width profiles. I usually start with this one and then tweak different anchors (see Stroke Widths below). This profile is thin on the end with a bulge in the middle. If you follow the lines in each stroke (“T,” “he,” and “stroke” are three different object), you’ll find that the stroke starts fairly thin, remains thick in the middle, and ends like it begins.
Width Profile 1
Width Profile 2
The second width profile changes in weight multiple times across anchor points. It gives more of a feeling of a brush on an angle that gets thicker and thinner depending on the angle of the brush stroke.
Width Profile 2
Recently, I have been playing with the width and shapes of strokes in the logos I have been designing. See examples below.
A logo I designed for an organization at Duke.
A logo I designed for a class project.
For these logos, I created strokes using the pen tool and brush tool and then changed the shape to width profile 2. From there, I manually changed the widths using the Width Tool in the toolbox on the left side of the screen.
Width Tool in Tools Window
Once selected, you can hover your mouse over points on the stroke to make that area thicker or thinner. If you select an anchor point, the change in weight will be gradual on either side of the anchor point (Figure A). But, if you select a random point on the stroke, the weight change will be irregular (Figure B).
So, it’s important if you want a smooth transitions, to change the width at the anchor points. Then, it’s just a matter of choosing how thick you want the letters and where. I usually start by making the entire stroke a weight that will be the average weight I want. Then, I make different parts thicker and thinner from there. Once you’ve selected the width tool, click a anchor point, hold it down and move your cursor away or toward the stroke to make the width larger or thinner, respectively. Then, just play around with each anchor point until you’re happy with it. I like the final design (see below) because it looks more elegant and finished than the first.