Illustrator Variable Widths

Illustrator – Variable Width Strokes

Being an Adobe nerd there’s no surprise I love Illustrator. In fact, I loved it before I knew how to use it! But today I learned something new about CS5 that makes me love it even MORE. I know right? I didnt think it was possible either.

So let’s say I have this picture I drew of a girl:

Illustrator Variable Widths 1

Which looks pretty crap because it’s all square. An AWESOME new feature of Illustrator lets you turn the above picture into this:

Illustrator Variable Widths 3

It looks like it’s going to be hard and time consuming, but it’s not and that’s the beauty of it! It’s so incredibly easy and intuitive I just can’t get over it. I’ll give you a quick rundown and then you should watch the video from Adobe at the bottom of this page.

First, I selected each individual line and used a preset width. You can see how to change it and what happens by following the blue arrows below:

Illustrator Variable Widths 4

That’s the fastest and easiest way to give a line variable width. There’s many other shapes including a triangle shape that reaches a point on the right end of the stroke. With eyelashes for the right eye like that though, I might want to have it reach a point on the left. How do I do that then?

Adobe made a way, and it’s JUST as fast and easy! They’ve shoved a new button into the tool interface which allows you to add a new kind of point to your strokes, a width point. These are invisible points on your line that change the widths so you can create – dun dun DUN! – variable widths! To create a width point you just position your pointer over a path or anchor point, click, and drag to make the line thinner or thicker. Below you can see a width point in action, and the button:

Illustrator Variable Widths 5

Using this new feature I was able to change the widths of the nose more intimately, controlling how thick and thin the line got. I LOVE this new feature sooooo much and I reckon any other artist out there is wetting themselves just as much as me over it :D.

Here’s what I did to the nose, at least for now, it’s still in draft form:

Illustrator Variable Widths 2

Here’s the video. I left out some really cool details about controlling the points. You can get those from the video, and it’s DEFINITELY worth the watch!

If you’d like to see my girl, I made a running topic of progress which you can see here.

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6 years ago

I wish I could draw on a computer. I love being able to draw by hand. You know the “old fashion way” for those used to doing everything on a computer. Please make more tutorials like this. I could use a tip or two.

6 years ago

It’s crazy how much difference the line width makes, I never would have known unless I’d seen the two pictures to compare! I think this is why I’m not a ‘design-y’ person, stuff like this is pretty much an alien language to me unless it’s shown in such an easy to visualise way.
Weird but I really love the nose you gave her, I have massive problems during noses for some reason, my doodles either have huge triangular noses or just no noses at all. Yeah like I said… not a ‘design-y’ person ha!

Jade Morgan
Jade Morgan
5 years ago

This is very interesting information. Who would of thought that someone’s appearance could be changed by the touch of a screen! Technology has come so far and has changed our lives so much. Nice work!

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