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Variable Width Strokes in Illustrator tutorial CC 2017 2015 2014 CS6 etc

variable width strokes in Illustrator tutorial

Variable width strokes in Illustrator and how to create and use them with paths tutorial. The variable width strokes create amazing stroke designs in Illustrator CC CS6 CS5 etc. They can take strokes to another level. You can use the variable width strokes by using the width profiles at the top of the Illustrator application. You can use the variable width profiles with strokes, with normal paths, lines, circles, illustrations, use them with brushes and more. The variable width profiles can be modified and saved for use in future projects. You can quickly apply the variable width strokes to any design and create amazing results in seconds such as beautiful drawn ink strokes. You can also use the variable width strokes with the width tool and use that to modify any line in seconds. This tutorial shows how to apply the variable width strokes / width profiles in Illustrator and how to edit them and how to change the width of lines to create stunning varied stroke widths. The tutorial on the Illustrator variable width strokes also shows you how to save the width profiles and how to use the width profiles with the appearance panel to create beautiful combinations of lines and strokes. Another key part of the tutorial is how to use the variable width strokes with type to create truly unique type / text designs.

  1. select a path in Illustrator

  2. set the width for the path

  3. set the color

  4. select the width profile / variable width profile from dropdown OR use width tool in toolbar



Width tool

variable width profile add points

The variable width strokes in Illustrator can be used with paths as well as brushes. You can use them to create stunning brush strokes designs that can be manipulated in many different ways and the variable width strokes can be saved to the profile presets section. They are super easy to use, either apply via the width tool or via the variable width profiles.


You can find the width tool in the Illustrator toolbar about halfway down and it is combined with the warp tool, wrinkle tool and others


Adding a variable width strokes to a path

variable width profile modify center point in Illustrator
  1. select a path in Illustrator (any path, open or closed) such as line segment or spiral or circle etc

  2. Go to the width tool

  3. make certain there is a path stroke (it will not work otherwise)

  4. Go to the path and hover over the path and you will see a + appear

  5. Drag outward (hold down the alt / option to just drag one side of the variable width profile)

  6. Go to another part of the path and see the '+' appear again

  7. Drag out the width profile


Modifying the variable width strokes

variable stroke width modifying in illustrator

You can use the width tool to create all kinds of unique shapes in Illustrator by using the width tool to modify the selected artwork.


  1. Click the center of one of the added points for the variable width stroke using the width tool

  2. And drag the variable width stroke point and move back and forth along the path. You will notice that the point can only be dragged so far (in some cases) but this depends on the width. Sometimes the variable width profile center point can be dragged over multiple points.


If you wish to modify the outer points of the variable width profile


  1. click the side you wish to change and drag

  2. Hold the alt / option to alter just one side


Width profiles to add and modify variable width strokes

width profiles and path in Illustrator variable width strokes

You don't have to manually edit the variable width strokes in Illustrator. You can use the width profiles. Sadly, there are only a small number but they cover many of the obvious designs.


  1. select a path

  2. add a stroke to path

  3. go to the Illustrator width profile dropdown

  4. select a width profile


You can also add your own width profiles to the document by


  1. select path with a variable width stroke

  2. click the add command at the bottom of the width profiles (found along the top bar of Illustrator)


Appearance panel and width profiles in Illustrator

appearance panel and paths and variable stroke width multiple

You can use the variable stroke widths once or add them multiple times via the appearance panel


  1. select a path such as spiral and set to no fill and no stroke

  2. go to the appearance panel (window menu)

  3. go to the right side menu

  4. Add new stroke

  5. go to the width profiles or the width tool and add a variable stroke width (as above) and modify

  6. go to the appearance panel

  7. and add a new stroke

  8. go to the width tool or width profiles

  9. modify the variable stroke width for the Illustrator path

  10. repeat with additional strokes

  11. You can also use the graphic style panel to add a new graphic style (which can then be re-applied to other paths etc)


Expand variable width strokes in Illustrator

expand appearance and variable stroke widths in Illustrator

One thing that is not great with the variable width strokes is that they often leave a lot of points behind when you use the expand appearance command


  1. select path

  2. object menu

  3. expand appearance


The result is not always great and you can always use the smooth tool or as I like to use, the Astute Graphic Smart remove brush (a superb tool) to remove the excessive points


Variable width strokes with type

You can use the variable width strokes with type in Illustrator by selecting some type


  1. select type

  2. appearance panel

  3. right side menu and add stroke

  4. go to the width tool and modify (as above details) or add a width profile and change the stroke width etc


Brush strokes and variable width strokes

variable width strokes and brush tools for Illustrator
  1. Select the paintbrush tool

  2. Apply

  3. select a brush stroke from brush definition dropdown (top bar)

  4. Select width profile or use the width tool


WidthScribe plugin

One wonderful tool to use with variable stroke widths is the WidthScribe plugin and that can be found on the Astute Graphics website. It is a superb tool for manipulating widths in 1000s of ways and worth checking out via their demo plugin set


Other tutorials

You can find many different tutorials for Illustrator such as how to


1. export SVG files from Illustrator CC 2017 2015 etc

2. use live line segment tool in Illustrator tutorial

3. review on Astute Graphics vectorscribe plugin

4. Symbol stipplism plugin for Illustrator

5. Curvature tool and curves / paths in Illustrator

6. Blend tool for blending paths and type tutorial

7. How to rasterize graphic styles tutorial



References and sources

1. Variable stroke widths in Illustrator at Adobe