How To Use The Width Tool in Illustrator

widthToolFeaturedIllustrator’s Width Tool was introduced way back in CS5, believe it or not—so it’s amazing that there are a number of users who haven’t discovered it. The tool is easy to use and can give some fantastic results—you’d be amazed at what can be created with it—especially when it’s combined with gradients, as it can be used to get a gradient mesh drawing started (check out the reference to that on this post from May 2015).

Using The Width Tool

All you need to use the Width Tool is a stroke to use it on. You’ll find the tool with the warping and distortion family, and it has a keyboard acceleration shortcut (SHIFT-W) that will get you the tool even faster. You then move along the stroke, clicking and dragging to change the width, away from the centre (vector) line to increase the width…

widthTool…towards the centre line to decrease the width…widthTool1and you can use the tool to grab the nodes that appear on the outer edges too—which makes it easier to create tapers at the end of your stroke.widthTool2

You can distort the width asymmetrically by holding ALT as you drag…widthTool3and you can drag the nodes along the centre line to smooth out (or not) the transition between widths.widthTool4

Saving a Width Profile

You can add a profile to Illustrator by selecting the stroke that you’ve used to make the profile, opening the Profile Selector in the Control Strip, and clicking the Save icon at the bottom of the panel.

Deleting a Width Profile

Should you need to delete a profile, open the Profile Selector then drag the unwanted profile to the trash icon in the panel, and validate the confirmation dialog that appears next.widthTool5 Applying a Width Profile

Simply select the object or strokes that you’d like to apply the profile to, and choose your profile from the Profile Selector. The profiles are width-dependent, so you may need to increase or decrease the stroke width to get the desired effect. Remember that the profiles are not a fixed style, so you can always continue editing the profile on instances where you have used it. It’s a great way to make your work look a little more hand=drawn, but there are loads of other effects that you could achieve with it.widthTool6As a kind-of demonstration when the feature appeared, I had three hours to draw something with it and managed to come up with Tower Bridge, made from just strokes (and gradients on strokes); the only rectangle used was one to frame the sky and only because there’s a limitation of 1,000 points as a stroke width, or it would have been completely made from strokes! If you’d like to see it, watch the movie below.

Work Smarter, Not Harder: How to Use The Width Tool

4 Responses to How To Use The Width Tool in Illustrator

  1. Romen says:

    It is very helpful for me to understand the width tool. Thanks for the presentation. Hope, you will regularly show new tricks of Illustrator.

  2. Desainew says:

    Thanks for new trick

  3. Greg says:

    The one thing that has been missing forever in this tool is the ability to rotate the width handles on the path point to shift the weight. Autodesk used to have that long ago with (the now defunct) Sketch Designer.
    Inking for characters was SUPER easy with the ability to rotate the weight on a stroke.

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