Introduction: Master Stroke Tricks in Adobe Illustrator — PART 1

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Do you struggle with strokes during your logo design and illustration projects? With these simple tricks, you will have the confidence to use strokes in Adobe Illustrator! With these tips and tools, you can create an array of designs without wondering how to make a simple line more attractive and meaningful.

Let's jump in.

Step 1: Trick 1: Width Tool — Changing the Breadth of the Stroke

The width tool in Illustrator is a unique and helpful tool, which gives you the flexibility to increase and decrease the breadth of a stroke. With this tool you can taper or swell lines whenever you need to change the characteristics of a stroke and make it dynamic.

How to use it:

  • create your stroke using the pen tool or the line segment tool
  • click the width tool in the tool bar or press shift W on keyboard
  • hover over the stroke and slide the mouse sideways to change the width

When to use it:

You can use this tool when you are creating script-based logo designs, tattoos, swirls and florals. This tool is great for antique furniture illustrations, home decorations like vases and fountains, digital portrait drawings, and pretty much anything that requires a variations in the physical structure of the stroke.

Step 2: Trick 2: Arrowheads — Giving Direction to Stroke

Arrows provide direction in design, helping the viewer gaze from one element to another. Usually, the meaning derived from an arrow is based on the direction it is pointing towards. For example, an arrow pointing up will suggest the reaching high or increase in something.

How to use it:

  • create a stroke with the line segment tool or pen tool
  • open the stroke panel: window ►stroke or press ctrl F10
  • expand the stroke from the top right burger menu
  • pick an arrow of choice from arrowheads

When to use it:

Whenever we are designing with arrows, the idea is to show direction. Most of the times, we don't see the use of arrows in logo designs. However, if you are creating a storyboard on Illustrator then you need to work with arrows to define the camera movement. Arrows are also used to make diagrams, or to design background images.

Step 3: Trick 3: Gradient — Adding Color Transitions to Stroke

Gradient is a beautiful tool in Illustrator, and the reason is that it creates a blend of colors that look stunning — if done right. In Illustrator, you can apply three types of gradient styles on strokes: 1) apply gradient within stroke, 2) apply gradient along stroke, 3) apply gradient across stroke.

How to use it:

  • create a stroke of your choice with the pen tool
  • click on window and select gradient or press Ctrl F9
  • keep the stroke at front and the fill at the back
  • set the gradient type to linear
  • choose one of the stroke options

When to use it:

Gradient is being used increasingly in logo designs because it has become a trend. You can create logos for the tech industry using grey-black gradient. In award shows, you can add a gold-white gradient to the typography. A subtle radial gradient of grey-white is used as background for mock-up images. Gradient also helps a lot in product designing.

Step 4: ​Trick 4: Dashed Line — Breaking the Stroke Into Parts

The popular Gestalt theory suggests that when graphic elements are placed close to one another, as are the individual visual marks in a dashed stroke, we perceive them as one and consider it as a complete line. There are a number of personalities a dashed line can have, and each can be used in different ways.

How to use it:

  • create a stroke of your choice to get started with
  • open the stroke panel from window in main bar or press Ctrl F10
  • click the check-box next to the word "dashed line"
  • add the values for the dash and the gap
  • keep the preview clicked so you can see the changes in real-time

When to use it:

Dashed lines can be used anywhere from a logo design to a poster design, dialogue boxes to marketing a page for cutting. You can also used dashed lines in stickers. You can use them to mark the 'hidden from view' sections of an illustration. These strokes can be used in diagrams as soft boundaries.

Step 5: Trick 5: Brushes — Giving Strokes a Personality

A brush effect on a stroke gives your design an artistic touch. This makes your project more expressive, freehand and also gives it a unique personality. In Adobe Illustrator, there are a bunch of brush templates to choose from. However, the software also allows you to create your own brushes and then apply them wherever you want. You can also download brushes from various websites. Remember a brush can be a pattern made from motifs, instead of having the usual paint brush look.

How to use it:

  • create your an open or closed path using the pen tool or the shape tool
  • head to window and click brushes or press F5 on your keyboard
  • select a brush library from the brushes library menu
  • to apply the brush, you must first select your stroke

When to use it:

You can use brushes on strokes to create retro logo designs, and also use them in illustrations to give a digital art look. A rustic frame will look great if embellished with a brush type. Since brushes come in pattern styles as well, you can easily apply one to any path to make it stand out.


I will be adding more ways in which you can transform a stroke! As Marilyn Monroe put it, “It’s better to be absolutely ridiculous than absolutely boring.” So get your artboard ready and start designing.