The Adobe Illustrator width tool is a must have for creating borders, horizontal breaks, ornate designs, custom typography and more! Not only does it allow you to create and save custom stroke profiles, but it contributes to an efficient and time effective work flow. In this article, we will be covering the basics of the width tool as well as some practical examples that put it to good use!

How to use the width tool

To start out, let’s check out the basic functions of the width tool. In the examples below, we will start with a basic horizontal stroke and show you different ways to modify it with the width tool.

Basic functions

Adobe Illustrator width tool

To use the Illustrator width tool, select the button in the toolbar or hold Shift+W. To adjust the width of a stroke, click and hold any point along the stroke path. This will create a width point. Pull up or down on these points to expand or contract that segment of the stroke. Width points created with the width tool can be slid along the stroke to fine tune your width profile. The ends of a stroke can also be pulled down to make pointed ends.

Asymmetrical stroke width

Adobe Illustrator width tool

Strokes can be modified asymmetrically by holding Alt while dragging a width point. In other words, holding Alt allows you to expand or contract only one side of a stroke rather than both at once.

Saving and applying width profiles

Adobe Illustrator width tool

A width profile is a stored vector algorithm that holds information about width points along a stroke path. In simpler terms, a profile is a preset that saves width modifications you’ve made to a stroke. What’s great about width profiles is that they can be applied to any stroke no matter the angle, curvature or length. This makes stroke profiles not only a handy creative feature but an efficient one as well.

As shown in the example above, your stroke profiles can be viewed by opening the Stroke window and clicking the Profile dropdown. To add a new profile, select your modified stroke and choose the “Add to Profiles” option in the Profile dropdown of the Stroke window.

Adobe Illustrator width tool

The image above shows what it looks like to apply our stroke profile to a handful of different strokes. Notice how the stroke profile applies itself proportionally to strokes of all different sizes and curves.

The width tool in action

By now, you’re probably imagining all of the possible uses of the width tool, but let’s go a step further and take a look at some real life design examples where the width tool would come in handy.

Adobe Illustrator width tool
Original design by RotRed

In the example above, a single stroke can be used to create the “skeleton” of the “H” in the monogram for Hansen Photography. By using the width tool, specific segments of the stroke and be thickened to create a calligraphic look. This approach works great for custom typography that aims to read as elegant and custom.

Adobe Illustrator width tool
Original design by GOOSEBUMPS

The example above shows how the width tool can be used to create an ornate horizontal break for a spirits company. Notice how the horizontal stroke can be expanded and contracted to create points, bulbs, diamond shapes and more!

Don’t forget that a stroke profile like this can be added to your profile library and applied to strokes on other assets of this project or other similar ones.

The skinny on the width tool

Now that you’ve seen the width tool in action, don’t hesitate to try it out in your next design project. It might just open up some new creative pathways and speed up your workflow at the same time!

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