Tutorial: Illustrator CC Basics – Fills and Strokes

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FILLING OBJECTS WITH COLOR

In this tutorial I will be teaching you how to use fills and strokes within Illustrator.

We have learned how to make and manipulate basic shapes inside of Illustrator. Now let’s learn how to use fills and strokes with those basic shapes. Let’s start off on Artboard 1.

Here you see a very simplified mandala. We are going to be adding color to each of these circles. If you click on a circle you will notice that it has a black stroke and a white fill.

Let’s say you want the interior circle – the smallest circle – to be green. All you need to do is click inside the circle and double-click on the fill color. You can now change the Fill Color to a green.

Now for the next row of circles, let’s make them a blue color. You can use the Fill Color like we did with the small center circle but we can also use swatches to do the same thing.

Select a circle from the next row of circles and the open up the Swatch Panel. (If you do not see this panel, go to Window and click on Swatches.) Now, make sure the Fill Color is active and then click on the blue swatch just below the purple swatch.

An advantage to using the Swatches Panel is that we have access to various libraries. If you click on the Libraries icon at the bottom of the panel you will see a list of various libraries you can choose from.

Let’s click on the Libraries icon and choose Nature and then Landscape. You will now see a second Swatches Panel with various swatches. You can drag down on the bottom of this Swatches Panel so you can see all of the swatches.

Let’s use the Mountains swatch set – the third one from the top – to color this mandala.

Choose the very center circle again and then click on the fifth swatch from the left – the darker gray color – to fill in the circle.

Now click on the blue circle and then shift-click on the other circles that make up that row to make sure they are all selected. Then click on the fourth swatch from the left to fill in those circles.

Now let’s choose one of the circles from the next row and fill that in with the third swatch from the left. Now let’s learn how to use the Eye Dropper tool to fill in colors.

Shift-click the other circles in this outer row. Once you have them all selected, click on the Eye Dropper tool and then click on the circle you already filled. You will notice that each of the selected circles now have a fill of the same color as the first circle.

Now, using your Selection Tool, click on the inner large circle – making sure you click on the fill and not the stroke. When you have that circle selected, click on the second swatch from the left.

Now, click on the outer large circle – again, making sure you click on the fill and not the stroke. When you have that circle selected, click on the first swatch.

That is how you can quickly fill in a piece of art with color.

GRADIENT FILLS

Now that we know how to fill in artwork with solid color let’s learn about using gradient fills. Let’s move to Artboard 2.

On the left you will see examples of five Gradient Fills: horizontal linear gradient, vertical linear gradient, radial gradients, reverse radial gradient, and a custom gradient.

Let’s begin replicating these gradients.

Using your Selection Tool select the top square on the right. Then, click on the Gradient tool. Now if I simply click and drag across this square you will notice that nothing happens. This is because we need to establish our gradient fill.

Open up the Gradient Panel. (If you do not see the Gradient Panel icon go to Window and choose Gradient.) Inside this panel you have the ability to apply a Gradient Fill. For right now, just choose the standard black and white gradient fill by clicking once on the upper-left gradient. Now you will notice that the fill will be applied to the selected square.

Now I can manipulate the gradient. Let’s say you want a bit more white in the gradient. All you need to do is go back to the Gradient Panel and move the white slider to the right.

Let’s move to the second square and make a vertical linear gradient.

Using your Selection Tool select the second square on the right. Then, click on the Gradient tool. Open up the Gradient Panel. Choose the standard black and white gradient fill by clicking once on the upper-left gradient. Now you will notice that the fill will be applied to the selected square.

Now, in order to change the angle of the gradient go back to the Gradient Panel and change the angle from 0o to 90o and hit your Tab key.

Now let’s select the third square and apply a radial gradient.

Using your Selection Tool select the third square on the right. Then, click on the Gradient tool. Open up the Gradient Panel. Choose the standard black and white gradient fill by clicking once on the upper-left gradient. Now you will notice that the fill will be applied to the selected square.

In order to make this a radial gradient change the Type in the Gradient Panel from Linear to Radial. You can change the angle and the color slider for the radial gradient just like you do with the linear gradient.

If you move your cursor toward the Gradient Control you will notice that a dashed circle appears. You can use this dashed circle to manipulate the shape of the gradient. For example, if I click on the top of the dashed circle and drag up I stretch the gradient.

If I click on the left-hand control of the dashed circle I can control the size of the gradient. For example, if I click on this control and drag in I make the white part of the gradient smaller.

Now, select the fourth square and apply a radial gradient. If I wanted to reverse the gradient all I need to do is go back to the Gradient Panel and reverse the black and white stops on the slider.

It is also possible to make your own custom gradients in Illustrator.

Select the fifth square and apply a linear gradient.

Now we will add a color stop at the following locations: 25%, 50%, and 75%.

Click anywhere below the Gradient Slider and add a color stop. Change the Location to 25% and hit your Tab key. Repeat this process and make the other color stops at 50% and 75%.

If you accidently add a color stop or just simply want to remove a color stop all you do is click on the color stop and drag down. For example, let’s say I accidently added another color stop and I now need to get rid of it. All I need to do is click on the color stop and drag down away from the Gradient Slider in order to delete it.

In order to change the colors we need to click on each color stop and change the color from the pop-up color picker.

So, let’s double-click on the left (black) stop. Let’s change the opacity of the black color stop to 50%. You can already see the changes on the artboard.

Now let’s double-click on the second (25%) color stop and change its color. You will see options for changing the RGB color using the individual sliders, a hex code color, or choosing a color from the RGB Spectrum. Let’s click on the red color in the RGB Spectrum.

Also, please note that you can use the drop-down menu in the upper right of this menu to change the color mode. You have the option of: Grayscale, RGB, HSB, CMYK, and Web Safe RGB.

Let’s double-click on the middle (50%) color stop. From this color menu you also have the option of using Swatches. Click on the Swatches icon and then choose the dark green from the second row (0, 104, 55).

Now, double-click on the fourth (75%) color stop. Let’s choose the same red color that we have for the second color stop. This time we will use the RGB sliders. Change the Red slider to 191, the Green slider to 37, and the Blue slider to 0.

Let’s click on the fifth (100%) color stop and make it the same color as the first stop. Let’s change the opacity of the black color stop to 50% and using the Swatches, change the color to black.

Now you have your own custom gradient.

ADD STROKES TO OBJECTS

Now that we know how to fill in artwork with gradient fills let’s learn how to add strokes to objects. Let’s move to Artboard 3.

Strokes are simply borders that surround the paths that you have created.

Let’s use the Selection Tool and select the first square. In order to add a stroke you need make the Stroke active by clicking on the Stroke icon. You can now pick a color from the Color picker or double-click on the Stroke icon to bring up the color picker.

Let’s click on black in the Color menu. You will now see a thin stroke applied to the square. Let’s increase the stroke weight in the Control Panel. You can either type in a number or use the drop-down menu. Let’s use the drop-down menu and change the stroke weight to 3.

You can also use the Variable Width Profile in the Control Panel to change the look of a stroke.

Let’s use the Selection Tool and select the second square. Let’s put a simple Stroke around this square. Make sure the Stroke is active and then choose black from the color picker. Let’s use the drop-down menu and change the stroke weight to 6.

Under the Variable Width Profile drop-down menu choose Width Profile 2 and notice how it changes the look of the stroke.

We also have the option to change the Brush Definitions on strokes. Let’s choose the third square and add a simple 1 point black stroke.

Under the Brush Definition drop-down menu choose the Charcoal – Pencil option and change the stroke weight to 6. You can now see the charcoal pencil brush applied to the Stroke.

You also have libraries attached to the Brush Definitions.

Let’s go back to the Brush Definitions and click on the Libraries icon and choose Borders and then Borders_Frames. This will bring up a separate brush option menu.

Drag the bottom of the menu down until you can see all of the brushes. Let’s choose the mahogany brush (#6). Notice how the new mahogany frame is applied to the stroke.

You can also change the opacity of a stroke.

Select the fourth square and add an 8 point black stroke. To change the opacity, go to the Control Panel and either type in a number in the Opacity field or click on the white arrow and use the slider. In this case I will simply type in 50 and change the Stroke’s opacity to 50%.

We can also select where to align the Stroke around the path.

Select the fifth square and add a 6 point black stroke. Click on the word Stroke in the Control Panel to bring up the Stroke Menu. Here you can change the Cap, Corner, and Alignment of the stroke as well as the stroke weight.

Right now we will only deal with the Align Stroke options. Currently we have the default of Align Stroke of Center chosen. This means that the stroke is half inside the path and half outside the path. If we choose the Align Stroke to Inside we see that the stroke is now completely within the path.  If we choose the Align Stroke to Outside we see that the stroke is now completely outside the path.

ENDPOINTS AND DASHED LINES

Now that we know how to add strokes to objects let’s learn how to add endpoints and dashed lines to the stroke of the objects. Let’s move to Artboard 4.

Open up the Stroke Panel in the right-hand toolbar. (If you don’t see the Stroke Panel, go to Window and click on Stroke.) Click on the drop-down menu in the upper-right corner and choose Show Options. Now you can see all of the options available to you.

Let’s start with the circular object. This object has a gap in it so it is considered an open path. That means that I can only align the stroke to the center. You will notice that the other two Align Stroke option are grayed out.

Right now we have a Butt Cap on this stroke. This means that the Cap stop where the anchor points stop for this shape. If you change this to a Round Cap it rounds the Cap off. If you choose the Projecting Cap it will extend the shape beyond the end points of the path.

Let’s go back to the Butt Cap for this stroke and then add an arrowhead.

Go to the Arrowheads drop-down menu and choose Arrow 2. Notice that this arrowhead is far too big. We can change the scale by using the scale options underneath the Arrowheads drop-down menu. In this case I want to scale the arrowhead proportionally so I will click on the chain and then type in 30% in the Scale field and hit my Tab key.

Now let’s choose an arrowhead for the other end of the path. In the drop-down menu for the second Arrowhead choose Arrow 21.

If you decide that you want the arrowheads to be reversed simply click on the Swap Start and End Arrowheads icon.

Now let’s work on the square and add some dashed lines.

Select the square and in the Stroke Panel click in the box next to Dashed Line. You will notice that there are options for dashes and gaps. Let’s change the dashes and gaps to 8 point. This means that the dashes will be 8 points and the gaps in between the dashes will also be 8 points.

You can also vary the dashes and gaps. Let’s change the gaps to 12 point. Now the dashes remain at 8 point but the gaps increase to 12 point.

You can also select how the dashes align to the corners. You choose Preserve Exact Dash and Gap Length or Align Dashes to Corners to Path Ends.

GRADIENT STROKES

Now that we know how to add endpoints and dashed lines to the stroke of the objects let’s learn how to add gradient strokes to objects. Let’s move to Artboard 5.

What we want to do with this clock in give the outer circle a gradient.

Using the Selection Tool select the circle. Open the Stroke Panel if it is not already open and make sure you have Show Options clicked from the drop-down menu. Make sure the Align Stroke is set to Align Stroke to Center.

Make sure you have the Stoke active and click on the Gradient tab and then click on the gradient. Now the gradient is flowing from white to black across the stroke. Under the Stroke option click on the Apply Gradient Across Stroke. Now we can use the color stops to make the outer ring of the clock look three-dimensional.

Double-click on the white color stop. Click on the Swatches icon and then choose RGB Red (third swatch).

Double-click on the black color stop for the outer part of the circle and then click on the Color icon. Choose red from the RGB Spectrum and then change the Red slider to 50.

We can reverse the gradients easily by clicking on the Reverse Gradient icon.

Let’s add one more color stop. Holding down the ALT key on a PC or OPT key on a Mac click on the right (lightest red) color stop and drag the copied color stop to the middle. Type in 50% for the Location and hit your Tab key.

Let’s make this stop a bit darker. Double-click on the center color stop and change the Red slider to 120.

VARIABLE-WIDTH STROKES

Now that we know how to add gradient strokes to objects let’s learn how to add variable-width strokes to objects. Let’s move to Artboard 6.

The Width tool allows you to change the width of a stroke at various points along the stroke.

Select the line on the Artboard and then select the Width tool.

Click on the second anchor point and drag down. You will notice that this section of the line has now grown thicker.

Click on the third anchor point and drag down – but not as far as you did previously. You have now pinched this section of the line.

Holding down the ALT key on a PC or OPT key on a Mac, click on the fourth anchor point and while drag down. You have now made the lower part of the line thicker. Hold down the ALT key on a PC or OPT key on a Mac and click on the fifth anchor point and drag up. You have now made the upper part of the line thicker.

If you want more fine control over the width you can double-click on an anchor point to bring up the Width Point Edit menu. Let’s double-click on the sixth anchor point to bring up this menu. Here you can change Side 1, Side 2, or the Total Width of the stroke. You can also adjust the adjoining width points.

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