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Adobe Illustrator CC - Advanced Training

How to draw flowing curves in Adobe Illustrator with the Width Tool

Daniel Walter Scott

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Hi there, in this video we're going to take the Width Tool to the next level. We're going to take this hand drawn logo and amazingly vectorize it. Same with this one here, we're going to take this Pen Tool drawing, and do all this kind of cool blobby bits to the ends. All right, let's go learn how to do that now in Illustrator. 

I've got open the 'Width' file. We're going to draw this kind of curve in the middle here. Here's a logo I made a really long time ago for a company called Arctic Kiwi. It just has this really nice kind of New Zealand coral shape in there. Mountains, that's what it's meant to be anyway, but we want to get this curve, we're going to use the Width Tool. We'll look at some of the advanced Width Tool features. 

First of all we need to get this kind of curve shape. Now that can be the hardest bit, right? I'm going to use the Curvature Tool, it gives me kind of nicest curviest line. We're practicing the Curvature Tool, remember? I'm going to click once. Now if you kind of put two, not enough curve points in-- I'm trying to be really sparingly. And if you know, the least amount of Anchor Points generally gives you a nicer curve. That's good, but it's not following the line as I wanted it. So what we might do is, I'm going to undo and just kind of add one or two more extra points instead of going all the way, down to here, I'm going to kind of maybe get there. Maybe there. Then, there. There. You'll see, as it comes around, kind of reaches back, and influences the line. Thank you, Curvature Tool. 

Now if you get it close, and you're like "Actually it's kind of close, but not what I wanted," you can use the White Arrow to adjust it. But let's say it's really bad and you've got something that's not what you wanted. Actually let's do a duplicate over here. A nice little trick before we do the Width Tool is, with it selected, if you've got something that just doesn't flow nicely, you can use the 'Object', 'Path', 'Simplify'. Doesn’t always work, you can see, there's just kind of a tiny adjustment. I felt like it's just a nicer curve there now especially across the top here, it's kind of peaked to across this. You can play around with curve position and decide on how much-- don't worry too much about where it is in this slider because it just kind of changes the shapes. So, just kind of drag along until you find like, "Actually I think that's quite nice." We're kind of liking it about there. Make sure Preview is 'on'. Also know that sometimes I use it, and it does make a big mess of it but I'd say, 80% of the time it makes it a little bit better. 

You can see, I'm liking that curve now. Goodbye, you're in-- I'm going to turn the background on, try and line him back up. When you are drawing this, don't worry too much about the background drawing because that's just hand drawn, like it was my good guess, to try and make it nice and curvy, but we want to get something that looks perfect and vector. Don’t worry too much about it. Now we're going to look at the Width Tool. The Width Tool is this one here, it's like a harp or something. Click on him. And the easy way to do it is to find somewhere kind of the fattest point of that line, I'm going to just drag it out. So that's a pretty cool thing if you've never used it before, but lot of people have. So there's a few things you'll need to watch out for. It is, if I zoom in, because I used a Font size of 1, and a Stroke width of 1pt to start with, you can see, it's got kind of flattened, it's not what I wanted. So afterwards, you can do one of two things. You can just grab it, and just drag it in, to get it to be nice and tight, or you can just start with a really small weight font to start with before you start drawing it. Up to you. 

Other things to know about the Width Tool, you can have more than 1 point. You can see, you can kind of adjust this one now having lots of different points. If you get something in the wrong place you can just click, hold, and drag the center of it. You can see, you can kind of move it around. I'm going to delete these by clicking it. I'm just hitting 'Delete' on my keyboard. Grab here as well. Another thing we can do is, let's say I want this outside to be just a bit bigger. Say I want it about there. You can hold down the 'Alt' key on a PC, or 'Option' key on a Mac. And you can grab either of these sides. You can see, they work independently of each other. If I let go of it, they start working together, while I'm holding down the 'Option' key, or the 'Alt' key on a PC, I can kind of adjust just this one to get it kind of how I want it to be. So lots more awesome Width Tool action to come, but let's just finish this off. And I want to run into one of the problems that people do have and a little cool shortcut to fix it. 

Let's say I'm using the Curvature Tool. I want to draw these lines, but I want to draw them as separate lines because what happens is, click once, click again, click there, and it's joined up, that's easier, I can click off. Now I want to click down here. You, I don't want this to join up. Because it does kind of weird stuff, it just wants to do separate lines. The quickest way to fix that is, with it selected with the 'Black Arrow' hold 'Command' on a Mac, or 'Control' on a PC, and hit '2'. It just locks it. It's kind of locked in the background now. Back to the Curvature Tool, click once, click once. Then at the top here, it's not going to try and join it. If we hold 'Command 2', it just locks it again. So it's kind of-- easy to put him on its own layer. Again, you, stop doing that. I'm going to go 'Command 2', all locked. So I can just continue on my merry way. I probably want to join some of these lines, but that's okay. 

So you, my friend, 'Command 2'. Then I grab my Curvature Tool. Click once, click again, back at the top there. Now you're thinking, "These are not joined." So, nice little trick is, let's make sure to unlock them all. So under 'Object', there's 'Unlock All'. For some reason that shortcut doesn't work on my machine. It's been done by something else but what we can do is grab all of these Anchor Point at the top here. So I've used my 'White Arrow', I've just selected them all. Then I can go over here, the 'Align Panel', let's say I want to align there. 'Align Vertical', and 'Align Center Horizontal'. They just overlap each other now, perfect. 

So let's move on to our next Width Tool example. So the second example, open up 'Width Tool2'. And we'll do this kind of Si Scott style kind of . Check out Si Scott, he's got amazing stuff, like it’s total copy of that type of effect. What we're looking for is we're looking for these kind of tear drop ends, and nice curves. There's two things we're going to do, let's do the tear drop one first. So I'm going to grab-- We'll use the Curvature Tool because I find it easier for doing these curves. Click once, click twice. How many do I need? I've practiced this a couple of times teaching it, so kind of know I need a little bit more than I normally do. I want to kind of come around here, and then, maybe there. Now I could use the White Arrow to tidy these up but I'm happy, roughly how it is. What you might have run into problems is - mine didn't have a Fill - if you're finding it hard to draw, just turn off the Fill before you start drawing. 

Next thing I want to do is turn the Stroke Weight way down, so it's nice and thin. Let's grab the Width Tool. There he is there. We're going to have a couple of things, one is the Star Point. What you'll find with the Star Point, suppose you drag it the wrong way and it's like, seems to not work just drag it the opposite way, so I'm dragging it down. So that's my kind of first part. It's doing a pretty good job, right? The next bit is, I want that tear drop end. So what we'll do is-- I'm going to zoom in close on this tip. And you need two parts, I'm going to draw out one part. Now it just kind of looks like a regular line but just behind it, drag in a skinnier bit. It kind of makes like a little tuber thing. Yours might be working by default, it's probably not, but if you click on the line, go over here, Stroke, and click on the word 'Stroke'. By default it's set to the unfortunately named Butt Cap. You want to go to the next one called 'Round Cap', and it will give you that kind of look. Breaks this end, but we can fix this end the easy way by lobbying it off, but it gives you that nice kind of tear drop shape. That's kind of what we're looking for, for this drawing. 

Now you might be a master with the Pen Tool, and spend a while getting this curve because it's pretty good, but it's not perfect. I'll show you a way, say this one here is quite circular, I want to kind of-- I'll show you a trick that I use to get a reasonably perfect circle. I'm going to start with an Ellipse. You might have to hold down the 'Rectangle tool' and grab the 'Ellipse Tool'. I'm going to draw an Ellipse. Now, shortcut, if you hold down the 'Alt' key on a PC, or 'Option' key on a Mac, it starts from the center. And hold down 'Shift', it will give you a perfect circle. That's what I'm looking for, right? 

Now remember, my thing underneath is just a hand drawn one so it's never going to match up perfect, so don't-- We're not looking to try and do that, right? We're looking to get it close. What I want to do is slice this into bits. Now, I don't use the Knife Tool very often. See this shortcut, this Scissors Tool. I said knife, I meant scissors. So if you can't find it, it's hiding underneath the Eraser Tool. And he's really good at going-- click once, and click again. And what it's done is, if I hit the 'Delete' key twice it deletes that chunk. You might have the wrong bit deleted. So you might have to select with the Black Arrow and delete the bit you need to go on. You can see here, I've kind of got the beginnings of this going. Now I want to continue it on. So I'm going to use the Pen Tool or the Curvature Tool. Where's the Curvature Tool? I want to show you something. Curvature Tool is like, "I want to be this side" because that was the last point drawn. And you're like, "No, I want you to be this side." 

I'm going to grab the 'White Arrow', and I'm going to say click on you. Now if I go back to my Curvature Tool, it says "I defy you, and do whatever I want," and go back to that first one. So I find this is a little bit of a bug. If you can think of a better way than this hack. What I do is, I click on this thing, click on it once and then go back to my Curve Tool, and it goes "Did you mean this guy?", and I'm like, "Yes, I did." So I use the Pen Tool just to click it once. So what I'm looking for now is probably one about there. I'm just going to follow this guy down the middle. Now I want it to follow down the center, I want it to be straight, don't want it to be a big curve like this. So I'm going to double click. Then here, double click. It didn't do a great job there so I'm going to go back, and maybe just adjust it. Try not to wreck it too much. It's looking okay. 

You might now go with your White Arrow, and tidy this up. There's a couple of bits. Whole mad stuff, we're not getting perfect circles. Width Tool helps. I'm using the White Arrow, the Direct Selection Tool just to tidy it up. I feel like I'm kind of there. Might need a little bit of work across. What I might do as well is turn this one underneath off because it's kind of influencing where I think it should be. Same thing again. So, I've used this circle to get the bulk of it done. Now I'm going to turn down my 'Stroke' to something really light. I'm going to grab my 'Width Tool'. I'm going to-- I might need to turn that back on now. Just turned it off. I want a big chunk this end. Probably want to match it about here because I want the font to be the same width to about there before it gets kind of skinny. 

What am I doing? It gets a bit thinner across here, so I'm going to tighten it up about there. Then I want to do this little blob bit. Let's practice that. So I want to go, you to get the kind of end piece, then just a bit further back. So I want that last part of Anchor. And, a bit further back. I'm just going to tighten it in. You might find it like, Holy Molly-- goes to a, maybe a bit too big, you just chuck this in there. Awesome, I am happy enough. What I might do is trim it up, I want it to be a bit further back, so 'C' on my keyboard to get the Scissors Tool, so it snaps. 'Black Arrow', grab that chunk, don't need him. I need my blob back here. It's working properly, right? I'm drawing a little circle here. Switch these guys around, it's kind of the thing I'm looking for. Zoom out. How perfect is it? It's pretty good. 

Cool! So, what we're going to do now is, draw these letters. You can totally easily draw these, but you draw them separately. This L, I draw with just the Pen Tool, the Curvature Tool. And I draw these two things separately using the Width Tool. I will join them up in an episode probably two videos after this one, actually no, the very next video where we start merging different kind of shapes like this Width Tool, with just regular shapes. 

So what I'd like you to do is keep practicing on a few of these. There's a few of them that changed direction. In this case, I'll probably just do two separate lines. So I'll do one that came out of here and stopped there. Now I need to lock it and put it on its own layer, and draw another one. That will be really easy to do with the circle. I should have done that one, would have been real easy. I did this one that kind of curves as well. But you get the idea. Some of these ones change direction. And I totally do that in one big, long line. I'd like you to practice on a few of these and we'll finish it off in a future video. 

All right, on to the Shape Builder Tool, which I keep talking about. We'll finally finish off a few of these drawings in the next one. All right, let's go do it.