Illustrator 101: To Scale or Not to Scale? Strokes, That Is.

by Jay Hilgert
on September 27, 2007

As you might be able to tell by the title, this isn’t an advanced feature, but because of the wildly popular “Illustrator Quick Tips” I’ve been publishing, I’m starting a new series of simple, yet very useful tips aptly named “Illustrator 101.” (I will also be doing this for Photoshop, so keep an eye out for “Photoshop 101″ tips coming soon as well) Sometimes the simplest things can be the most helpful, so to kick of the Illustrator 101 series, we’re going to save ourselves some transforming headaches, and harness a simple scaling option in the Transform palette.

Illustrator 101: Scaling Stokes and Effects Option

In Illustrator, when you draw an object, apply a stroke, then scale that object up or down, you can control wether or not the stroke size gets scaled too, or stays the same. The way you control this feature is from the “Transform” palette (Window > Transform). This can be very useful for things like logos, where you want everything to look exactly the same at every size. Let’s get started . . .

I’ll show you an example of scaling the stroke and the object, and an example scaling the object only, but first, draw a simple shape on the artboard like below, and apply a stroke. (I used a 5px stroke)

Illustrator 101: Scaling Stokes and Effects Option

1. Scaling an Object and the Stroke:

Open your Transform palette, and click on the options in the upper right. You need to make sure “Scale Strokes and Effects” is “checked.” It works like a toggle switch. If it’s unchecked, and you click on it, the menu will disappear, and it will be checked. Open the options again to make sure you did it right.

Illustrator 101: Scaling Stokes and Effects Option

Now that you have “Scale Strokes and Effects” active, scale your object (with the black arrow, like normal) and you will notice that not only the object gets bigger, but your stroke as well:

Illustrator 101: Scaling Stokes and Effects Option

1. Scaling an Object, but NOT the Stroke:

Simply uncheck/deactivate “Scale Strokes and Effects” in the Transform palette…

Illustrator 101: Scaling Stokes and Effects Option

Now, scale your object, and only the object gets bigger/smaller. Your stroke stays the same!

Illustrator 101: Scaling Stokes and Effects Option

This feature can save you a lot of trouble keeping things consistent at different sizes, and also works for “effects” if you use those, and brush strokes as well. No trickery, just toggling an option in the Transform Palette :)

About Jay Hilgert

Formally trained at Oklahoma State, Jay Hilgert is a graphic and web designer, font designer (Link), software developer (Brush Pilotâ„¢), and the founder of BittBox.

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