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

In Illustrator, when you draw an object, apply a stroke, then scale that object up or down, you can control whether 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)

Scaling means increase or decrease the particular dimension or value for a particular object. Scaling up means increasing the particular dimension and scaling down means to decrease the particular dimension of that object or living thing.

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.

Scale Strokes & Effects

If you want to increase stroke i.e thickness of the boundary line and size of the whole object proportionally, you have to check mark “Scale Strokes & Effects” option. Otherwise, you may choose to increase the size of the object or stroke only. Some illustrator users may get confused as to when they aim to increase both the stroke and object proportionally. If the size of the object gets bigger but the stroke stays the same, the whole object may look really absurd due to the large size and small thickness of the boundary. In such cases, you may want to increase the size of stroke and object proportionally.

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:

Stroke that has been scaled up

2. Scaling an Object, but NOT the Stroke:

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

Scaling the object but not the stroke

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

Stroke that has not been scaled up

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 🙂

This easy and simple hack works for all the different geometrical shapes.