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The Expanded Stroke Panel

The Stroke panel controls settings for the many different types of strokes, from how they align to the path of an object to how they join at corners. Dashed lines, end caps, and arrowheads all are part of the Stroke panel, as well as stored width profiles, from a normal even width to a fully calligraphic profile. Here you can also customize and save your carefully crafted stroke profiles after creating a variable-width stroke, and preview how your path joins to an arrowhead. Adjust the way dashes follow a path, and scale arrowheads to suit.

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A path shown first in Outline, then in Preview with a Miter join, Round join, and Bevel join

Making ends meet

Sometimes stroked lines seem to match up perfectly when viewed in Outline mode, but they visibly overlap in Preview mode. You can solve this problem by selecting one of the three end cap styles in the Strokes panel. The default Butt cap causes your path to stop at the end anchor point and is essential for creating exact placement of one path against another. The Round cap is especially good for softening the effect of single line segments. The Projecting cap extends lines and dashes at half the stroke weight beyond the end anchor point. Cap styles also affect the shape of dashed lines.

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The Profiles list at the bottom of any Stroke panel lets you apply save, and delete custom Width Profiles, and restore the Uniform default width

Corners have joins that serve a similar purpose to end caps. The Join style in the Stroke panel determines the shape of a stroke at its corner points; the inside of the corner is always angled. The default Miter join creates a pointy corner, with the length of the point determined by the width of the stroke, the angle of the corner (narrow angles create longer points), and the Miter limit setting on the Stroke panel. The default Miter join (with a miter limit of 10x) usually looks fine, but can range from 1x (which is always blunt) to 500x. The Round join creates a rounded outside corner with a radius of half the stroke width. The Bevel join creates a squared-off outside corner, equivalent to a Miter join with the miter limit set to 1x.

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SALLY COX
(Top) When Dashes with round caps are added to art by Sally Cox, the default option in the Stroke panel preserves dash size but are unevenly distributed around the frame; (bottom) changing the option to Align to corners dash size varies the size of dashes but evens spacing

Dashes behave like short lines and therefore have both end caps and, potentially, corner joins. End caps work with dashes exactly as they do with the ends of paths—each dash is treated as a very short path. However, if a dashed path goes around the corner, it can make that turn in one of two ways: The spacing between the dashes can be precise and constant, so the dash won’t necessarily bend around a corner, or even reach to it, or you can click the “Aligns dashes to corners and path ends, adjusting lengths to fit” icon. Dashes won’t be precisely spaced, but will look tidy at the corners. The command affects dash spacing for other shapes, from circles to stars, as well.

One more “end” to a path is an arrowhead, and the Stroke panel now offers a choice of both the types of arrowheads and how they are affixed to the ends of the paths. Click the Arrowheads pop-up list to choose to attach an arrow or feather to the start or end of the path. You can then scale it proportionally or disproportionally, reverse the start and end, or align the arrowhead so that either the tip or the end of the arrow meets the end of the path. To remove an arrowhead (or feather), choose None from the list. You can add custom arrowheads to the list without removing any of the default arrowheads (you’d have to reinstall Illustrator to make them available again if you removed them). Both dash alignment options and arrowheads can be modified again at any time.

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