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Strokes and Outlines

Strokes and Outlines

Strokes and Outlines

Hello and thank you for allowing me to be part of this AWESOME forum. There seems to be a lot of nice people here.

Many of you also seem to be experts in Illustrator which I have a lot of respect for. For you guys my question is probably a piece of cake.

Please see the attached image.

I created a green square on the left. Its 10in by 10in. Then I added another (white) square in the center of that square. The white square is 5in by 5in. Then I selected the entire thing and made it a compound path so the center square stays perfectly centered and you can "see through it". Now I know the thickness of all four sides of my square is 2.5 inches which is what I need it to be precisely.

This is where things get confusing. I need to add a half inch outline to the outside and the inside, as seen on the right side of the image. I converted units from points to inches in preferences so I could simply tell it I want my stroke to be .5 inches and when I looked at the result on the right I thought my mission was accomplished, but as most of you know the path is in the center of the stroke so instead of the outline starting on the edge of the square, its actually changing the measurements of my square because half the stroke is overlapping it.

This seems like the most logical way to complete my objective, but the thickness of my square needs to remain the same measurements after the half inch outline is applied to the outer and inner square. SO basically it needs to remain EXACTLY as it is on the left with a half inch outline added to the outer and inner circle.

Hopefully that makes sense. Is there a way to tell it to have the outline begin at the edge of the path of the object instead of the path being in the center of the stroke which throws off the measurements of my square?

Thank you so much for any help you can offer.
Hope you all have an awesome day.

RE: Strokes and Outlines

...in the stroke palette you have 3 icon buttons next to the words "Align Stroke" (below "Miter Limit"), if you don't see those, select the "show options" in the fly out menu of the stroke palette (arrow top right of palette)...

...click on the far right icon which will align the stroke to the outside of the path, therefore adding to the 2.5 inch boundary...


RE: Strokes and Outlines

...also, to add to my post above...

...you have a few options for changing units in illustrator...

...press "command/control + R" to show rulers in the document window, right click in the ruler and select a new unit of measure...

...the other option is to simply type in fields with the unit of measure you want (i.e 10in, 5mm, 2pt) and the conversion is automatically made to the unit of measure illustrator is set to in the preferences. You can also use math like typing "10in+5mm"...

...abbreviations you can use after values are:

inch, inches, in

millimeters, millimetres, mm

Q (one Q = 0.25 millimeter)

centimeters, centimetres, cm

points, p, pt

picas, pc

pixel, pixels, and px

...you can also use math terms like:

% (Percentage)
/ (Division)
+ (Addition)
- (Subtraction)
* (Multiplication)


RE: Strokes and Outlines


I couldn't have asked for a better response. Thank you so much for your time, knowledge and kindness.



RE: Strokes and Outlines

...thought i might add another method you can also use, which is worth knowing...

...you can also create what you need without any strokes applied...

...with the base green compound shape you have, you can open the appearance palette (window > appearance). In there you will see the green fill color which you can select/highlight by clicking on it, then click on the "duplicate selected item" icon, (next to the trash icon bottom of palette)...

...this will create a copy of the fill, select the bottom fill and change to black, then with that fill still selected, choose "effect > path > offset path", type in 0.5"...


RE: Strokes and Outlines

...also to add, both methods above will still show the item as 10" width and height...

...sometimes it is nice to know the complete measure of an item that includes offset items or strokes, so that the width and height values display true in the toolbar/transform fields...

...to do that you need to enable "Use Preview Bounds" in the preferences > general section, at the bottom right is a check box to turn on...


RE: Strokes and Outlines

That is awesome bro thanks so much!
Ill walk through each of those clever tutorials and see what will work best.

I'm basically recreating a vinyl decal off a vehicle. You might remember that 01 on the doors of that old, orange '69 charger from an 80's TV show. :) About 12 years ago I took the measurements myself off one of the real cars, then recently I acquired one of the actual doors from an earlier time in the show when the "01" was slightly different. So I basically have two versions I'm looking to replicate exactly and exactly is an understatement.

Its completely for fun. You can buy the decals all day long online, some are ridiculously incorrect while others are quite accurate. I just want my own versions and Ive always been interested in exploring this amazing program so this is a fun project for me... :)

At first I called a local popular decal shop and told him I had a car door with a decal on it I need replicated. I stressed the importance of accuracy. I'm not talking accurate like rounded to the nearest 1/8th, I mean if the thickness of the one measures 3 and 1/64th then it needs to be 3.015625. He told me to bring him the door and he could do it exact. He had it for a month and the measurements were off almost an inch in some places.

So basically I realized the only way this is going to get done is if I do it myself.

Someone online who is also into this hobby had the graphic created and was kind enough to share it online for anyone who wants it. Please see attached image. You can see how the zero is not proportional. The inner outline of the circle doesn't match on both sides. Many of them were actually like this, imperfect in many ways. My goal is to have an EXACT version and also a proportional version as close to the actual measurements as possible. Anyway having this already designed for me and using it as a template was so helpful for someone that didn't know what an anchor was 3 weeks ago.

The person who made this graphic made the white and the black two separate objects. Thats not very hard to do when you're working with all straight lines like on the "1" but with those diagonal lines on the "0" it gets tricky.

I know it comes down to matching up the measurements but I'm starting by making the completely proportional version. Using the exact width/height from my measurements, trying to get the angles of the diagonal lines exactly as they are on my tracing, etc.

So Ive tossed the template and designed the entire thing from scratch. I believe I got 100% of the black exactly how I want it and once you showed me how to add the half inch outlines it achieved my objective perfectly.

Which leads me to my next question if anyone is actually still reading...

Is there a way to get the anchors to show up on the outer most part of the white? Then I can use the coordinates of those points to create the white backgrounds as a separate object, remove my white stroke from the black part and Ill still be assured everything is proportional. So basically I want to use the anchors of the white outline you showed me how to create to make that actual white background, but the anchors don't show up on the outermost part of the white, only on the actual path which is where the black meets the white.

Thanks again!


RE: Strokes and Outlines

Again I love how you showed me to add the outlines I wanted but it might be important to make the white and black separate objects for when they actually print this to vinyl.

Even though the designer I used did a horrible job with the dimensions, I really like the way he printed the decals. The printer/cutter (whatever) placed the black perfectly centered to the white. So it isn't just a one layer white decal with black printed on it (I believe that used to be more common), the black is a separate piece of vinyl but the machine spits it out already together (so when you apply the decal to a car, you don't have to lay down the white and then the black over it. Its one step.

Maybe the printers require the black and white be two different objects in order to print them that way.

RE: Strokes and Outlines

...yes, for vinyl cutting the output device needs to know where the edges are, currently when you just add a stroke or offset a path you only working on one path, the vinyl cutter will only see that one path...

...when your happy with the base object, make a copy of it on a new layer so you can go back to it if need be...

...with the other copy, choose "object > expand appearance"...

...your left with the defining paths, in the layers palette you will see the new compound shapes, select anchors using the white arrow (direct select tool)...


RE: Strokes and Outlines

Once again thats exactly what I was looking to do. Thanks so much.

So I thought I could simply draw the big orange rectangle to use as a background (the background isn't necessary but its nice to have a color other than white since the outline of the numbers are white). I'm thinking I should remove it before I give the completed file to the decal shop.

Then I add the white and black parts of the numbers. I group the black and white of the "0", then I group the black and white of the "1". I make sure the "0" and "1" are pre-spaced to the exact, correct measurement and then I group the "0" and "1" together. But youre saying each object needs to be a new layer?
The orange one layer, the white another layer, the black another layer? Would that mean the black of the "0" and "1" would be on the same layer and the white of the "0" and "1" would also be on their own same layer? Do I simply click on an object and hit a magic layer button and that object becomes its own layer?

Forgive me if Im asking too much. I bought Illustrator for dummies and I utilize the free tools and tutorials online, but its so nice to interact with real people. This site kicks arse.

You taught me how to create both the white and black pieces to be the exact size and dimensions I desire.
Its a shame I cant use the awesome "offset path" outline creation method you showed me because it works so amazingly well, but as you stated, it looks great on the screen, but the output device wont print the decal as it looks on the screen, so really I have no choice but to make the white and black separate. Now if you can explain how youd suggest I lay everything out, I will be forever grateful. I already am but you know what I mean. :) Plus with your knowledge I'm thinking you can explain what I need to do in 3-5 steps. :)


RE: Strokes and Outlines

>>> "But youre saying each object needs to be a new layer?" <<<

no, new layers aren't that important for what your doing (although it helps towards good organisation with complex documents). I was simply implying that you copy the "source" artwork, so you have something to revert back to before expanding. Copying layers can be done by dragging a layer to the document icon bottom of the layers palette.

>>> "The orange one layer, the white another layer, the black another layer? Would that mean the black of the "0" and "1" would be on the same layer and the white of the "0" and "1" would also be on their own same layer? Do I simply click on an object and hit a magic layer button and that object becomes its own layer?" <<<

see above about copying layers, and as mentioned, the layers are really personal preference, you just have to ensure you have your elements correctly stacked, be it on multiple layers or just one layer. when you "group" items on different layers they will always "group" onto the top most active layer. Also with selected items across layers, choosing the flyout menu of the layers palette (top right of palette), you have the option to "collect in new layer".

>>> "Its a shame I cant use the awesome "offset path" outline creation method you showed me because it works so amazingly well, but as you stated, it looks great on the screen, but the output device wont print the decal as it looks on the screen, so really I have no choice but to make the white and black separate." <<<

you can, you just have to choose "object > expand appearance" same if you use the stroke method.

>>> "Now if you can explain how youd suggest I lay everything out" <<<

one layer or different layers, doesn't matter, you just need to ensure you have the white and black path lines as the vinyl cutter needs them. You will be better off using the offset path method as when expand you have better paths to deal with (expanded strokes create more paths to fix). Choosing command/control + Y will display what the vinyl cutter will see, same keys revert you back to preview mode...


RE: Strokes and Outlines

Once again I cant thank you enough. I was able to accomplish my objective exactly. Thank you so much for your help.

My next little project is the decal on the roof of the car (image attached). In this case, I have a decal already made from a tracing of a very special car, so my goal is to recreate the decal EXACTLY. Same as the "01" pretty much, but it this case I'm not interested in an alternate "proportional" version. I need every letter to be EXACTLY the same as the original. Now since I have it in front of me, it will be easy enough to measure the thickness and try to copy the imperfections. The "E"s and "L"s should be very easy to recreate, even the "N" and "A", but the "G" and the "R" are killin me. :). The rounded lines are hard to work with.

I have this image already created in AI as well, so probably the easiest thing to do is use this as a template and modify all the letters to my measurements.

I guess my question is:
Is there a better process to accomplish this task? Is it possible the decal can be scanned and imported into AI and confirm the measurements are identical to the deal and basically just make copies?

The added twist is I only have one of these decals. Its valuable to me and it still has the very thin sheet of paper over the top but I think a good scanner would pick it up. The letters would have to be scanned in backwards. I just don't know enough about live trace and all that to know if scanning is a possibility as far as achieving perfect accuracy.


RE: Strokes and Outlines

...personally, the method i would do is to scan the decal in, then import an trace manually with the pen tool, this will get you close to those letters G and R, then double check measurements by referring back to the actual decal you have...

...you could use live trace, but you can end up with lots of points that might need adjusting if you need to tweak...

...less points equals smoother curves, and they are easier to adjust if you do your own pen paths, traced over the imported scan...


RE: Strokes and Outlines

Got it. Thank you!

RE: Strokes and Outlines

Okay bought a scanner. Scanned the decal. Looked awesome in the scan but remember its covered with a thin paper so the blue isnt very vibrant. When I use live trace to see the anchor condition, the picture just goes away. To like a faded white. What would be the best method of live trace?

Also I strted using the pen tool butit seems impossible to draw the curved lines of the "G" and "R" with it. Instead, shouldnt i use the shap tool. Make the out circle as close the original and manipulate the curves that way. Then I can iuse the Expand appearance method you taght me to fill in the rest of the "G". Problem is, the inner part needs slight manipulation too to get it perfect. Thats where it gets tricky. Do I add a zillion anchors and get it close as humanly possible? :)


RE: Strokes and Outlines

...there are a lot of live trace settings, so there isn't "one size fits all", live trace is a trial and error tool, and in your situation would help that much...

...the pen tool takes practice to use and is the most accurate method you have available, if you want to use shapes then that is fine...

...without seeing what you have i can't really do much for you unfortunately other than suggest you to keep practicing until you are satisfied...

...you don't need lots of anchor points on your project, keeping anchor point counts low = smoother curves, and easier to manipulate...

...if you find you need to adjust the points after expansion, then yes, you may well have to add additional anchor points...

...if you need further study of the pen tool, you can view this comprehensive guide here:



RE: Strokes and Outlines

As always, extremely helpful. Thanks!


RE: Strokes and Outlines

Until Im nore confident with the pen tool, Im basically drawing and oval/circle type shape using the dimensions from my measurements. By using only the anchors that are created automatically, Im able to manipulate the lines to where I want them while still keeping a nice curve. My issue now is, whats the proper way to remove the right part of the circle? End it exactly where I need it to end. Do I just add an anchor at the point and then draw a line segment. Im not sure how to connect anchor points. I can group everything and it all stays together but Im guessing thats not the correct way to join anchors. I tried highlighting them and clicking join. No luck. Thanks for listening.


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