How to Create a Multiple Stroke Path in Adobe Illustrator

multi-stroke object in Adobe IllustratorDid you know that Adobe Illustrator will allow you to assign multiple strokes to the same path? This not-so-well known feature can be a big help in simplifying your designs while also giving you the opportunity to exercise a greater degree of creative flair when creating your designs. This brief tutorial will help you to master the basics.

All screenshots and files found in this article were created in Adobe Illustrator CS5 on an Apple (affiliate link) Macintosh computer.

Let’s begin:

STEP 1 – Open a new Adobe Illustrator document. Do this by clicking on “File” in the Illustrator application menu bar and choosing the “New” option in the pull-down menu (or by using Mac keyboard shortcut:  ⌘N). The settings for the New Document are not important for this example. Choose the settings that you prefer and Click “Ok”.

STEP 2 – If they are not already visible, open the Illustrator “Stroke” and “Appearance” palettes. You can do this by selecting them from the Illustrator “Window” menu bar option.

STEP 3 – Select the “Line Segment Tool” and, for the purposes of this basic example, draw a simple straight line with no fill and a one point black stroke. Once done, select this new line segment using the Selection Tool.  (If you are not familiar with all the tools found in the Adobe Illustrator toolbar, this graphic from Adobe’s own help files may be a good way to learn.)

STEP 4 – In the Illustrator Appearance window, click, hold (it will become highlighted) and drag the row labeled “Stroke” to the “Duplicate Selected Item” icon found at the bottom of the palette to the immediate left of the Trash icon. This icon looks like a page with a folded, lower left hand corner. If done successfully, you will now see 2 instances of the black, 1 point stroke in the Appearances palette.

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STEP 5 – Now the fun begins. Click to highlight the 2nd instance of the stroke in the Appearances palette. Then go to the Stroke palette and increase that stroke’s weight to higher value, like 6. If you wish, you can also change the “Cap” style of the line segment using the icons founds to the right of the stroke weight section of the palette. Cap style options include: Butt, Round or Projecting.

STEP 6 – Now go back to the Appearances palette and select the first instance of the Stroke. Click to highlight it. In the Stroke palette, change the value of the stroke to 2 and set the cap style to “Round”. In addition, change to color of this instance of the stroke to White.

Congratulations! You’ve now created your first multi-stroked path in Adobe Illustrator! Armed with this new information, you are well on your way to creating more interesting designs!

Tips & Warnings

  • Use this Adobe Illustrator example file (CS5) to see some other ways to use this technique.
  • Experiment and play! The only way to master this technique is with practice using various options.
  • Try this technique on shapes and outlined text.
  • You can have as many stroke layers as you wish.
  • Experiment with dashed lines, stroke weights and cap styles to create unique stroke effects!
  • Know when to stop. This technique can be your friend, or you can overdo it can and make your design just plain awful.

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3 Replies to “How to Create a Multiple Stroke Path in Adobe Illustrator”

    1. I don’t think you can accomplish what you desire using this method. I’d suggest this:

      1 – Open a new document.
      2 – Create a 15 point, black path.
      3 – Copy the path above and paste it in front (command-F on a Mac) of the first path. Make it 6 point and white.
      4 – Select both paths and go to the Object menu and select Path and then Outline Stroke. After this, both paths will become objects.
      5 – Select both objects and go to the Pathfinder palette and select the Minus Front option.
      6 – The thinner “path” should now be transparent.

      Here is a link to a PDF file that may help you visualize what I described above.

      I hope this helps.

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