Spiral Tool In Illustrator

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Where ?

The Illustrator spiral tool and generated path is pretty decent already but you can add to it, enhance it in many ways. You can find it under the line segment in the toolbar

Basic functionality

Select it and set the fill and stroke color and apply path from origin point. Set stroke options set dash style to ON. Set dash style round cap and 5pt and 2 / 10 dash and gap (though the settings can vary depending on the size of the shape etc so 50 / 100 are just as good

dialog panel / Options

OK, the path is pretty good to begin with, you can generate a number of variations just by changing some of the settings by clicking the art board (or in my case, double clicking as I never get things to respond first time around) - it always slightly bugs that it doesn't work by double clicking the icon (as virtually everything else works that way). OK, once you have the basic design, it has a stroke setting and that is about it and it is made up of as number of points. Here are a few ways to enhance it.

Stroke options / Dashes

You can add a round cap to the selected path as well as dash options via the stroke options drop down to create some amazing artworks Click the dashed line option in the stroke panel and then set the dash etc to 12 / 30 or 50 / 10 etc or perhaps go for more variations such as 12 / 30 / 20 / 50 etc and again, changing the cap etc will vary the results. If you want to access the individual dashes and change the colors etc you will need to go to the object menu and expand appearance (if required) and then expand and then ungroup and then also go to the compound command and release and you will be able to select the individual parts pf the design and re-color and shift and scale etc those parts of the line.

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Additional strokes

As you can also add additional strokes with the appearance panel, you can also quickly add a shadow via the appearance panel right side menu and add new stroke or use the duplicate selected item and then just change the color of the design and apply a live effect transform 'move' to that entry

Width profiles

Select the artwork and then go to the stroke and set to say 60pt and set to black and then go to the width profile drop down. The number of width profiles is fairly minimal and I would love to see more added in future versions. There is an add width profile but all the profiles I have added (and I have added many over the years) never seem to remain and the list goes back to the default set. Anyway, you can add any of the existing profiles and that will add a lot more dynamic flourish to your basic design. You can also manipulate the profile by using the width brush and that can change the width at any point along the path and not just at anchor points. You can make thin as well as thick widths but they are all symmetric.

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Width bar

You can click the 'width bar' as well as the point and drag that back and forth along the path to change the size left and right or as it lists it, side 1 and side 2. The result can be expanded via the expand appearance command found in the object menu though the end result can generate a lot of extra points.

You can use the 'simplify' feature for Straight lines etc

Using the simplify (found in the object and path menu) combined with the widths you can generate some very interesting and unique artworks. By reducing the curve precision of the simplify you can generate more hand drawn designs. The straight line option is probably the most interesting if you wish to create square chunkier designs and you can do this by combining the results with changes to the angle threshold. Some of the path designs generated will be just a random collection of points but setting the perfect angle threshold will result in some truly abstract artworks. Or use the straight line designs with width profiles.

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Use arrows as well with the generated path, go to the stroke settings int he control bar and check out the options available for the arrowheads (or go to the properties panel (the path needs to be selected). You have a decent selection of artworks to choose from such as basic circles as well as hands, dots etc and these can be applied to both ends of the path (and they can be different at both ends as well). If you wish to manipulate these further you will need to select the curve and use the object menu and expand appearance. You can then go to the object menu and ungroup and break the arrowhead from the path and manipulate it further such as add effects only to the head

You can add brush strokes

You can create all kinds of weird and wonderful artworks by adding a stroke width along with selecting brush definitions. As you can add all kinds of paths to the brushes panel, all kinds of wonderful artworks can be generated using the source design (such as dots and splatters and rough inks, text, images etc). You can add multiple brush definitions by using the appearance palette. Add duplicates of the stroke and then change the stroke width of the individual entries such as set it to 0.5pt for one and 1pt for another etc. Sadly the color cannot be changed short of creating a new brush with a different color but same shape.

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Appearance panel

You can combine width profiles and additional strokes to the path by using the appearance panel (found in the window menu). You can add additional fills but they are generally of no use. You can also use effects as well such as blurring the artwork etc and all those settings can be controlled via the appearance panel. Go to the right side menu with the selected path and then add additional stroke. If the current stroke is set to 60pt then to see both, one of the strokes have to be slightly smaller or you have to use blending modes / transparency. You can also use different width profiles with the different strokes as well as combine that with the width brush - so at a single point you can have multiple thick and thin profiles and they can be very varied along the path. The width brush can be used on each stroke

You can also add effects

You can add Gaussian blurs etc to the path as well or perhaps shadows. These can all be manipulated via the appearance panel. You can also use others such as the awesome symbol stipplism or stipplism plugin from Astute Graphics' range to create amazing fills for the path

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Path eraser

You can use path eraser to cut into the artwork. Select the eraser / rubber and go to the path and then cut across the points to separate the design into separate open paths. You can shift parts of the spiral path, you can re-color the stroke for each of them, you can add effects such as blurs to parts of the design, you can re-size the width, use it with width profiles, different brush strokes etc.

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Once you have expanded the path via the expand appearance command (object menu) or expand command (depends which one is available), you can add additional blobs to the path via the blob brush. You can add small blobs as well as long thick lines. You can add them to the edge of the path but you can also use the blob brush to join the different arms of the artwork.

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Erase / edge

The opposite to the blob is the eraser tool, you can use it to remove parts of the path creating a mottled path. Or chipping off the start or end of the design.


If you have 2021 or above, you can use the repeat feature with the artworks to create all kinds of awesome designs. Apply it to create a design with a stroke and size etc. You can create the path in the panel or you can use the settings in the panel to create a quick path. The path can then be modified by width profiles, warps etc though it should be noted that some things such as widths maybe expanded within the repeat object. It can then be duplicated radially as well as grid or mirrored via the object menu and repeat and radial etc. The interactive controls to add more instances or change the width of the design are super useful. You can also use the properties panel to change the repeat setting. You can modify the path once you have added the repeat object by double clicking the path, any path within the repeat object and the results of any change are 'real time'. You can add multiple repeats together to create very complex and beautiful designs

Linear Effect

You can create a quick linear or square design very quickly

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