You use the Stroke panel (Window > Stroke) to specify whether a line is solid or dashed, the dash sequence and other dash adjustments if it is dashed, the stroke weight, the stroke alignment, the miter limit, arrowheads, width profiles, and the styles of line joins and line caps.

Stroke panel
Stroke panel

You can apply stroke options to an entire object, or you can use Live Paint groups and apply different strokes to different edges within the object.

Layers Magazine instructor Dave Cross shows you how to apply fill and stroke in Illustrator and some handy shortcuts to work with fill and stroke in this video.

Apply a stroke color, width, or alignment

  1. Select the object. (To select an edge in a Live Paint group, use the Live Paint Selection tool.)
  2. Click the Stroke box in the Tools panel, the Color panel, or the Control panel. Doing so indicates that you want to apply a stroke rather than a fill.
    Stroke box
    Stroke box

  3. Select a color from the Color panel, or a swatch from the Swatches panel or Control panel. Alternatively, double-click the Stroke box to select a color using the Color Picker.


    If you want to use the current color in the Stroke box, you can simply drag the color from the Stroke box onto the object. Dragging does not work on Live Paint groups.

  4. Select a weight in the Strokes panel or Control panel.
  5. If the object is a closed path (and not a Live Paint group), choose an option from the Stroke panel to align the stroke along the path:
    • Align Stroke To Center 

    • Align Stroke To Inside 

    • Align Stroke To Outside 


    If you try to align paths that use different stroke alignments, the paths may not exactly align. Make sure the path alignment settings are the same if you need the edges to match up exactly when aligned.

Create dotted or dashed lines

Adobe recommends

Adobe recommends
<a href="">Creating Corner-Aligned Dashed Lines</a>
Mordy Golding

You can create a dotted or dashed line by editing an object’s stroke attributes.

  1. Select the object.
  2. In the Stroke panel, select Dashed Line. If the Dashed Line option isn’t showing, choose Show Options from the Stroke panel menu.
  3. Click the icon: Align Dashes to Corners and Path Ends, Adjusting Length to Fit . This option allows you to make the dashes at the corners and ends of the paths consistent and predictable. If you need to retain the appearance of the dashes without aligning then select the Preserve exact dash and gap lengths icon.
    Dash Adjustments at the corners
    Dash Adjustments at the corners

    A. Preserved exact dash and gap lengths B. Aligned dashes to corners and path ends, adjusting lengths to fit 
  4. Specify a dash sequence by entering the lengths of dashes and the gaps between them.

    The numbers entered are repeated in sequence so that once you have established the pattern, you don’t need to fill in all the text boxes.

  5. Select a cap option to change the ends of the dashes. The Butt Cap  option creates square-ended dashes; the Round Cap  option creates rounded dashes or dots; the Projecting Cap  option extends the ends of dashes.
    Gap options
    6-point dashed lines with dash gaps of 2, 12, 16, 12

    A. Butt cap B. Round cap C. Projecting cap 

    For a video on creating perfectly dashed strokes, see Creating corner-aligned dashed lines.

Change the caps or joins of a line

A cap is the end of an open line; a join is where a straight line changes direction (turns a corner). You can change the caps and joins of a line by changing the object’s stroke attributes.

  1. Select the object.
  2. In the Stroke panel, select a cap option and a join option.

    If the options aren’t showing, choose Show Options from the panel menu.

    Butt Cap 

    Creates stroked lines with squared ends.

    Round Cap 

    Creates stroked lines with semicircular ends.

    Projecting Cap 

    Creates stroked lines with squared ends that extend half the line width beyond the end of the line. This option makes the weight of the line extend equally in all directions around the line.

    Miter Join 

    Creates stroked lines with pointed corners. Enter a miter limit between 1 and 500. The miter limit controls when the program switches from a mitered (pointed) join to a beveled (squared-off) join. The default miter limit is 10, which means that when the length of the point reaches ten times the stroke weight, the program switches from a miter join to a bevel join. A miter limit of 1 results in a bevel join.

    Round Join 

    Creates stroked lines with rounded corners.

    Bevel Join 

    Creates stroked lines with squared corners.

Add arrowheads

In Illustrator CS5, you can access arrowheads from the Stroke panel and associate controls to adjust size. Default arrowheads are available from the Arrowheads drop-down list in the Stroke panel. Using the Stroke panel, you can also easily swap arrowheads.

Arrowheads in Stoke panel
Arrowheads in Stroke panel

You can resize the tip and end of the arrowheads independently, using Scale option. If you want to link the start and end of the arrowheads scale, click the Link Start and End of Arrowheads Scales icon, adjacent to the Scale option.

You can also adjust the path to align to the tip or the end of the arrowhead, using the Align options. The options are:

  • Extend arrow tip beyond end of path

  • Place arrow tip at the end of path

    note: To remove arrowheads from objects, choose the None arrowhead option from the drop-down list.

Customize arrowheads

To define custom arrowheads, open the file, which is located under ShowPackageContent\Required\Resources\<locale>\ (for Mac) and \Support Files\Required\Resources\<locale>\ (for Windows). Follow the instructions in the file to create custom arrowheads.

Place the updated file at: <Illustrator home>\Plug-ins\ and avoid replacing the existing file.

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