How to Scale Your Strokes Proportionally in Adobe Illustrator

While Adobe Illustrator offers easy ways to scale your work, a frequent occurrence is the stroke width not scaling with the rest of the object. Even when holding down Shift to keep constraints proportional, you need to check a separate setting to keep the stroke widths proportional to your illustration.

If you’ve ever been frustrated by your lines looking too wide when scaling down or too slim when scaling up in Illustrator, here is how to fix it.

How to Scale Objects in Illustrator

Scale anchor point in Illustrator.

If you draw or write something in Adobe Illustrator, you can easily scale your object up or down. Clicking and dragging a corner or edge anchor point allows you to scale or warp the size of your object. This doesn’t scale proportionally, though, and may result in unsightly warping.

Scale cursor in Illustrator.

To scale an object proportionally, all you need to do is hold down Shift while dragging an anchor point and the object as a whole will stay in proportion to itself. This works for any object you can create in Illustrator: paths, words, shapes, and completed illustrations. Unfortunately, the stroke widths won’t scale in size.

Scaling objects and paths in Illustrator can help you make a great animation video in After Effects. Find out how to use Illustrator and After Effects together to make an animation.

How to Scale Stroke Paths Proportionally

Example of Illustrator strokes that are resized but not to scale.

While scaling in Illustrator resizes the entire object, it, unfortunately, doesn’t scale the width of the object’s path stroke. Scaling an object down results in paths that look too thick for the size of the image. The opposite is true when scaling up; the paths become too skinny for the object’s size. A 2px width path will stay 2px wide even when the object is smaller or larger than the original size.

To scale the strokes proportionally means the stroke width will look much better when you scale the rest of the object up or down. It’s simple to scale the stroke widths in Illustrator.

Adobe Illustrator Transform panel options.

Go to Window > Transform to open the Transform panel. Select the Transform icon to open or close the panel.

To start, select at least one object you wish to scale. The effect will apply to any objects scaled after changing the setting, but it won’t affect any previously scaled objects.

Adobe Illustrator scale proportions.

Open the Transform panel and check the Scale Strokes & Effects box at the bottom. With this checked, you can scale any object up or down and the stroke width will accommodate the proportions. No longer will scaling down result in too-wide paths that overwhelm the illustration.

You can turn off the scaling setting as easily as you turned it on. But until you uncheck it, you can scale your strokes in proportion to the illustration size, even on new projects.

How to Change the Stroke Width

The Illustrator stroke settings offer a variety of styles and sizes for your strokes, including variable widths and tapered ends. If you want to customize the thickness of your stroke paths, you might be frustrated trying to find the right style in the Stroke properties.

Width tool adding thickness to a path in Illustrator.

Using the Width tool (Shift + W), you can add thickness or thinness to any area of your stroke path that you wish. This gives you full creative control.

To customize the stroke width, select the Width tool from the vertical toolbar and hover over any path you wish to customize. You do not need to pre-select the path. With the Width tool cursor, click on a path and drag your cursor left or right to change the width.

Variable widths on a path in Illustrator.

You can add or remove width to any area of a path; however, it will only be affected for areas of paths between anchor points. If your path uses multiple anchor points, you should simplify by removing some.

These new stroke widths will also be affected by the proportional checkbox in the Transform panel. When you scale your drawing, you can keep the new widths to scale too.

There are many great things you can do with paths and strokes in Adobe Illustrator, including intertwining and layering paths and images or even creating spooky spider webs.

Elevate Your Illustrator Artwork With Proportional Strokes

Without adding proportional stroke widths, your illustrations may look complex and splodgy when small, or appear too thin and delicate when large. Checking the Scale Strokes & Effects box keeps your illustrations and paths looking sharp and perfectly in proportion to the size.

Your paths won’t look out of place anymore, and you can easily resize your artwork without creating extra work for yourself.

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