The stroke width tool in Illustrator features some really unpredictable behaviour when used on a compound path. When I change the width on one part of the compound path, Illustrator applies that width change to the other part as well.


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This is a compound path: a circle with a smaller circular hole in it. I need it to be a compound path to have the hole. However, in the right picture I applied the Stroke width tool to the outer path's top anchor only, yet Illustrator goes ahead and applies the change to the inner circle as well.

Is there a way to change the widths of a compound path's strokes independently?

  • wow, its a bug. you cant do that as it is a very complex Visual appearance, I tried compound shape and live paint but no way. The only way to reach your effect is to expand your shape in each step.
    – hsawires
    Jan 9, 2015 at 17:03

2 Answers 2



Compound shapes are seen as a single object therefore any stroke is seen as a single stroke as well. Any width variation is applied to the entire stroke, even if that stroke is visible for counters.

The simplest solution is to use separate objects for fills and strokes. In the case of your circles sample, I'd use 3 objects. One for the fill, then two objects with just strokes on top of the fill. This would allow you to independently alter the stroked objects.

I don't know of any other method for variable strokes on compound shapes.

Of course, you could always expand the object and then add a stroke to the (now expanded) strokes and adjust that. But that seems even more convoluted.

  • sad to not have this functionality, but seems like shouldn't be difficult to add by Adobe, seems like a lot of stuff needs multiple shapes to be duplicated which is hard to maintain.
    – Spider
    Feb 9, 2023 at 21:12

Can't be done as far as I know, but your could just draw another circle on top of your compound path and add the stroke effect you like.

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