How would I manipulate only a single stroke of a rectangle while leaving the strokes unchanged?

For example, if I have a line and use effects > Distort & Transform > ZigZag, the line changes to a wave.

How would I select only the top path/stroke/line of the rectangle and apply the same effects of ZigZag to that line only?

I tried to play with it but it changes all the lines as well as the top. I also tried the scissors tool, cut the path, apply the effect and rejoin them. It works but when I rejoin them, again all the lines gets converted to zigzag.


3 Answers 3


You can't.

Effects are applied to the entire object. There is no method which allows a user to apply an effect to only one section of a path (open or closed).

You would need to delete the section of the square you want zig zagged, expand your extra path so that the effect is no longer "live' then reconnect the corner points to the new path.

  • Finding it real hard to digest all those "can't do" with Illustartor. Don't know how your designers live with it? Probally too expereinced to get stumped by them and find other ways to acheive the results. Must come with experience. Thanks.
    – Jawad
    Mar 30, 2012 at 16:47
  • Well, I started back with AI88 so I've seen the app grow and many of the newer features were never possible in older versions. Therefore standard working methods still apply. Sort of like if you owned a cell phone that doesn't have a camera. You know to take photos you need a separate device. Things like this question are simple logic once you realize that effects are applied to an entire object. If the object is a series of paths, you should anticipate that the effect will alter all parts of those paths - so you can't use a live effect if you want to alter only a portion.
    – Scott
    Mar 30, 2012 at 16:51
  • True. I guess I will get there eventually.
    – Jawad
    Mar 30, 2012 at 16:53
  • Could I use the pen tool, Add Anchor points and than chnage them to give a wave effect. I tried that and it works. The zigzag effect can be accomplished manually.
    – Jawad
    Apr 1, 2012 at 19:17
  • Yes. You can do it manually. Although it may be mor difficult to be symmetrical when doing it manually. It's an easy thing to cut the single path, apply the effect, expand the object, then join the corners again.
    – Scott
    Apr 1, 2012 at 19:20

I'm sure you've figured this out by now, as it's been two years, to those of you searching this, there is nothing that can't be done with illustrator. It's pretty easy.

  1. Make a zig zag line the width or height you want your rectangle

  2. Select it

  3. Object > Expand

  4. Then use the pen to draw the other three sides, starting on an end point of the zig zag line and connecting back at the other end.

  1. Create the box the size you want.

  2. Using the pen (+) tool add anchor points along the side you want the curve. Place each anchor point where you would like to see curves.

  3. Using the direct selection tool (A) click each anchor and drag down to the desired angle.

  4. (A) click the anchor point. You should now see a white dot hovering above or below the anchor. click and drag this point to manipulate it to the exact wave/ curve. Repeat for each curve.

  5. voila.

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