I'm fairly new to graphic design and I'm trying to replicate this kind of subtle variable width, handwritten-like strokes. I'm aware of the width tool in Ai but it looks like it's a lot of work if you want to do it manually. Any suggestion on how to achieve this effect?

Moreover, is there an easy way to replicate the "texture" of the cell nucleus?


Random? variable width stroke

  • You should undelete your answer if you do ill up vote it.
    – joojaa
    Apr 30, 2017 at 12:36

3 Answers 3


So I think I figured out how to do that, using the variable width profile and making a random-ish profile using the width tool. First I drew a straight line and using the width tool I made a "random" profile, saving it afterwards.

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Then, I applied that profile to a new shape, looks as I expected.

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I don't know if someone has a better answer to my question.


  • 1
    The other option is to use brushes
    – Cai
    Apr 30, 2017 at 13:43

The width tool and width profiles are good if you're simply adjusting the width...

If you want more control over the appearance, another option is to use art brushes. Simply draw your brush (as a straight line) and drag it to the Brushes panel, selecting "Art Brush" from the "New Brush" dialog[1].

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You then simply set the path to use that brush...

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You can save brush libraries to use again and again so they're pretty useful (you can find a bunch of free ready-made brushes on the internet if you don't want to make your own too).

[1] You'll likely be OK with the default settings but you can control things like the colorization method (so you can change the brush's color just by changing the object's stroke color), scaling methods (so you can stretch/scale certain portions of the brush) or change the orientation...

Art brushes will stretch the entire brush over the length of the path. If you want in to repeat over the path then you can use a pattern brush or scatter brush instead (where a pattern brush simply repeats, and a scatter brush can create more complex and random arrangements).


Aside from variable width, you can use the Scribble Effect and its various settings to achieve a non-uniform zebra-like striped pattern. To get flush edges, you can duplicate the 'nucleus' shape and clip the original also. On top of the scribble effect you can add some other distortion effects, unfortunately though it seems not possible to apply the variable width profile to the scribble-generated strokes. Here is a visual example though of what I am referring to:

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