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Designing Presentation & Research Posters with Illustrator

Learn the six basic tools for designing and creating posters with Adobe Illustrator.

Stroke and Fill Tools

An image of the Adobe Illustrator toolbar, with orange arrows pointing towards the Stroke and Fill tools.

All elements on your document can have color, and there are two aspects that can be colorized -- the item's fill, and its stroke.

fill is a color, pattern, or gradient inside an object. You can apply fills to open and closed objects and to faces of Live Paint groups.

stroke can be the visible outline of an object, a path, or the edge of a Live Paint group. You can think of it as the outline -- the color around the edge of an item. You can control the width and color a stroke. You can also create dashed strokes using Path options, and paint stylized strokes using brushes.

The current fill and stroke colors are displayed in the Tools panel.

Fill and Stroke controls


Apply Fill Color to an Object

Apply Fill

You can apply one color, pattern, or gradient to an entire object, or you can use Live Paint groups and apply different colors to different faces within the object.

  1. Select the object.
  2. Click the Fill box in the Tools panel or the Color panel. Doing so indicates that you want to apply a fill rather than a stroke.



Apply Stroke

  1. Select a fill color by doing one of the following:
    1. Click a color in the Control panel, Color panel, Swatches panel, Gradient panel, or a swatch library.
    2. Double-click the Fill box and select a color from the Color Picker.
  2. Select the Eyedropper tool and Alt‑click (Windows) or Option-click (Mac OS) an object to apply the current attributes, including the current fill and stroke.
  3. Click the None button to remove the object’s current fill.
  4. You can quickly apply color to an unselected object by dragging a color from the Fill box, Color panel, Gradient panel, or Swatches panel onto the object.

*From the Adobe Illustrator website

Apply Stroke Color and Width to an Objenct


  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.
  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.
  4. 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. 
  5. Select a weight in the Strokes panel or Control panel.
  6. 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:
    1. Align Stroke To Center 
    2. Align Stroke To Inside 
    3. Align Stroke To Outside 

*From the Adobe Illustrator website

Creating Dotted Lines

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.
  4. Specify a dash sequence by entering the lengths of dashes and the gaps between them.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.

*From the Adobe Illustrator Website


Color Resources

Need Help Choosing Colors?

Adobe Kuler allows users to browse and create color themes

Learn how to use the Illustrator color swatches has this tool for exploring colors, color combinations, and how they work together.

Adobe Illustrator Color Picker

Video Reference