Another Path to Deke’s Heart: Illustrator Fills and Strokes

For those of you who would love to have a nice new heart shape ready for your Valentine’s Day projects, here are some lavishly step-by-step instructions for making the heart from yesterday’s Deke’s Techniques without those annoying lovebirds poking their perfectly round heads into my tutorial.

Because frankly, Valentine’s Day can be annoying enough without those smug, bald, fashion-challenged, yet otherwise expressionless creatures interfering. (Those two hand-holding automatons might be the universal symbol for Everything I Find to Be Wrong with Valentine’s Day.) No, here are the results of my delightfully people-free expression of symmetry:

Once again, there are no drawing skills required, so for those of you who feel about the pen tool the way I feel about Valentine’s Day—i.e. something best avoided (which come to think of it is how I feel about the pen tool as well)—this is for you. Read on to see how it’s done:

It all starts with this simple circle, formed by adding a Fill attribute to a 266-point straight line. (I know, I’m still astounded you can “fill” a line by making a circle on top of it.) Select the line and choose Effect > Convert to Shape > Ellipse, then set the Width and Height to 22 points in the Shape Options dialog box. Click OK.

I also chose Transform from the Appearance panel, and set the Vertical Move to -122 points to place the circle above the original line. I have no idea why you use a negative value to move the fill up, but then I’m still getting over getting a circle by using a fill on a straight line. When you click OK, you have this free-floating circle.

Next, drag that Fill entry down to the page icon at the bottom of the Appearance panel to make a copy of it. Twirl open the new fill and click Transform. Set its Horizontal Move value to 22 points (the original diameter of the first circle, if you recall). The result is kissing pair of side-by-side balloons (et tu, balloons?). Click OK.

To make the bottom of the heart, set the existing Stroke effect (the one that basically comes with your object by default) to red and its weight to 4 points. Then click the word Stroke to turn it into a giant arrowhead. On the right (end) Arrowhead setting, choose Arrow 1, and set the right-hand Scale value to 1000 percent. This ensures the arrowhead will take the entire line segment, meaning there is no arrow shaft, which is good because we only wanted the triangular bit.

Yes, I call this next phase “flying boobs,” but I’ve tastefully covered it up here with bits of the interface. Shrink the triangle down to size by clicking on Transform and setting its Horizontal Scale to 18.5 percent and Vertical Scale to 13 percent, then move it into place by setting the Horizontal Move to 11 points and the Vertical Move to -47 points. Click OK.

Next, copy one of the red Fill entries by dragging it to the page icon, and change its color to white. Then click the word Ellipse and change the shape to Rectangle in the Shape Options dialog box. Set the Width to 85 points and click OK.

Move the new white rectangle into place by clicking Transform and setting the Horizontal Move to 11 points and the Vertical Move to -125 points. Tip: make sure the Preview checkbox is turned on and then tweak the values around until it covers up the unwanted “wings” of the arrowhead.

(Other Tip: I actually temporarily changed the fill to blue so I could see where the thing started and finished and wrap my mind around what exactly I was doing. You’re probably better at visualization than I.) Click OK when you get it where you want it.

There’s still a white keyhole space in the middle (it’s probably where my romantic sensibilities used to live), so duplicate the white rectangular fill and change it to red. Then reduce its size by clicking Transform and changing the Horizontal Scale to 34 percent and the Vertical Scale to 60 percent. To place it so that it covers up the hole in my heart, set the Horizontal move to 11 points and the Vertical Move to -117 points. Click OK.

At this point, you basically have a fully composed heart. Changing it to path outlines will allow me to use it as one intact shape as well as get rid of those two small hitches where the angled part meets the round part on either side. Start by choosing Object > Expand Appearance. All these cool path outlines are suddenly revealed. I’m getting a Wonder Woman vibe. I bet Universal Woman symbol would look pretty hot in this outfit.

Then choose Object > Path > Outline Stroke to convert those newly expanded paths to filled strokes. Open the Pathfinder panel and click the middle icon on the bottom row to Merge like colors. Then press Command+Shift+G on a Mac (Ctrl+Shift+G on a PC) to ungroup the whole shebang.

Grab the black arrow tool and click somewhere in the white rectangle area. Then press Delete (Backspace) to get rid of it. Now you have a single path around your heart shape.

I zoomed in and straightened out those two problem areas on each side by deleting a superflous anchor point and repositioning the remaining point’s control handle to my liking.

At last, I’ve got a smooth heart shape that I can use in my various Valentines Day projects:

Although given my feelings about the faux holiday (that just leads well-meaning people to madness), maybe applying Deke’s Ice Type effect is a good place to start:

Cue the Hank Williams. More on that later (the effect, not the song). And don’t worry my dear dekeOphiles, I still love you every day of the year.

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