Illustrator Stroke Not Changing – Top Reasons Why

Illustrator is great for design but when items don’t work it can be very frustrating. Don’t panic! We’ll have it fixed before you know it.

Illustrator stroke not changing:

  • Outline mode selected
  • Layer problems
  • Working with text
  • Brush not changing the stroke
  • Glitching in the app

Outline mode selected

The great thing about Illustrator is we can complete a project within the app and also that e can work in several different views.

One of these views is ‘Outline’. This does what it says – it allows you to view your artwork in a wireframe mode. This can be helpful if you need to be very particular about where items are placed without having to specifically X, or Y every item. Or if your artwork is very detailed with many layers or gradients.

When you apply color or weight to a line or any item in Outline Mode you won’t see any change. You will have to change it to Preview Mode to view the Stroke attributes.

You can easily flick back to Outline Mode if you prefer. But you can’t see any changes to the stroke in this mode.

Layers Problem

If your problem wasn’t Outline Mode, then the next go-to solution is that it could be your layers are causing a problem. Layers are fabulous. They make really intricate jobs much more manageable, But you need to have your wits about you or you can easily lose track of what’s what. It can become a little overwhelming. And your stroke not changing can be related to layer issues

  • Locked layer
  • Hidden layer
  • Obscured layer

Locked Layer

If the layer is locked you may think you are selecting your item but in actual fact, you’re selecting something else from another layer. Go to Windows – Layers

Here you can tell if the layer is locked by the symbol beside it.

Hidden Layer

Again the item you’re trying to select may be a hidden layer. The will be no ‘eye’ icon in the layer panel beside the layer name. Click on it for it to reappear. See the clip below.

Obscured Layer

Firstly you need to identify the layer the item with the stroke is on. Either hide everything else, lock everything else or move the obscured layer to the top of the document so then you can work on it.

Your item is under another layer (or several).

Once the correct layer has been selected you can change the color or weight of the stroke.

Working with Text

You can complete full design projects in Illustrator including any text items that need to be added. But stroke attributes on text work a little differently than on objects or lines.

In the stroke panel when working with an object or a line you have the choice of round or sharp corners, capped or uncapped, and whether you want the stroke to be internal, centered, or external on an object.

When you add stroke to text you only have one option on the align tab. This is the center alignment. You can’t change this option if you leave your text as a live type.

However, you can select your text and Go to – Type – Create Outlines

This converts your text to an object which you can then manipulate, You will have all the align options available in the Stroke Panel but you can no longer edit the type in this text.

It’s very important that this should be part of your final chores in your job. I suggest that you make a copy of the text box and place it on the pasteboard. At least if you don’t like the effect with ‘Create Outlines’ you can simply delete it and go again with the original.

Brush Not Changing the Stroke

Illustrator comes with a whole selection of different brushes and patterns.

Window Brushes

These all have predetermined accents and shapes. Although you can change the stroke weight on each, some will not change as you imagine.

The watercolor brushes for example are designed to have some fading. Although you have selected a particular color for the stroke, parts of it may be much lighter or darker in parts.

This is also the case for the stroke weight. The brush already has a predetermined ratio/proportion weighting. You can’t alter this without creating a new brush template.

Glitches in the App

The last thing we’ll look at that might be affecting your Stroke changes is glitches. Sporadically when there is an update to the app certain parts of the app start to misbehave. They are always ironed out and corrected, but at the moment you may be thinking, why is this not working? Or what have I done incorrectly? In reality, it’s due to an update glitch.

This is known to happen when using nonstandard colors such as Spot Colors. The stroke seems to take on a mind of its own, and will neither center nor sit internally or externally.

My advice is to check whether there has been a recent update. If there has and your job is urgent then revert to the previous version through Creative Cloud. Reinstall in a few days and you’ll find that the glitch has been repaired.

I’ve written some other articles that might help you on your Illustrator journey:

Can’t Edit Illustrator File

Why are my Colors changing in Illustrator

If you are curious about other common Design problems check out our general FAQ page

Tara Cunningham

My name is Tara. I am a Graphic Designer for the last 25+ years. Designing everything from Wedding stationery to Magazines. I have been using Adobe products since I was in college and know all the tips and tricks that make life a little easier when completing a project. Hopefully you will find the answer to your question on

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