Learning Paths

Illustrator Warp Tools: Part 1 The Warp Tool

The Warp or Liquify Tools in Adobe Illustrator are one of the less-mentioned features available in the software that can actually produce some pretty cool effects.  The warp tools useful for creating unique shape forms quickly and easily.  In this post series, we’ll be exploring each of these Tools:

  • Width Tool: allows you to create a stroke with a variable width.
  • Warp Tool: molds objects with the movement of the cursor, like you’re molding clay.
  • Twirl Tool: creates swirling distortions within an object.
  • Pucker Tool: deflates an object by moving control points towards the cursor.
  • Bloat Tool: inflates an object by moving control points away from the cursor.
  • Scallop Tool: adds random curved details to the outline of an object.
  • Crystallize Tool: adds random spiked details to the outline of an object.
  • Wrinkle Tool: adds wrinkle-like details to the outline of an object.

Here’s where you can access the Warp Tools in the side toolbar.  Hold down the mouse cursor over the Warp Tools button until all the tool options appear:

warp tool


Clicking the side button next to all the tool options will open out a tiny, but handy pop-out menu with all the Warp Tools:

warp tool


You’ll find that if you double click each of these options (except for the Width Tool) you will get a Warp Tool Options window pop up, that you adjust and customise the tool:

warp tool

Of course the options vary slightly for each tool button you double click on.

Tip: Although you can increase the brush’s Width, Height and Angle in the Warp Tool Options window, a quicker way is to use the mouse and shortcut keys:

  • Shift + Option/Alt while you click and drag the mouse cursor around the screen will cause a uniform size change in the Warp Tool’s brush size.
  • Option/Alt while you click and drag the mouse cursor around the screen will control the Width, Height and Angle all at the same time.


The Warp Tool: How do I use Warp tool in Illustrator?

We’ll start off by looking at the Warp Tool, which uses the mouse cursor to mold shapes like putty.  In this example I will be molding a simple circle into the shape of a pear:

warp tool

This circle was created using a Ellipse Tool and was filled in with a gradient.  After selecting the Warp Tool (or pressing Shift + R) adjust the brush to a circle a bit smaller then the one above.  Click just above the center of the circle and drag up until the shape of the circle looks like this:

warp tool

With some SFXs such as Film Grain (Effect > Artistic > Film Grain) and a little stem molded into shape with the Warp Tool, you can finish off the image to look like this:

warp tool

The Warp Tool itself takes a some playing around with until you figure out how to use it well.  This is not something I can show in a tutorial, but something that comes through practice.  Initially, just work with basic shapes until you get the hang of the tool.  Here’s an example of the effect of the Warp Tool on a basic rectangle shape:

warp tool

In the next post, I will be looking at the Width Tool and examples of what you can do with it.

If you’re interested in learning more about Adobe Illustrator, then we offer a range of high quality courses at different proficiency levels, in numerous cities across the UK.