How to Make a Dotted Line in Illustrator

By default, the standard dashed line in Adobe Illustrator is rectangular, which may not offer the flexibility or style that you’re looking for on a project. Luckily, there are plenty of settings in Illustrator’s Stroke Palette that allow you to adjust line shapes and sizes. 

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Creating a Square Dotted Line

  1. Select a Line: First, open the Stroke Palette by clicking on Window and then Stroke, via the menu bar. A small box will appear with a variety of options. Next, draw the dotted line that you’d like to make square. If you’ve already drawn the line, just click on it for further editing.
  2. Adjust Dash and Gap Values: Your rectangular line will have a larger dash value, which represents the length of each dash. Conversely, the gap value refers to the blank space in between dashes. For a square dotted line, set the dash and gap values to 2pt. If you’d like more space in between dashes, increase the gap value. Before saving your changes, make sure that the dash value and weight are the same.

Creating a Circle Dotted Line

  1. Select a Line: Open the Stroke Palette using the same menu options. Then, click on the line that you’d like to make dotted.  
  2. Adjust Values: Here’s the trick for creating perfectly circular dots. First, you’ll need to click on the Round Cap icon next to the weight setting. Next, change the dash value to 0pt. If your stroke weight is 5pt, enter a gap value that is two times as large (i.e. 10pt). Play around with different weights and gaps until you find an ideal size.
  3. Perform Further Tweaks: To change the dotted line’s coloration, select Object and then Flatten Transparency from the menu bar; this will expand your lines. From there, you’ll have the ability to fill dots with any color or pattern that you desire.

Creating a Custom Dotted Line

  1. Make a Shape: Using the Ellipse Tool — or any drawing tool, for that matter — first create the shape that you’d like to see as a dotted line. Perhaps it’s an oval, a rhombus, or a parallelogram. Be as creative and eccentric as you like. 
  2. Transfer it to the Brushes Palette: First, open the Brushes Palette by clicking Window and then Brushes via the menu bar (or, by pushing F5). Drag your new shape into the window. Illustrator will prompt you with a text box, asking what type of brush you’d like to create. Select “Scatter Brush”, and click OK.  
  3. Adjust Brush Settings: Once you select Scatter Brush, another box will appear. Here, you can name your new brush, change the size and spacing, and even randomize the line pattern. After trying out a few settings, select OK to save them with the brush. If you’re not happy with a certain parameter, it’s easy to bring up this window later.  
  4. Assign the New Brush: Finally, design a path with the Line Segment tool. Make sure the line is selected, double-check that Stroke is enabled in the Tool Palette, and then choose your new brush in the Brushes Palette. Magically, your custom dotted line will appear along the selected path.
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