The Best Free Illustrator Brushes for Retro and Vintage Effects

The Best Free Illustrator Brushes for Retro and Vintage Effects
We’ve already covered the best free Photoshop brushes – but what about high-quality free Illustrator brushes for creating retro and vintage effects? When it comes to vector brushes, options are decidedly thinner on the ground.

That’s why we’ve pulled together this collection of the best free retro and vintage Illustrator brushes – plus one ultimate bonus option you have to pay for (but it’s worth it).

We’ll be adding to this list regularly, so if you’re a designer or illustrator who sometimes uses free resources, it’s worth keeping an eye on this page for new additions. And you might be interested in our other round-ups of free retro and vintage tools too:

We’re always interested in finding high-quality new graphic design resources, so if we’ve missed your favorite brush, let us know in the comments below. Scroll down for our selection of the best free Illustrator brushes for retro and vintage effects – starting with our bonus pick…

Bonus option: The Vector Brush Toolbox

The Vector Brush Toolbox

For the ultimate in handmade retro and vintage Illustrator brushes, this set of 200 has every brush you’ll ever need for vector-based drawing. It includes six of our most popular Illustrator brush packs:

  • VectorFuzz: 32 sponge and ink scatter brushes inspired by mid-century children's books
  • VectorHero: 40 ink pen brushes for mid-century commercial illustration. These brushes give you a clean inky brush stroke that is hard to find in other packs.
  • VectorSketch: 40 pencil and charcoal brushes to create realistic pencil strokes in Illustrator
  • VectorTone: 35 halftone pattern brushes and line textures from a 1950s army surplus catalog
  • DryGoods: 23 chalk brushes inspired by 1930s signage
  • InkWash: 30 ink and water brushes

Looking for some free alternatives when it comes to brushes for Adobe Illustrator? Keep reading!

01. RetroSupply Sample Illustrator Brushes

Free Illustrator Brushes

We’ve made a selection of our favorite, premium Illustrator brushes totally free in this sample pack. Inside, you’ll find a Dragstrip paintbrush created by leading illustrator Von Glitschka; a watercolor brush from InkWash, a charcoal pencil brush from VectorSketch, a pen and ink brush from VectorHero, a wax oil crayon brush from Wax & Oil, a halftone brush from Black Magic Halftones and more.

All you have to do to download them is click the link above, follow the instructions – and they’re all yours. (You'll get nine other bonus resources too.)

02. Free Halftone Vector Brushes

Free Illustrator brushes: Halftone Vector

UI/UX designer Rob Brink created this stripped back selection of free halftone Illustrator brushes as part of a larger pack of halftone vector brushes. They’re ideal for roughing up your illustrations in a retro style, without spending a penny.

For a more complete halftone package for Illustrator, try VectorTone (link above). It gives you a huge selection of graphic styles, swatches and actions that make it super easy to add halftones and crosshatching to your work – and it’s practically free.

03. Free Stipple Shading Brushes for Adobe Illustrator

Free Illustrator brushes: Stipple Shading

Designer Chris Spooner created a free vector brush pack of eight stipple shading brushes to help you paint grungy details onto your artwork with Illustrator’s brush tool. Stippling is a technique that uses lots of dots at different densities to give the appearance of shading – making this set perfect for creating a retro effect in your illustrations.  

04. Grunge Illustrator brush pack

Free Illustrator brushes: Grunge pack

This sample pack of eight free grunge brushes for Illustrator is part of a larger, paid-for pack by Russian vector artist Sergey Kandakov, which includes over 60 Illustrator Brushes for creating retro grunge effects.


05. 30 Free Vintage Shading Brushes

For a shader set of free Illustrator brushes, look no further than this high-res collection from Spoon Graphic's Chris Spooner. Created from pen strokes, they provide an old-school handmade look, taking any design back in time.


06. Vector Brushes: Free

Free vector brushes

These free vector brushes for Illustrator offer a quick way to add vintage effects to your designs. Created by Georgia-based artist Mattox Shuler, they’ll add a warm, handmade feel to your work.


07. Free – Lino Cut brushes for Illustrator

Free Illustrator brushes: retro Lino Cut

Lino cut has an instant retro feel. Recreate the vintage effect in your own illustrations with these free lino cut brushes for Illustrator by Mels Brushes.

08. Paper Tooth Line Brushes

Free Illustrator brushes: Paper Tooth Line

Equal & Opposite’s Paper Tooth Line Brushes give vector work a handmade feel by simulating ink creeping into the ‘tooth’ of the paper. The brushes come in four native point sizes, each with their own unique characteristics at 1, 2, 3, and 5 points. You can also increase the point size manually using the Stroke palette to create a more dramatic effect. These are exceptionally high quality brushes (which are hard to find for free).

09. Free Dry Vector Brushes

Free Illustrator brushes: Dry Vector Brushes

Another set of free Illustrator brushes that will add a retro or vintage effect to your designs is this collection of dry brushes from Boston illustrator Kirk Wallace. Excess anchor points have been cleaned up so they’re fast, and they can be used as textures.

10. Woodcut: free Illustrator brushes

Free Illustrator brushes: Woodcuts

Finally, DeviantArt member r2010 encourages you to edit, bend, change and mutilate this collection of wood cut-inspired free Illustrator brushes. “Just have fun and make stuff,” he says. We agree. Let us know how you get on...