How to Make Illustrator Brushes
Making custom brushes for Illustrator is an easy way to add your own style to your work.
Here are just a few examples of RetroSupply customers who have used our Illustrator brushes to create great work.
Each of these designs were made with RetroSupply's Vector Brush Toolbox.
We spent over 100 hours making these brushes. But we sort of geeked out.
We bought old source material for authenticity, made way more than we needed (so we could pick the best one), and then tested them (AKA played with them).
The good news is you don't have to pay a dime to get these same effects.
You just need to spend a little time getting familiar with making illustrator brushes.
In this tutorial, I'll show you how you can make your own vector brushes you can use to add your own unique touches to your work.
Let's get started!
Types of Illustrator Brushes
There are four types of Illustrator brushes. Choosing the right one takes a little trial and error but here's a quick definition of the categories of Illustrator brushes.
The Calligraphic Brush was designed to emulate the look of pens and brushes. This type of brush is ideal for hand-lettering work in Illustrator.
The Scatter Brush gets existing vector art and scatters it across a path. I tend to use these types of brushes to create organic textures like sponge or grunge brushes.
The Art Brush gets a vector and stretches it across a line. This tends to work really well for pencil brushes, water color brushes, pen brushes, and more. If they're stretched or compressed too much you can get wonky results. But overall, these are my favorites.
The Pattern Brush allows you to control how every angle of a brush works including corner angles and the left and right termination point.
Step 1. Create your source material.
You can make your art brush from any vector shape. At RetroSupply we almost always use real source material.
For example, in the InkWash Brush Pack from The Vector Brush Toolbox we used ink and water to create real brushes strokes. Then we scanned them and converted them to vectors.
Step 2. Select the shape and choose "New Brush".
Select your source material. Then open the Brush Panel (Window > Brushes) and choose New Brush...
For this watercolor brush, we're choosing Art Brush. This will allow the brush to stretch a bit and maintain the look of a watercolor brush in our work.
Step 3. Choose your settings in the Brush Options panel.
It's hard to tell you how to set these up. It's different for everyone. But the settings I have here are a good place to start.
Use these settings as a starting point. Then after you've experimented with the brushes you can make tweaks by double clicking on the brush. This will open up the Brush Options panel again and let you make changes.
Step 4. Click Ok and check out your new Illustrator brush
Once you have the settings how you'd like in the Brush Options panel just click Ok.
If you look in the Brushes Panel now you should see your new brush. Here's the one we just made – it made it!
Step 5. Test your new brush.
Now for the fun part. Try out your new brush. Just create a stroke with the Pen Tool, Paint Brush Tool, or other poison of choice.
Try selecting a new color for the brush so you can make sure the Tint setting is working. Here's what our new brush for the InkWash vector brush pack looked like.
Why Adobe Illustrator Custom Brushes are Awesome
I'm sure your mind is percolating with all the different cool things you could do with custom brushes. For example, check out how we used our InkWash vector brushes to add a splash of color to this sweet drawing of an octopus.
Can you imagine how much more time consuming it would have been to color this without a custom Illustrator brush? Not to mention this brush gives us the effect of real watercolor.
I can't stress how much using custom brushes can up your game in Illustrator.
Got 37 seconds? Tell me how you use (or would like to use) Illustrator brushes in your own work in the comments.
Don't have time to make your own brushes?
Check out The Vector Brush Toolbox. It includes 200+ brushes for illustrator including ink pens, pencils, chalk, watercolors, halftones, and more.
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