How to Make Adobe Illustrator Brushes

by Dustin Lee September 09, 2019 3 Comments

How to Make Adobe Illustrator Brushes

Learning how to make your own Adobe Illustrator brushes is something every designer and illustrator should know how to do. 


The benefits are massive. If you don't know how to make your own brushes you're at a disadvantage. Here's why understanding how to make Adobe Illustrator brushes is so important.

  • Making your own brushes can save you tons of time. 
  • Custom brushes give your vector art a signature style. 
  • Understanding how to make brushes will help you use existing brushes more effectively. 

Here are just a few examples of RetroSupply customers who have used our Illustrator brushes to create clever brush work.

Illustrator brush vector art

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 five 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. 

Calligraphic 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. 

Scatter Brushes

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. 

Art 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. 

Pattern Brushes

The Pattern Brush allows you to control how every angle of a brush works including corner angles and the left and right termination point.

Bristle Brushes

These are brushes that simulate the look of real brushes. When you use these brushes you'll see differentiation in how the bristles of the brush display and how it performs with different pressures and angles.

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. 

Ink Watercolor Vector Brush for Adobe Illustrator

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. 

Convert Illustrator Texture to Brush

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. 

Brush Options Panel Adobe Illustrator

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!

Creating a new brush in Adobe Illustrator

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.

Ink and watercolor brush for Illustrator

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.

Watercolor brushes for Adobe Illustrator

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 our massive selection of professional grade brushes for Adobe Illustrator. It includes 200+ brushes for illustrator including ink pens, pencils, chalk, watercolors, halftones, and more.

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Dustin Lee
Dustin Lee


3 Responses


July 17, 2020

Hi Dustin,

I found your tutorial as I was searching for how to vectorize hand drawn strokes into art brushes in Illustrator. The step I don’t know how to do is how to vectorize scanned hand drawn strokes.I scan them and then what? I am pretty sure I can do this with Photoshop and perhaps Illustrator. I am a subscriber of Creative Cloud, so I can use either. Would you be able to give some insights on how to do this first step?
Many thanks!

Máté Parászka
Máté Parászka

May 04, 2020

I really enjoy both your products and tutorials.
I learned really a lot from you, probably more than before (I finished arts university, but classical painting, not digital arts).
What I don’t understand, but really, really appreciate, is that whit this information you share, you can very easy destroy your own business. I mean, I was very new to the digital arts when I discovered your site.
Now, I create my own texture already, since I followed basically your instructions how to make them, by buying one of your product. So today if I buy textures from you, I do it only because I am curious what textures other people make, since it’s a different hand, different place, different texture. So now I already know how to make my own brushes whit strokes of my own shaking hands. Good, lucky you I already bought like every single line I wanted to make before knowing it that basically it’s super easy to make. And in the future of course I will buy your new products because it’s not my shaking hand, but yours, so it’s a different stroke, what means new experiment. I really appreciate this, many guys sell their stuff without explaining it to others, and you basically share the info, like all the info on your own site. This means you really do it for the arts, not only the profit, what is to be honest, is something I really respect. Nice job! now I go to make my own brushes, but of course I will come back to your site to buy yours also. Thanks for everything!

George Harmon
George Harmon

February 09, 2018

Great tutorial. I can’t wait to give this a try! I have made simple brush elements like stitching for patches and embroidery mock ups. But this is seriously dope! Hitting this up this weekend.

Thanks Again!


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