How to Make a Custom Illustrator Brush

by Jay Hilgert
on April 12, 2007

It’s really a lot easier than you would expect. This tutorial was requested by many of my readers after I posted this Free set of 35 Abstract Illustrator Brushes. The possibilities are endless as far as brush making goes in illustrator, but I wanted to get you started in the right direction and let you take it from here. (The purpose is to tease you, so you want to try it on your own!)

How to make a custom Illustrator Brush

It would actually be pretty hard to make this tutorial any more detailed. Making custom Illustrator brushes couldn’t be easier. However, there are a couple things you do need to know first. There are 4 types of brushes that you can create in Illustrator. (Calligraphic, Art, Scatter, and Pattern) I will be showing you how to make an Art Brush. I haven’t explored the other 3 in as much detail, but as soon as I have I will post about it. For now, I will show you how to make an art brush, and you can experiment with the other brush types in the same fashion, the only differences are settings, and how the brushes act when applied.

Make a Custom Illustrator Art Brush:

First, open a new Illustrator document and make any shape that your heart desires. You can literally make ANY shape into a brush, even a square if you feel like it. Here’s what I made. A couple of bars and some blocks scattered about. There is no need to worry about shapes at this point because once you try this a few times, you will get an idea of how the shapes will effect your brush.

How to make a custom Illustrator Brush

Now select all of the shapes that you want to be a brush and in your Brushes palette, click on the little arrow in the upper left, and select “New Brush.”

How to make a custom Illustrator Brush

You will get the option to choose 1 of 4 brush types. Choose “Art Brush” and click OK.

How to make a custom Illustrator Brush

Now you should be in the Brush Options. IMPORTANT: Make sure you select “Tints” as the Colorization Method. This allows you to change the color of the brush as a stroke color. If you don’t select Tints, your brush will always be the color it is when you create it. There are lots of other settings you can play with here, including the direction of the brush stroke. Choose your settings and click OK.

How to make a custom Illustrator Brush

You should now see your new Custom Brush in the Brushes palette.

How to make a custom Illustrator Brush

Now create a shape to test your brush. I used a circle, like below:

How to make a custom Illustrator Brush

Now make sure you have the stroke selected in the tools palette, and click on your Custom Brush in the Brushes palette to apply it to the circle to see what you get:

How to make a custom Illustrator Brush

Custom Brushes are an easy way to get shapes that would have otherwise taken you hours to draw by hand. Now that you have your brush, you can start applying it whenever you want, and adjust the stroke size to get the effect/shapes you want. In the image below, all I did was use the same brush I just created, duplicated it, overlapped it, and adjusted scale, colors and stroke sizes. You can make multiple brushes in order to get way more complex, and the more you try it, the better you get. Seriously, this took about a minute with one brush (made from simple rectangles!). Imagine what you can do if you spend some time experimenting?

How to make a custom Illustrator Brush

About Jay Hilgert

Formally trained at Oklahoma State, Jay Hilgert is a graphic and web designer, font designer (Link), software developer (Brush Pilotâ„¢), and the founder of BittBox.

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