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How to Make a Custom Illustrator Brush

Making a custom brush for Illustrator is much easier than you may have expected. 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 Illustrator brush-making goes, but I wanted to get you started in the right direction and let you take it from there. (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, because making custom Illustrator brushes honestly couldn't be easier. However, there are a couple things you need to know first.

There are 4 types of brushes you can create in Illustrator: Calligraphic, Art, Scatter, and Pattern. Today we'll go over creating an Art Brush. While we're exploring how to make an art brush, you can experiment with other brush types in the same fashion; the only differences are settings, and how the brushes act when applied.

Editor's note: If you're looking to find out more on creating custom Illustrator brushes, I've got a handy tutorial on the ‘colorization method.'

Make a Custom Illustrator Art Brush:

First, open a new Illustrator document and make any shape 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. No need to worry about shapes at this point, because once you try this a few times, you'll get an idea of how the shapes affect your brush.

How to make a custom Illustrator Brush

Select all the shapes you want to be a brush. Then, 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 hours to draw by hand. Now that you have your brush, you can start applying it whenever you want. Just 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

I'm the editor-in-chief of Bittbox.com. I'm a designer and developer by day, and a writer and musician when the feeling strikes. I enjoy vintage advertisements and puzzles with an absurd amount of pieces. Follow me on Twitter.

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