How to Make a Custom Illustrator Brush Stroke from Shapes

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Making a custom brush for Illustrator is much easier than you might 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 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 yourself!)

How to make a custom Illustrator Brush

It would be pretty hard to make this tutorial any more detailed because making custom Illustrator brushes honestly couldn't be easier. However, there are a few things you need to know first.

Make a Custom Illustrator Art Brush

There's no doubt that brushes are a time-saver for a professional and really convenient for the newbie. If you can learn and practice the craft of creating custom Adobe Illustrator brushes, then you're ahead of most of your competitors. This is the tutorial around which other tutorials are based.

There are four types of brushes you can create in Illustrator:

  1. Calligraphic
  2. Art
  3. Scatter
  4. 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.

In the world of Illustrator and Photoshop, there are endless possibilities to perform a certain task, and you must be aware of all the available tools and settings that can help you achieve desired results.

Designing tools from scratch may be a lengthy and troublesome process for all designers, especially beginners. But, if you're looking to go completely self-made and creative, then you must go through these tutorials. It's just like programming but in a manual way. There are thousands of custom Illustrator brushes available to download that have been designed with great precision.

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

How to Make a Shape Into a Brush in Illustrator

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.

Shapes that will be used to make a brush

Illustrator brushes are different from watercolor brushes, and these can be used to construct different tiny geometrical shapes, drawings, or other artwork from scratch. Illustrator brushes can be used to illustrate almost anything in different artworks, such as to illustrate a text or drawing in poster designs.

Select all the shapes you want to be a brush. Then, in your Brushes panel, click on the little arrow in the upper left, and select “New Brush.”

Creating the new bush with the shapes selected

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

Choosing new art brush

It's also very important to decide the direction of a brush in which it's projecting to achieve the custom stroke you want.  You can create several custom brushes so that each brush helps you in your work. Professional designers use several brushes to create a perfect masterpiece for their clients. You can flip the brush horizontally or vertically to flip the stroke that it produces.

Now you should be in the Brush Options.

Art brush options

IMPORTANT: Make sure you select “Tints” as the Colorization Method. This allows you to change the brush's color, just like changing a stroke's color. If you don't select Tints, your brush will always be the color it is when you create it.

There are many other settings you can play with here, including the direction of the brush stroke. Choose your settings and click OK.

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

Brushes palette

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


You can also make a semicircle, triangle, or whatever shape you want to experiment with.

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.

Applying the brush to the circle

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 apply 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 the scale, colors, and stroke sizes.

Example image created with the brush

How to Make a Brush in Illustrator: Final Thoughts

You can make multiple brushes to get way more complex, and the more you try, 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.