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Like this article? We recommend Brush Techniques

Brush Techniques

In this section, I'll show you some examples and techniques for working with art and pattern brushes. I've provided a set of Adobe Illustrator files for use with these examples; just download examples.zip and unzip the contents. Each of the following sections indicates which Illustrator file you'll open and use to create the custom brush for that example.

Creating a Flower Brush (Pattern Brush)

If you need to create flowers occasionally, it's helpful to create a pattern like the one in the Flower.ai file, which you can apply to all sorts of circular objects (video 2).

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Video 2: Creating a few flower pattern brushes

Creating a Zipper (Pattern Brush)

The Zipper.ai file shows you the flexibility of the pattern brush. After creating something like this example, try creating other designs, such as a pencil—an oldie but goodie (video 3).

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Video 3: Creating a zipper pattern brush

Creating a Collar and Buttons (Pattern Brush)

Almost all artwork can have brushes applied to it to help you work faster and maintain consistency. Open the Collar.ai file and then check out video 4 to see how to make a ribbed collar for a shirt, an argyle pattern, or a ruffled edge for clothing.

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Video 4: Creating several clothing pattern brushes

Creating a Tree Brush (Art Brush)

Illustrator offers many ways to work smarter, not harder; for example, you can work with symbols, graphics styles, brushes, and more. Open the Tree.ai file and then watch video 5 to see how to create a really cool tree art brush that simplifies the task of creating this type of content.

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Video 5: Creating a cool tree art brush

Saving Your Own Custom Brush Library

One last tip when working with brushes in Illustrator: If you have a document with saved brushes in the Brushes panel, you can set it up so that you can access the brushes from any file. Follow these steps:

  1. Open the Illustrator file containing your custom brushes in the Brushes panel. Then click the Brush Libraries Menu button in the lower-left corner of the Brushes panel and choose Save Brushes.
  2. Name the file and leave it in the default folder. Click Save.
  3. To access the brushes from any document, click the Brush Libraries Menu button. In the User Defined menu, choose the brush file you named. If you then apply any of the brushes, they're added automatically to the Brushes panel for the Illustrator file in which you use them.

Adding Custom Brushes to All New Documents

Want to add brushes to the default Brushes panel anytime you create a new document? Follow these steps:

  1. In Illustrator, choose File > Open. Navigate to the default CMYK Document Profile file (called Basic CMYK.ai).
    • The Windows 7 folder is located here:
    • C:\Users\(User)\AppData\Roaming\Adobe\Adobe Illustrator CS5 Settings\en_US\New
       Document Profiles\Basic CMYK.ai
    • The Mac OS X folder is located here:
    • Users/your user folder/Library/Application Support/Adobe/
      Adobe Illustrator CS5/en_US/New Document Profiles/Basic_CMYK.ai
  2. Add a brush to the Brushes panel and save the file.
  3. To test that your new brush is ready, choose File > New and make sure that Print is chosen for the New Document Profile. Then open the document and look in the Brushes panel, and you'll see your new brush.

You've learned the basics of working with brushes in Illustrator, with a few extra tips thrown in for good measure. Brushes can be used for many things in Illustrator—it's just a matter of playing with them and learning what you can do. For more information on brushes and to download some free brushes, check out the Adobe Illustrator Exchange.

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