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Creating Custom Art Brushes

As I mentioned earlier in this article, art brushes stretch to the length of any path to which they’re applied. One technique I’ve invoked many times is to take a sketch of an athlete and turn it into an art brush. When I apply that art brush to paths, the athlete bends, flips, twists, and contorts to adhere to the path.

You can use any Illustrator symbol as an art brush. Just follow these steps:

  1. Open a symbol library (Window > Symbol Libraries) and choose a library. The Symbol library opens as a panel.
  2. Drag the desired symbol onto the artboard, and then from the Illustrator artboard into the Brushes panel. When you release your mouse button, the New Brush dialog box opens.
  3. Choose the New Art Brush option and click OK to open the Art Brush Options dialog box.
  4. Adjust the default options in the dialog box as needed and click OK. Then you can apply the symbol to any path.

Similarly, you can create an art brush out of your own artwork:

  1. Draw an illustration, and drag the artwork onto the Brushes panel. The New Brush dialog box appears.
  2. Choose the New Art Brush option and click OK. The Art Brush Options dialog box opens with the paintbrush design selected in the preview window of the dialog
  3. Enter a name for your new brush in the Name box. In the Direction area, select the up arrow to make the pattern appear in an intuitive, right-side-up manner as you draw a path up with a drawing tool (see Figure 8).
    Figure 8

    Figure 8 Defining a custom art brush.

  4. To define how large the symbol will display relative to the stroke path, you can enter a Width value in the Size section of the dialog box—but the default setting of 100% normally will work fine. If you do resize, select the Proportional check box to keep the height-to-width ratio unchanged as you rescale the artwork.
  5. After you finish defining the art brush options, click OK.
  6. Once you have your art brush defined, select any path and click the new art brush in the Brushes panel to apply it to the selected path.
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