Publishers of technology books, eBooks, and videos for creative people

Home > Articles > Design > Adobe Creative Suite

Brush Strokes: Making Natural Pen and Ink Drawings

  • Print
  • + Share This

Brush Strokes: Making Natural Pen and Ink Drawings

Excerpted from The Illustrator 8 Wow! Book,
by Sharon Steuer © 1999

Editor's note

To view the pages as Sharon designed them, you can download a PDF version of this story.


Adjust the Paintbrush Tool settings; customize a Calligraphic Brush; trace or draw your composition; make final adjustments.

original photo
The digital photo saved as a TIFF and placed as an Illustrator template

It's easy to create spontaneous painterly and calligraphic marks in Illustrator--perhaps easier than in any other graphics program. Creating highly variable, responsive strokes (using a graphics tablet and a pressure-sensitive, pen-like stylus), you can now edit those strokes as paths, or experiment with applying different brushes to the strokes after the path has been made. This illustration, one of 150 figures I drew for Christina Sillari's teaching manual on Chakra Yoga, was created using one custom Calligraphy Brush and a Wacom ArtZ tablet.

Maintaining your pressure

Only brush strokes initially drawn with pressure-sensitive settings can take advantage of pressure-sensitivity. Also be aware that reapplying a brush after trying another may alter the stroke shape.

  1. If you'll be working from a source, prepare your template. Although you can draw directly into the computer, if you want to trace a sketch or a scan you'll need to prepare your template. For this series of illustrations, since the charcoal drawings were between 11" x 17" and 18" x 24", I took digital snapshots of the drawings instead of scanning. The grayscale TIFF version of this posture "Easy Pose" was then placed as a template into Illustrator (see pages 80 Ð 83 for template help). To toggle between hiding and showing the template, press -Shift-W.

Paintbrush dbox
Customizing the Paintbrush Tool Preferences

new brush
Creating a new Calligraphic Brush

  1. Setting your Paintbrush tool preferences and customizing a calligraphy brush. Choose the Paintbrush tool and select one of the Calligraphy brushes in the Brushes Palette. In order to sketch freely and with accurate detail, the default Paintbrush Tool settings must be adjusted. Double-click on the Paintbrush tool to open Paintbrush Tool Preferences. Drag the Fidelity slider all the way to the left (.5 pixels), the Smoothness all the way to the right (100%), and disable both "Keep Selected" and "Fill new brush strokes" Options.

Calligraphic Brushes
Customizing a Calligraphic Brush; the brush in the palette viewed with Tooltips and By Name

stroke variations
Strokes made with customized brush (left); applying default 3pt Oval then 1pt Oval

    To create a custom brush, select a Calligraphic Brush, click the New Brush icon and click OK to New Calligraphy Brush. Experiment with various settings, name your brush and click OK. For this series of yoga illustrations, I named the Calligraphic brush "6 pt oval" with settings of: Angle 60° , Random 180°, Roundness 60%, Pressure 40%, Diameter 6pt, Pressure 6pt. The Paintbrush is now set to use your current stroke color--if there is no stroke color, it will use the fill color! Now draw. If you don't like a mark, either choose Undo or use the Direct-selection tool to edit the path. (If you don't have a pressure-sensitive tablet, you may want to try Random as a variable in Brush Options, since Pressure won't have any effect.)

  1. Experimenting with your image. First, save any versions that you are pleased with, then try applying different brushes to specific strokes and to the entire image (to hide / show the selection edges, -H). To access more Adobe-made calligraphy brushes choose Windows: Brush Libraries: Calligraphic--though you'll likely find that custom brushes provide more nuance (at left, see two of Adobe's brushes applied to the same strokes). For more on Calligraphic and "natural" brushes see pages 70 ­71 (for other brushes, see pages 54 ­ 55 and Chapter 6 ).wow!

  • + Share This
  • 🔖 Save To Your Account

Peachpit Promotional Mailings & Special Offers

I would like to receive exclusive offers and hear about products from Peachpit and its family of brands. I can unsubscribe at any time.


Pearson Education, Inc., 221 River Street, Hoboken, New Jersey 07030, (Pearson) presents this site to provide information about Peachpit products and services that can be purchased through this site.

This privacy notice provides an overview of our commitment to privacy and describes how we collect, protect, use and share personal information collected through this site. Please note that other Pearson websites and online products and services have their own separate privacy policies.

Collection and Use of Information

To conduct business and deliver products and services, Pearson collects and uses personal information in several ways in connection with this site, including:

Questions and Inquiries

For inquiries and questions, we collect the inquiry or question, together with name, contact details (email address, phone number and mailing address) and any other additional information voluntarily submitted to us through a Contact Us form or an email. We use this information to address the inquiry and respond to the question.

Online Store

For orders and purchases placed through our online store on this site, we collect order details, name, institution name and address (if applicable), email address, phone number, shipping and billing addresses, credit/debit card information, shipping options and any instructions. We use this information to complete transactions, fulfill orders, communicate with individuals placing orders or visiting the online store, and for related purposes.


Pearson may offer opportunities to provide feedback or participate in surveys, including surveys evaluating Pearson products, services or sites. Participation is voluntary. Pearson collects information requested in the survey questions and uses the information to evaluate, support, maintain and improve products, services or sites; develop new products and services; conduct educational research; and for other purposes specified in the survey.

Contests and Drawings

Occasionally, we may sponsor a contest or drawing. Participation is optional. Pearson collects name, contact information and other information specified on the entry form for the contest or drawing to conduct the contest or drawing. Pearson may collect additional personal information from the winners of a contest or drawing in order to award the prize and for tax reporting purposes, as required by law.


If you have elected to receive email newsletters or promotional mailings and special offers but want to unsubscribe, simply email

Service Announcements

On rare occasions it is necessary to send out a strictly service related announcement. For instance, if our service is temporarily suspended for maintenance we might send users an email. Generally, users may not opt-out of these communications, though they can deactivate their account information. However, these communications are not promotional in nature.

Customer Service

We communicate with users on a regular basis to provide requested services and in regard to issues relating to their account we reply via email or phone in accordance with the users' wishes when a user submits their information through our Contact Us form.

Other Collection and Use of Information

Application and System Logs

Pearson automatically collects log data to help ensure the delivery, availability and security of this site. Log data may include technical information about how a user or visitor connected to this site, such as browser type, type of computer/device, operating system, internet service provider and IP address. We use this information for support purposes and to monitor the health of the site, identify problems, improve service, detect unauthorized access and fraudulent activity, prevent and respond to security incidents and appropriately scale computing resources.

Web Analytics

Pearson may use third party web trend analytical services, including Google Analytics, to collect visitor information, such as IP addresses, browser types, referring pages, pages visited and time spent on a particular site. While these analytical services collect and report information on an anonymous basis, they may use cookies to gather web trend information. The information gathered may enable Pearson (but not the third party web trend services) to link information with application and system log data. Pearson uses this information for system administration and to identify problems, improve service, detect unauthorized access and fraudulent activity, prevent and respond to security incidents, appropriately scale computing resources and otherwise support and deliver this site and its services.

Cookies and Related Technologies

This site uses cookies and similar technologies to personalize content, measure traffic patterns, control security, track use and access of information on this site, and provide interest-based messages and advertising. Users can manage and block the use of cookies through their browser. Disabling or blocking certain cookies may limit the functionality of this site.

Do Not Track

This site currently does not respond to Do Not Track signals.


Pearson uses appropriate physical, administrative and technical security measures to protect personal information from unauthorized access, use and disclosure.


This site is not directed to children under the age of 13.


Pearson may send or direct marketing communications to users, provided that

  • Pearson will not use personal information collected or processed as a K-12 school service provider for the purpose of directed or targeted advertising.
  • Such marketing is consistent with applicable law and Pearson's legal obligations.
  • Pearson will not knowingly direct or send marketing communications to an individual who has expressed a preference not to receive marketing.
  • Where required by applicable law, express or implied consent to marketing exists and has not been withdrawn.

Pearson may provide personal information to a third party service provider on a restricted basis to provide marketing solely on behalf of Pearson or an affiliate or customer for whom Pearson is a service provider. Marketing preferences may be changed at any time.

Correcting/Updating Personal Information

If a user's personally identifiable information changes (such as your postal address or email address), we provide a way to correct or update that user's personal data provided to us. This can be done on the Account page. If a user no longer desires our service and desires to delete his or her account, please contact us at and we will process the deletion of a user's account.


Users can always make an informed choice as to whether they should proceed with certain services offered by Adobe Press. If you choose to remove yourself from our mailing list(s) simply visit the following page and uncheck any communication you no longer want to receive:

Sale of Personal Information

Pearson does not rent or sell personal information in exchange for any payment of money.

While Pearson does not sell personal information, as defined in Nevada law, Nevada residents may email a request for no sale of their personal information to

Supplemental Privacy Statement for California Residents

California residents should read our Supplemental privacy statement for California residents in conjunction with this Privacy Notice. The Supplemental privacy statement for California residents explains Pearson's commitment to comply with California law and applies to personal information of California residents collected in connection with this site and the Services.

Sharing and Disclosure

Pearson may disclose personal information, as follows:

  • As required by law.
  • With the consent of the individual (or their parent, if the individual is a minor)
  • In response to a subpoena, court order or legal process, to the extent permitted or required by law
  • To protect the security and safety of individuals, data, assets and systems, consistent with applicable law
  • In connection the sale, joint venture or other transfer of some or all of its company or assets, subject to the provisions of this Privacy Notice
  • To investigate or address actual or suspected fraud or other illegal activities
  • To exercise its legal rights, including enforcement of the Terms of Use for this site or another contract
  • To affiliated Pearson companies and other companies and organizations who perform work for Pearson and are obligated to protect the privacy of personal information consistent with this Privacy Notice
  • To a school, organization, company or government agency, where Pearson collects or processes the personal information in a school setting or on behalf of such organization, company or government agency.


This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that we are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of each and every web site that collects Personal Information. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this web site.

Requests and Contact

Please contact us about this Privacy Notice or if you have any requests or questions relating to the privacy of your personal information.

Changes to this Privacy Notice

We may revise this Privacy Notice through an updated posting. We will identify the effective date of the revision in the posting. Often, updates are made to provide greater clarity or to comply with changes in regulatory requirements. If the updates involve material changes to the collection, protection, use or disclosure of Personal Information, Pearson will provide notice of the change through a conspicuous notice on this site or other appropriate way. Continued use of the site after the effective date of a posted revision evidences acceptance. Please contact us if you have questions or concerns about the Privacy Notice or any objection to any revisions.

Last Update: November 17, 2020