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Pattern Brushes

Building Characters with Pattern Brushes


Overview: Create the parts that will make up a pattern brush separately; place the parts in the Swatches panel and give them distinctive names; use the Pattern Brush Options dialog to create the brushes; vary the width of the pattern brush line using the Stroke menu and the Width tool.

To create these stylized science-fiction robots, Raymond Larrett saved extensive tedious rendering by building the robot limbs using a custom pattern brush. Working this way allows him to quickly and easily make alterations to his art by adjusting the weight of the brush stroke, modifying or replacing the various brush elements, or even replacing the entire brush itself.

  1. Creating the robot arm parts. Larrett’s robot arm required four distinct elements: a “shoulder” piece where the arm joins the body, an “elbow” connecting the upper and lower arm, the “hand” (in this case a claw), and an “arm link” segment that replicates as it connects and forms the majority of the robot arm. He created these pieces individually and then turned each into a separate pattern swatch. These swatches become the “tiles,” that together make up the robot arm pattern brush.

    To create the shoulder piece, he first modified a shape made with the Ellipse tool. Using the Pen tool, he drew a lighter, unfilled path with a Round Cap for the highlight to complete the shoulder. He then dragged the shoulder art into the Swatches panel, naming it “shoulder” so he would recognize it as he built the pattern brush. In the same way he created the arm link, hand, and elbow swatches for the pattern brush tiles. He made sure that the various pieces were facing in the correct direction relative to the pattern tiles, which run at right angles to the path, before individually dragging each one into the Swatches panel (alternatively, you can select art and click the New Swatch icon or choose Object> Pattern> Make).


    Creating the various robot arm elements, oriented in the outward-facing position that pattern brushes use for their tiles

  2. Making and using the pattern brush. To build the pattern brush for the robot arm, Larrett opened the Brushes panel, clicked New Brush in Pattern Brush Options, and then clicked OK. He clicked in the Side Tile box and selected the desired pattern swatch for the arm (CS6 and CC tile order and swatch selection methods differ slightly). Next he placed the other tiles in the appropriate position: the shoulder as the Start Tile, the hand as the End Tile, and the elbow as the Inner Corner Tile. He named the new pattern brush Robot Arm and clicked OK.

    To use his new pattern brush, Larrett selected the brush in the Brushes panel and then drew a path for the robot arm using the Pen tool (P). He clicked where the Start Tile (the shoulder) should go, clicked again to place a corner anchor point (necessary for the elbow tile, the Inner Side Tile, to load), and finally clicked to place the hand element (the End Tile) at the end of the path. He also sometimes drew with the Paintbrush tool or applied the brush to a drawn path.


    Selecting the Pattern Brush option from the New Brush dialog

  3. Creating variations in the pattern brush. Larrett then modified the art by varying the pattern brush line weight and stroke profiles. To adjust the width of a selected robot arm, he changed the line weight in the Control panel or Stroke panel by clicking in the numeric field and using the up arrow and down arrow keys to increase or decrease stroke weight as desired (adding the Shift key alters the weight by increments of 10). To manually adjust only selected portions of the robot limb, Larrett used the Width tool (Shift-W). Placing the tool over a point on a path, he moved the diamond-shaped handles to widen or narrow a portion of the path. Lastly, he combined some old and newly-made swatches to create additional brushes for other robots’ limbs.


    Using the Stroke panel to widen or narrow the pattern brush line weight


    Using the Width tool to introduce variations in the width of your pattern brush line


    Recombining and building new swatches to create new pattern brushes

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