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Mastering Vector Design: Drawing with Illustrator Paintbrushes

Article Description

David Karlins explores the multi-varied world of Adobe Illustrator's Paintbrush tool, showing how to customize the built-in brushes and even create unique and eye-catching new strokes of your own.

Working with Pattern Brushes

Pattern brushes are great for creating scalable, stretchable borders. They’re often applied to rectangles and used as frames. Pattern brushes can be somewhat tedious to create because they can involve as many as five different elements. You can create distinct artwork for the start, finish, side (center), inside corner, and outside corner panels. Yikes! However, you can create pretty nice pattern brush strokes with just two elements: side paths and corners (see Figure 11).

Figure 11

Figure 11 Applying a pattern brush with two elements—a corner pattern and a side pattern—to a rectangle to create a frame.

In Adobe Illustrator CS3 How-Tos: 100 Essential Techniques, I cover a wider range of possibilities for creating pattern brushes. Here, let’s take a basic example like the one just shown, that uses only two elements: a corner and a side.

To create a pattern brush, start by defining two patterns that will be used as different elements of a path. For example, create a paintbrush by preparing a side and a corner pattern. Draw them in the artboard (or use existing Illustrator symbols).

Once you’ve created both your pattern brush elements (one for the sides, and one for the corner), drag each object, one at a time, onto the Swatches panel. Then double-click the new swatch and name it.

Now that you have both the side and corner pattern elements in the Swatches panel, follow these steps to create a two-pattern pattern brush:

  1. From the Brushes panel menu, choose New Brush. Choose New Pattern Brush in the New Brush dialog box and click OK to open the Pattern Brush Options dialog box.
  2. Enter a name for the new brush. Click the Side Tile icon (on the far left) in the set of five (available) pattern swatches. From the set that appears in the dialog box, choose a swatch to use as the pattern for normal line segments (see Figure 12).
    Figure 12

    Figure 12 Defining the side pattern for a pattern brush.

  3. Click the Outer Corner Tile icon (second from the left) in the Pattern Brush Options dialog box, and select a swatch to use at the outer corners of the pattern.
  4. Normally, you should accept the default settings for Size, Flip, Fit, and (no) Colorization. Click OK to define the pattern brush.
  5. Apply your pattern brush strokes to a selected path (such as a rectangle) by clicking the paintbrush in the Brushes panel.
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