Illustrator’s Paintbrush Tool is some of the most powerful tool in the software. With the Paintbrush Tool you can dress up your vector paths into compelling flourishes, patterns, tapered edges, and more. In this tutorial, we will break down the basics of the Paintbrush Tool and show you how to create your own brushes.

The Paintbrush Tool

Basically, the Paintbrush Tool functions like the Pencil Tool, allowing you to click and drag to create a path. The difference is the Paintbrush Tool applies predefined vector art to the paths you create. This might seem like a simple distinction, but using brushes will greatly improve you Illustrator productivity and helps you create artwork you never thought possible.

Illustrator’s Four Brush Types

Illustrator has four kinds of brushes. These various brushes offer a different kind of behaviors when applied to a path.

  • Calligraphic Brush:

    The Calligraphic Brush creates a brush stroke that looks like it was scribed by a ink pen or paintbrush. With a Calligraphic Brush you can define a nib or pen point.

    Calligraphic Brush
  • Scatter Brush:

    The Scatter Brush will define vector art as a brush. The Scatter Brush will then scatter copies of the art across a path when applied to a path.

Scatter Brush
  • Art Brush:

    The Art Brush will define vector art as a brush. The Art Brush will stretch the art across a path when applied to a path.

    Art Brush
  • Pattern Brush:

    The Pattern Brush allows you to specify five defined patterns to a brush and then distribute along a path.

    Pattern Brush
Applying and Drawing with Brushes

There are two ways you can use Illustrator Brushes. You can draw them with the Paintbrush Tool or you can apply them to an existing path.

  • Brush Tool: To draw a brush stroke with the Paintbrush Tool, select the Paintbrush Tool, chose a brush from the Brush Panel and start drawing.
    Brush Tool
  • Apply to Existing Path: Select the path and then select a brush from the Brush Panel.
    Existing Path
Paintbrush Tool Preferences

Double-click on the Brush Tool in the Tools panel to bring up the Paintbrush Tool Options. Below is a breakdown of the options.

  • Fidelity: Setting a low Fidelity will add more anchor points to your path. Conversely, having a higher Fidelity will generate fewer anchor points in a path.
  • Smoothness: Setting a higher percentage than 0 will smooth out paths.
  • Fill New Brush Stroke: This option will fill the path once finished.
  • Keep Selected: This option keeps the brush stroke selected after drawn.
  • Edit Selected Paths: This option will let you edit a path on top of a created path within a certain pixel range. The pixel range can be changed from the slider bar below the Edit Selected Paths checkbox.
Paintbrush Tool Keyboard Shortcuts and Keyboard Controls
  • Keyboard Shortcut.
  • Hold Shift to constrain movements to 45°, 90°, 135°, or 180° when creating brush strokes.
  • Hold Option (Alt) to show the Smooth Tool.

Have you worked with Paintbrush Tool? What is your key trick while working with the Paintbrush Tool?

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