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Designing a custom art brush

From: Illustrator CS6 One-on-One: Advanced

Video: Designing a custom art brush

In this movie, I'll show how to customize an existing art brush so that you--yes you-- can create a brush that simulates a traditional medium. So here's the problem that we need to solve: if you go ahead and zoom in on the letters, for example the U, you'll see that the Green art brush in the background ends up tracing very heavily in some areas and very thinly-- so thinly that you can't even see it anymore--in others. And we've got some weird rough spots and almost bites taken out of the stroke in different places.

Designing a custom art brush

In this movie, I'll show how to customize an existing art brush so that you--yes you-- can create a brush that simulates a traditional medium. So here's the problem that we need to solve: if you go ahead and zoom in on the letters, for example the U, you'll see that the Green art brush in the background ends up tracing very heavily in some areas and very thinly-- so thinly that you can't even see it anymore--in others. And we've got some weird rough spots and almost bites taken out of the stroke in different places.

And that's because of the uneven nature of this brush and the fact that it tapers toward the end. So what you have to bear in mind when you're working with an art brush is that everything about it is getting stretched and therefore exaggerated, so little differences can really become quite magnified. So what I am going to do is take that brush, which as you may recall is Chalk - Round, and I'm going to drag it out into the artboard and I'm going to modify it. And I am going to create a total of three variations and we'll see how they fare when we convert them to their own art brushes in the next movie.

So the first thing I am going to do is turn off this base layer right here so that I have some white space to work in, and I'll create a new layer by pressing the Alt key or the Option key on the Mac and clicking on the little page icon at the bottom of the Layers panel. I am going to go ahead and name this layer chalk alts, short for alternatives, and then I'll change the color from Magenta to Violet, and I'll click OK. And we've got ourselves a new layer. Next, I'll bring up my Brushes panel and I'll locate that brush that I want to modify, which is Chalk - Round, and I'll go ahead and drag it and drop it into the document window.Then I'll go ahead and hide the Brushes panel for now.

I'll also zoom in a bit on my brush here, drag it down too, so that I can see it on screen. Now a couple of things to note about dragging and dropping brushes into the document window. First, Illustrator does go ahead and convert the brush to path outlines so you can modify it to any extent you like. But if you twirl this layer open, chalk alts, you will see that you've got a group, and a nested group inside of it, and the usual weirdness that Illustrator comes up with. So I'm going to do a double ungroup here by going to the Object menu and choosing the Ungroup command, and then I'll go back to the Object menu and choose the Ungroup command again. Of course I could have pressed Ctrl+Shift+ G or Command+Shift+G on a Mac a couple of times in order to pull that off.

Now we've got this group that is the brush itself, and then we've got this invisible rectangle behind it, which represents the path outline. So in this case our brush is going to benefit inside of the entire path. So imagine the path were converted from a uniform stroke, for example, to a path outline, this is how things would map. We want an entirely different looking brush than that. And so I am going to take this rectangle and drag it downward while pressing the Shift and Alt keys or the Shift and Option keys on the Mac in order to create a copy of it.

And then I'll copy this rectangle by pressing Ctrl+C or Command+C on a Mac, and I'll paste it by pressing Ctrl+F or Command+F on a Mac. And you're probably wondering what in the world I am doing. The idea is we need to preserve that invisible rectangle in the background and have a copy of it in the foreground that we will use to create a brush. Now I'll go ahead and fill the foreground rectangle with black by clicking on the first color swatch up here in the Control panel and selecting Black. And now let's go ahead and mess it up the simplest way possible, which is to go up to the Effect menu, choose Distort & Transform, and choose the Roughen effect.

And this time I'm going to change the Size value to 2--I want that to be 2 pt., so I'll select Absolute. And I'll turn on Smooth and I'll turn on the Preview checkbox, and you can see that makes for a kind of blobby brush; but I want it to be way less regular than that, so I am going to click inside of the Detail value and press Shift+Up Arrow several times in a row until I max that value out at 100/in, so 100 little wiggles per inch along this path outline. And that should just about do it. You typically want as much random variation as possible when you're creating a traditional media brush. All right! I'll go ahead and zoom in on this guy here.

Now that's a dynamic effect, we need it to be a static effect; but I don't want to ruin the dynamic effect in case I want to go back and look at it later, remember what my settings were, that kind of thing. So I'm going to marquee both of these paths because there is one rectangle on top of the other, and then drag them down while pressing the Shift and Alt keys once again--that's the Shift and Option keys on the Mac--in order to create a copy. And with both path outlines selected, it really doesn't matter, you want to go up to the Object menu and choose Expand Appearance. And that way you've got a static version of that path outline.

And now I can look at it in the Outline mode, which is going to be a little more helpful because I'll be able to see my transparent rectangle in the background. So I'll press Ctrl+Y or Command+Y on the Mac to switch to the Outline mode. You can also choose Outline from the View menu. All right, now I'll click off the paths, deselect them and I'll click on this guy to select it, and now I am going to manually scale this path by switching to the Scale tool, which you can get by pressing the S key. And I want to make sure that the scribbly path, which is the brush of course, is wider than the rectangle behind it.

So I'll drag very slightly out to the left as you see me doing here. And if you want to constrain the angle of your scale to exactly horizontal, you can press the Shift key as you drag and then release; just make sure that all of these guys are outside of the limitations of the rectangle. Now we need to create yet another copy. So as I was saying at the outset, I am going to create three variations on this chalk brush. And that way we just have a range of options to choose from because you really don't know how well the brush is going to work until you apply it to a path outline. All right! So I'll go ahead and grab these guys, and I just marquee them using the Black Arrow tool, and then I'll go ahead and drag them down while pressing the Shift and Alt keys once again.

And I'm going to scroll up as you see me doing here, and then I'm going to go ahead and select the top rectangle, because we're going to start by editing our first alternate chalk effect. I am going to select that background rectangle and I'm going to switch to the Scale tool once again; and this time I want to scale the path so that it's taller. So I'll drag slightly down like so while pressing the Shift key, in order to constrain my scaling to exactly vertical. And I just want to make sure the rectangle completely encloses the wiggly path vertically, but cuts into it horizontally.

Now return to the Black Arrow tool, marquee those two paths, go to the Window menu, and choose Pathfinder. And I want to go with Intersect, and that will lop off the ends of that path outline like so, so that we're cutting it hard right there at the ends. And I want to show you what that ends up looking like, because that's going to result in a corner as you'll see in the next movie, whereas this little bit of overlap--it's going to be too much overlap as you'll see. I don't want to spoil the surprise, but I do want to have a sense of where we're going here.

And now I'll marquee these two paths and drag them downward while pressing the Shift and Alt keys, the Shift and Option keys on the Mac. This will be our third alternative and I'll show you why we'll need it and what kind of modifications we'll make as I demonstrate how to convert these path outlines into actual art brushes in the next movie.

Show transcript

This video is part of

Image for Illustrator CS6 One-on-One: Advanced
Illustrator CS6 One-on-One: Advanced

118 video lessons · 14574 viewers

Deke McClelland
Author

 
Expand all | Collapse all
  1. 43m 9s
    1. Welcome to One-on-One
      2m 9s
    2. Introducing my custom keyboard shortcuts
      6m 52s
    3. Installing my dekeKeys shortcuts on Windows
      4m 46s
    4. Installing my dekeKeys shortcuts on the Mac
      4m 18s
    5. Remapping your Macintosh OS shortcuts
      3m 10s
    6. Adjusting a few key Preferences settings
      8m 13s
    7. Understanding the color-managed workflow
      6m 51s
    8. Establishing the optimal Color Settings
      6m 50s
  2. 1h 11m
    1. Illustrator's oldest dynamic functions
      1m 28s
    2. Creating a multicolor blend
      7m 12s
    3. Establishing a clipping mask
      5m 40s
    4. Reinstating the colors of a clipping path
      8m 1s
    5. Editing individual blended paths
      4m 44s
    6. Adjusting the number of steps in a blend
      7m 15s
    7. Fixing problems with the Blend tool
      4m 2s
    8. Blending different levels of opacity
      4m 45s
    9. Editing the spine of a blend
      5m 3s
    10. Adding a custom spine to any blend
      5m 5s
    11. Advanced blending and masking techniques
      6m 18s
    12. Blending between entire groups
      3m 2s
    13. Adjusting the speed of a blend
      3m 21s
    14. Rotating objects in 3D space
      5m 36s
  3. 1h 0m
    1. Illustrator's logo-making features
      1m 8s
    2. Customizing a single character of type
      5m 25s
    3. Combining a letterform with a path outline
      7m 48s
    4. Creating logo type along an open path
      5m 3s
    5. Creating logo type around a closed circle
      3m 57s
    6. Vertical alignment, orientation, and spacing
      4m 55s
    7. Warping logo type around a circle
      6m 56s
    8. Creating a classic neon type effect
      5m 39s
    9. Adding random neon brightness fluctuations
      5m 19s
    10. Creating neon "block outs" between letters
      7m 44s
    11. Adding neon blur and bokeh in Photoshop
      6m 16s
  4. 46m 19s
    1. Generating colors using harmony rules
      1m 31s
    2. Introducing the Color Guide panel
      5m 16s
    3. The 23 color harmony rules, diagrammed
      8m 16s
    4. Mixing and matching color harmonies
      5m 59s
    5. Color groups and custom harmony rules
      6m 18s
    6. Working in the Edit Colors dialog box
      7m 4s
    7. Expanding on an existing harmony rule
      6m 51s
    8. Constraining colors to a predefined library
      5m 4s
  5. 32m 44s
    1. Changing lots of colors all at once
      1m 2s
    2. Introducing the Recolor Artwork command
      4m 58s
    3. Recoloring with the help of swatch groups
      4m 35s
    4. Changing the color-assignment order
      6m 44s
    5. Reducing the number of colors in your art
      5m 7s
    6. Applying tints and shades of a single swatch
      5m 37s
    7. Recoloring artwork that contains gradients
      4m 41s
  6. 1h 15m
    1. Painting with path outlines
      1m 24s
    2. Introducing the Brushes panel
      4m 25s
    3. Applying and editing a calligraphic brush
      7m 34s
    4. Applying and scaling an art brush
      6m 12s
    5. Applying and editing a scatter brush
      5m 31s
    6. Formatting and scaling brushed text
      5m 45s
    7. Designing a custom art brush
      7m 35s
    8. Creating (or replacing) an art brush
      6m 42s
    9. Refining a brush to fit ends and corners
      4m 11s
    10. Expanding, filling, and stroking a brush
      7m 4s
    11. Type on a path vs. text as an art brush
      7m 3s
    12. Distorting text with the Width tool
      8m 49s
    13. Infusing your artwork with a tile pattern
      3m 13s
  7. 58m 24s
    1. The many forms of transparency
      1m 38s
    2. Creating translucency with the Opacity value
      4m 21s
    3. Darken, Multiply, and Color Burn
      6m 15s
    4. Lighten, Screen, and Color Dodge
      5m 8s
    5. Overlay, Soft Light, Hard Light, Difference, and Exclusion
      4m 59s
    6. Hue, Saturation, Color, and Luminosity
      5m 12s
    7. Combining the effects of multiple blend modes
      6m 42s
    8. Isolating blending and Knockout Group
      7m 37s
    9. Combining blend modes with dynamic effects
      7m 25s
    10. Exporting transparency from Illustrator
      9m 7s
  8. 1h 39m
    1. The Layers panel for dynamic attributes
      1m 4s
    2. Applying attributes in the Appearance panel
      6m 15s
    3. Creating depth using translucent strokes
      5m 37s
    4. Adding, layering, and offsetting strokes
      6m 12s
    5. Duplicating entire groups of attributes
      7m 55s
    6. Turning stacked strokes into editable paths
      5m 43s
    7. Simplifying a multi-stroke effect
      6m 31s
    8. Applying the Convert to Shape effect
      7m 47s
    9. Adding aligned patterns and shadows
      8m 16s
    10. Drawing with arrowheads and angled strokes
      8m 49s
    11. Employing overlapping gradient strokes
      8m 25s
    12. Drawing circular stroke elements
      10m 13s
    13. Outlining an entire multi-stroke effect
      8m 39s
    14. Creating seamless wood grain in Photoshop
      8m 11s
  9. 1h 12m
    1. The best features in Illustrator
      1m 38s
    2. Repeating a series of transformations
      6m 18s
    3. Adjusting and updating a dynamic effect
      6m 37s
    4. Applying a stroke to an entire layer
      6m 24s
    5. Improving the performance of drop shadows
      5m 40s
    6. Applying a single effect multiple times
      6m 10s
    7. Creating an intricate Spirograph pattern
      7m 10s
    8. Adding scalloped edges with Pucker & Bloat
      4m 40s
    9. Applying a dynamic Pathfinder to a layer
      3m 56s
    10. Creating beveled ornaments
      6m 50s
    11. Creating a sculptural type effect
      5m 59s
    12. Subtracting editable text from a path
      7m 6s
    13. Editing text inside a dynamic effect
      4m 25s
  10. 27m 40s
    1. Never remember anything again, ever
      1m 41s
    2. The pixel-based Effect Gallery
      3m 53s
    3. Copying effects from one layer to another
      4m 44s
    4. Introducing the Graphic Styles panel
      4m 11s
    5. Correcting previews in the Effect Gallery
      4m 36s
    6. Adjusting the resolution of your effects
      4m 0s
    7. Combining and saving graphic styles
      4m 35s
  11. 1h 13m
    1. Two powerful graphics programs combine forces
      1m 5s
    2. Creating a perfectly centered star shape
      6m 52s
    3. Precisely scaling concentric circles
      7m 47s
    4. Adding reflective highlights with the Flare tool
      6m 23s
    5. Two ways to rasterize vector art for Photoshop
      7m 37s
    6. Importing vector art as a Smart Object
      6m 47s
    7. Creating a lens flare effect in Photoshop
      7m 56s
    8. Photographic texture and brushed highlights
      6m 26s
    9. Modifying a vector Smart Object in Illustrator
      6m 33s
    10. Converting Illustrator paths to shape layers
      6m 27s
    11. Assign layer effects to native shape layers
      5m 55s
    12. Completing a work of photorealistic art
      3m 46s
  12. 1m 5s
    1. Until next time
      1m 5s

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