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Drawing with the Calligraphic Brush tool

From: Illustrator Insider Training: Drawing without the Pen Tool

Video: Drawing with the Calligraphic Brush tool

Up until this point we have been using our tablet, but remember that the tablet is a pressure-sensitive tablet. Meaning if we press harder we can actually vary the width of the strokes that we were putting down. Now, we have already discussed in the previous chapter that Illustrator has a feature called a Width tool. And I can actually vary the width of a stroke along its path. But that's something that I apply to a stroke and I do it after I have already created the path. However, if I am in a paradigm right now where I am actually trying to sketch or draw something on the screen, I may want to be able to translate those thick and thins using the amounts of pressure that I applied to the pen as a draw.

Drawing with the Calligraphic Brush tool

Up until this point we have been using our tablet, but remember that the tablet is a pressure-sensitive tablet. Meaning if we press harder we can actually vary the width of the strokes that we were putting down. Now, we have already discussed in the previous chapter that Illustrator has a feature called a Width tool. And I can actually vary the width of a stroke along its path. But that's something that I apply to a stroke and I do it after I have already created the path. However, if I am in a paradigm right now where I am actually trying to sketch or draw something on the screen, I may want to be able to translate those thick and thins using the amounts of pressure that I applied to the pen as a draw.

Now, I can't do that with the Pencil tool. However, there is a tool inside of Illustrator called the Paintbrush tool, which allows me to use a brush inside of Illustrator called a Calligraphic Brush. This particular brush, the Calligraphic Brush, can have pressure settings applied to it. Let's see how we can do that to actually add pressure as we draw inside of Illustrator. I am going to start by first defining a new brush in this document. So I am going to come over here to my Brushes panel and if you don't see it here inside of your existing user interface, just go up to the Window menu and you'll always find all the panels listed here. Here are Brushes right here.

So I am going choose right now to create a new brush. I don't have any artwork selected. I am just going to click on this button of here to create a new brush, and I want to create a new Calligraphic Brush. I will click OK and that brings up the Calligraphic Brush Options dialog. So right now, I can give this brush a name. Let me call this one pressure brush, for lack of a better name right now for this. If you have several of these brushes and you might want to have different names, so you can easily differentiate between them. But I am going to come down over here towards says Diameter and I am going to set my Diameter to 3 points.

I am going to hit the Tab key to accept that value and you can see that right now the setting here for the Diameter is Fixed. That means that as I draw a path, the Diameter of my brush or the tip of my brush is always going to be 3 points. However, I could change it from Fixed to be based on Pressure. And I could set it to have a Variation, meaning that based on the amount of pressure vary it by certain amount. So if I now choose let's say 2 points for Variation, again hit Tab to accept that value, take a look over here in this preview area.

This is the shape of my brush, so it's circular. It's round right now. By the way you can adjust it by making this value different, and that would make it let say a flatter brush. A real calligraphy brush, for example, has a flat nib so you can actually adjust the Roundness of the tip of the pen itself and of course you can also adjust the Angle. The Angle makes no sense when I'm keeping my Roundness set to 100%, but if you look to the right of that I have some preview settings here. This is what my brush tip is going to look like. At a Diameter setting that I've chosen over here which is 3 points.

However, because I have specified a Variation of 2, it can get a small as 1 point in Diameter. And it can get as large as 5 points in Diameter. So now that I have those settings here I am going to click OK. That brush right now is selected so I will go to my Tools panel and choose the Paintbrush tool. Now, just to show you when I click and I drag very, very lightly I get a thin line, but if I start adding more pressure you can see that my line gets thicker. So I started out with a thin line and then I started adding some thickness by just pressing harder with my pen. When you press Command+A and Delete to just get rid of that, or Control+A, and let's zoom in on this say again, this hind leg right over here, to try to draw this path.

Now I am going to start by drawing very lightly on the top, but then kind of adding weight as they get towards the bottom. The only problem with laying down paths in this way when using the Paintbrush tool is that I have no real way to modify this thickness once I've actually laid down the path. I can still use the Option key or the Alt key on my keyboard to access my Smooth tool. So I can go and I can smooth the actual path itself. However, once my pressure has been calculated and added to the actual document itself, I have no easy way to modify that.

So I am going to hit the Command key right now to select this and then hit Delete because I want to draw a new path now and maybe I'll try again, kind of lighter and then to kind of dark here so it starts out light and then gets heavier. So you see how you can start to vary the width of things as you are drawing. This is great for sketching, but maybe not that great when you are trying to get very precise paths laid down. Because it may be hard to control the pen as you are working with it. Notice by the way that if you double- click on the Paintbrush tool, you get the same options that you had with the Pencil tool.

And for some reason, Illustrator's default setting is not to keep your path selected. But you still can edit selected paths. So just want to show you if I go ahead now and I Command+click or Control+click to select the path, I can just kind of draw over it to modify the path as well. And in doing so I can also modify the pressure. If I press harder now for example, I can start to get a different look as I kind of add this to my path. And again, now that the path is selected I can hold down the Option key and I can start to smooth out that path as well.

So the Calligraphic Brush is a great way for me to lay down paths that already have thick and thins in different pressure-sensitive settings applied to them. But like I said, it's a little bit more difficult to control than going in for example using Width Profiles. To be honest, if you're using a version like Illustrator CS4 and you don't have access to width profiles that were added in CS5, then this is a great way to add thickness to your artwork. However, in many ways, the width profiles are far more powerful than laying down paths this way using the Calligraphic Brush.

Still, for loose sketches or just getting ideas inside of Illustrator, this is a great tool to do so.

Show transcript

This video is part of

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  1. 7m 4s
    1. Welcome
      1m 21s
    2. The evolution of vector drawing
      3m 46s
    3. Getting the most out of this training
      1m 30s
    4. Using the exercise files
      27s
  2. 39m 2s
    1. Plotting points vs. drawing paths
      5m 36s
    2. Drawing artwork vs. building artwork
      7m 59s
    3. The keyboard shortcuts you HAVE to know
      8m 52s
    4. Groups and layers really do matter
      3m 11s
    5. Taming Smart Guides and the Bounding Box
      10m 53s
    6. Do you need a drawing tablet?
      2m 31s
  3. 47m 51s
    1. To sketch or not to sketch?
      2m 32s
    2. Setting up a template layer for your sketch
      3m 37s
    3. Optimizing default settings for drawing
      5m 27s
    4. Using the primitive shapes tools
      5m 7s
    5. Mastering the modifier keys
      2m 8s
    6. Mastering the transform tools
      6m 37s
    7. Creating curves with the Reshape tool
      6m 44s
    8. Using the Smooth tool
      3m 35s
    9. Using Simplify to create smooth paths
      3m 2s
    10. Recording an action for the Simplify command
      5m 2s
    11. Mirroring art for speed and accuracy
      4m 0s
  4. 50m 18s
    1. Deconstructing the Pathfinder panel
      1m 56s
    2. Using the Shape Modes functions
      12m 4s
    3. Using the Pathfinder functions
      13m 4s
    4. Understanding how compound shapes work
      11m 45s
    5. Understanding why compound shapes exist
      7m 32s
    6. Exploring additional Pathfinder options
      3m 57s
  5. 52m 51s
    1. Why Live Paint was created
      10m 45s
    2. Creating a Live Paint group
      4m 21s
    3. Using the Live Paint Bucket tool
      7m 8s
    4. Using Live Paint with open paths
      5m 6s
    5. Detecting gaps in Live Paint groups
      3m 42s
    6. Adding paths to a Live Paint group
      5m 34s
    7. Using the Live Paint Selection tool
      6m 28s
    8. Releasing and expanding Live Paint groups
      2m 59s
    9. Understanding how Live Paint works
      6m 48s
  6. 27m 37s
    1. Why the Shape Builder tool was created
      4m 18s
    2. Focusing on the big three: Add, Subtract, and Divide
      2m 27s
    3. Using the Shape Builder tool to add and subtract artwork
      9m 50s
    4. Using the Shape Builder to divide artwork
      3m 48s
    5. Building and coloring artwork at the same time
      3m 50s
    6. Using Gap Detection with the Shape Builder tool
      3m 24s
  7. 23m 2s
    1. Understanding how variable widths work
      8m 25s
    2. Modifying width points along a path
      7m 9s
    3. Saving time with width profiles
      5m 14s
    4. Turning variable width strokes into filled paths
      2m 14s
  8. 28m 21s
    1. Understanding how the Pen and Pencil tools differ
      4m 41s
    2. Adjusting the behavior of the Pencil tool
      7m 5s
    3. Using the Path Eraser tool
      1m 17s
    4. Drawing with the Calligraphic Brush tool
      5m 43s
    5. Drawing with the Blob Brush tool
      5m 53s
    6. Using the Eraser tool
      3m 42s
  9. 3m 44s
    1. Looking at the VectorScribe plug-in
      2m 16s
    2. Next steps
      1m 28s

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