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In the real-world, brushes are tools that you pick up and paint with. In Photoshop and other pixel-based programs, a brush is a dollop or jumble of pixels that you paint onto a layer. As you paint, Photoshop repeats the brush to simulate a real-world brush tip. But, in Illustrator, a brush is yet another variety of vector-based path outline. In its simplest form, it is one path stretched across the length of another.
In more complex forms, a brush is many paths stretched or repeated across the length of another. This means that you can select the Paintbrush tool from the toolbox, select a brush from the Brushes panel, and paint away, but it gets even better. You can take any existing path outline drawn with any tool you like, and then apply a brush from the Brushes panel as a stroke. You can apply a brush to the outline of live editable text, or if you like, you can turn the text into a brush and stretch the text across the path outline.
Plus, brushes respond to variable width input, assigned either by painting with a pressure-sensitive tablet, or with the help of the Width tool. Brushes are as usual amazingly versatile and powerful as I will demonstrate at length in this chapter.
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