Join Von Glitschka for an in-depth discussion in this video Creating brush pen line work, part of Drawing Vector Graphics Laboratory.
- [Von] Welcome to Drawing Vector Graphics Laboratory. Authentic ink line work in Adobe Illustrator is best achieved using a Wacom tablet and a pen, since that is required to gain access to its pressure-sensitive functionality, but if you don't have a Wacom, there's still ways to pull off an authentic look and feel by using some custom brushes with a mouse-based workflow, so let me show you how that's done because not everybody has access to a Wacom tablet.
Now, before we start using brushes, we have to know how to create a brush, so I'm going to show you really quickly how to create an Art Brush and it can be done simply using the Blob Brush tool. So, here's the base art on a brush I'm creating here. It's kind of running at an angle, so I'm going to improve this by just aligning it better by rotating it. And if you ever wondered how to fix this bounding box on an object, just go to Object, Transform, Reset Bounding Box, and boom, it's back to normal.
On a brush like this, if you want to change the profile, just go to the Blob Brush tool here and if you select a shape, actually, let's zoom in on it first, you can go in using the Blob Brush tool and you can just add a new profile to the shape, like this, and you can just create whatever shape you want, kind of like this, and it fuses with that color, like this. Now, make sure, if you want it to fuse, you have this unchecked, this Merge Only with Selection.
You can change the size on how big you're drawing, I'm using five points here and you can do that. Now, if you want to remove or take away from it, just change to the Eraser tool and once again, you'd have to go in here and adjust, so if we go here to, let's do this at the same size, five, and with the shape selected, this will kind of eat away at the shape. So, it kind of does the same thing in reverse and that's how you can go in and you can eat away or add to and create your own custom, kind of organic line work brush.
Well, the artwork for a brush. Now, if we open up the Brushes palette here, we can take this artwork now that we've applied, you can see other ones I've created here and those were created using this artwork here. And I like to create these little sets that have a long one, a medium one, a small one, and a really short one to do really small detail work and that will make sense moving forward. So, if I select this path and click the long brush, it takes on the characteristic of the color, and this is exactly how long these brushes were as shown above in the original art, so that's what we want to create.
We're kind of creating a medium size brush and this is too big, so first thing we have to do is scale it down and I think about that big. So, we're creating approximately medium size brush. We'll drag it over to the Brushes palette, it'll open up, we want to select Art Brush, click OK, and then we can name it whatever. We'll call it New Brush and be really creative. Stretch to Fit Stroke Length, you want this checked on, it'll be by default, so just leave it.
Change Method to Tints so we can color it. Everything else you can leave by default and we'll click OK. Now you can see this brush over here and if we select a path we've created with the Pen tool, we can apply a brush to it or if we have this brush selected and a color selected, right now we have red, and we go to the Paintbrush tool, we can also draw out a shape with this brush, kind of like this, to get a nice, organic look.
So, our brush art here is being stretched along the path to create what you see here. So, if we go to Keyline view, it's a path but it just has this artwork applied to it, there's no pressure-sensitivity with a mouse but because our brush is imperfect, we get the illusion of that sensitivity. Now, if we select this, you can do other things by going to Uniform and you can go to Taper and it'll kind of taper the ends to be a little sharper.
So, if you draw one out like this with that Taper setting, it'll be distinctly shorter or pinched, that is, on each end. So, if we go back here and we go Uniform, back to normal, this is what it'll look like normally. So, you can play with that as well, along with Art Brushes. You can adjust a brush size on a path by adjusting the Stroke size. So, if we go to two, it makes it longer. So, if we select a longer application, go to two, this might be what you're at.
You know, maybe you want to divide the difference, so 1.5, and that's how you can control that. The color of the path will change the color of the stroke. So, that's how you can create your own, your own Art Brush, and just get creative with it. If I select this one and apply this other brush I did, you can see how you get a nice thick and thin with that, and that's all we're going to be doing moving forward now. So, that's how you can create your own and start utilizing it.
For this, I created this sketch, the dragon, because this is the theme I wanted created. This isn't detailed enough to build vector art from, so I did a refined sketch, as shown here. We'll go ahead and lock this layer, so I don't move that, and then on a layer above it, this is where I'll just do some simple vector building, and it doesn't have to be complex. So, we're going to zoom in, this is not hard, this is about as easy as it gets for vector building when it comes to working in Illustrator and that is, we're just creating a single stroke.
So, I'm going to click here and I'm just going to start creating my artwork, like this, and if you've watched my original Drawing Vector Graphics course, I'm utilizing the clockwork method to discern where to place my anchor points. I like controlling the Bezier paths in between them with a plugin called PathScribe, but if you don't want to use that, you could use this tool in Illustrator to grab a path and distort it. But notice how it moves these corresponding anchor points, that's one reason I don't like it, so I tend to use PathScribe here and that way, it doesn't really behave that way.
So, if I grab a path with PathScribe, it focuses on the segment, it doesn't change a curve on this opposite side here. And then, I can always correct any broken anchor points and here we'll go ahead and do that. Notice how this one's broken, so if I drag it up, that S shows up, that means it's smooth and it's fixed. So, it's really nice in that respect, it prevents you from kind of messing your artwork up as your building and it keeps you moving forward, going a lot faster.
That's why I use any plugin, it just makes the process faster and easier. Now, on this, this is pink, we'll change it to red. And if we open up, we'll go ahead and close this, if we open up our brushes, we can select a shape or a brush and apply it to that, and that's all we're going to be doing, is this kind of approach. So, let's go ahead and jump to our final base artwork. All of this is still this magenta color, we can change it to red. Now we're ready to have fun, this is where the fun process begins.
We can select any shape, we'll focus on the head here really quick, and we'll just start applying brushes, so I'm going to apply that one to this one, maybe on these two pieces I'll apply this one, and it all comes down to aesthetic. It all comes down to looking at it and making a decision, what's going to work well, what you think looks nice, and then going from there. Sometimes you might change your mind, so there's a lot of exploratory going on here as you start applying the brushes because you might not like what you try at first.
Think that looks better. Notice how I also broke it up, so this isn't one continuous line. I've broken it up into three pieces, just so I can control the brushing on it more effectively, so in this case, I'll apply this one to that and on this one, I don't want to use the same brush so I'll use the smaller brush. This is where the sizing comes in. And then, on this one, I'll jump back to this one here. Now, some of this looks a little large, so I'm going to adjust some of the sizing on these.
So, on these paths, maybe his back ear or whatever you call it, his little whisker, and on his eyebrow here in this one. Right now, if we go to Stroke, it's at a one point, it's not bad but this is why I use points, it's easier to go in and adjust it one increment at a time. So, I'm going to try 0.9 and I think that gives a little more breathing room. So, this is the process I'm going to use to apply these brushes to all the paths.
We'll do one more here because these are really small, so we're going to use the small one we created here and I'm going to apply it. But notice, even though we're using the small, this isn't working great, this is where, again, I'll have to go into the brushes and I'll adjust. On this one, I'll try a 0.6 and I think that looks fine. So, let's go ahead and do this eye and do that and I think, yeah, I think that, no, we're going to do the 0.9 again, I think it's a little, there, that looks good.
So, it's all about doing those kind of detailing, adjusting the stroke when needed, applying the correct brush, that you're just going to have to make a visual call as you do that. You might try one and you don't like it, and you try it again, you think it looks better, then go with that one. So, a lot of decisions as you go, so pay attention to those details. When it's all said and done, you get a really authentic looking look and feel organically.
And if we go to Keyline view, all this is, is just once again paths with that vector art applied to it to give the look and feel. Now, it's at this point of the process when I'm creating anything like this, that I like to select this art and group it, that way it won't move, one piece won't get left behind if I move it or whatever. And on artwork like this, I tend to make a copy of this artwork, I name the layer X. I even go in and change the color just 'cause I've been doing it for years.
So, any time I see a red level, I know it's my vector insurance layer and I can always go back to it and access editable artwork, so if I ever change my paths, I can change the whole look very, very easily. That's important. But if you're giving this artwork to a client, you never want to give it to them as just a bunch of paths with brushes because you're asking for problems. In this case, you'd want to select everything, go to Object, go to Expand Appearance, and then once everything's expanded into shapes, then go to PathFinder and go Unite, and so now, if we go to Keyline view, you can see all of these are simply vector shapes.
No more paths, no more brushes, and it's going to be what I would consider clean, safe artwork to give your client moving forward. Now, this style works great as dark on a light background and on this one, even adding a subtle kind of drop shadow really adds a lot of interest to this design. So, it works really well dark on light, it works really well light on dark, so it's very flexible in terms of its use and aesthetic.
A fun style to work in, you can do all kinds of genres with this style as well, it's very flexible style-wise in applying the different genres. So, maybe you're developing a logo for, maybe a nursery or a horticultural place, and you have flower motifs. You could pull off a really great mark using this approach for that as well. So, using custom brushes is a blast and I'm providing this custom brush set, I call it Drag & Draw Vector Brush Set.
You can download this file and start using them in your own artwork, and I also encourage you to create your own and see what you can come up with. So, using custom brushes like this is an easy way to achieve a nice, organic flair to your design. So, make sure to put the brushes I provided to use and once again, also make sure to try to create your own as well. That's what you're really going to find new ways to work, when you push yourself to do that. So, for more information on creating custom brushes of all types, make sure to watch my Drawing Vector Graphics: Painting with Vectors course and keep in mind that I used a mouse to create everything shown in that course, as I did this one.
You don't need a Wacom to pull off this type of look and feel, it just takes some smarts to figure out how to do it. So, thank you for watching DVG Lab and as always, never stop drawing.
Skill Level Intermediate
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