Join Deke McClelland for an in-depth discussion in this video Designing a custom art brush, part of Illustrator CS6 One-on-One: Advanced.
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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.
- Installing dekeKeys, Deke's free custom keyboard shortcuts
- Understanding the color-managed workflow
- Creating a multicolor blend
- Establishing a clipping mask
- Blending different levels of opacity
- Combining a letterform with a path outline
- Warping logo type around a circle
- Adding neon blur and bokeh in Photoshop
- Mixing and matching color harmonies
- Recoloring artwork
- Working with the Calligraphic, Scatter, and Art Brushes
- Creating translucency
- Editing attributes in the Appearance panel
- Adjusting and updating dynamic effects