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- Creating complex art from basic shapes with the Shape Builder tool
- Transforming flat artwork using perspective grids and vanishing points
- Creating variable-width strokes
- Controlling dashed line length, corners, and gaps
- Creating original brushes using the Brushes panel
- Adding arrowheads to strokes
- Creating web-ready graphics, text, and slices
- Integrating with Flash Catalyst
Skill Level Intermediate
When we think about graphics created from Illustrator, often we imagine things that have clean, sharp lines. However, with Illustrator CS5, there's new Paintbrush tool that we can use, something called the Bristle Brush, that will allow us to create effects in Illustrator like never before. This Bristle Brush, as it's called, is actually implemented as a new function of the Paintbrush tool. I'll come over here to the Brushes panel, and let's pull this out so we can actually see some of the settings here. I'll close the Swatches panel here, and I'll click on the icon here at the bottom of the Brushes panel to create a new brush.
Now, we already know that Illustrator has Calligraphic, Scatter, Art and Pattern Brushes, but we want to create a new Bristle Brush. When I click OK, the new Bristle Brush Options dialog box appears to give me the options for setting these brushes. Now, before I get started with this, it's important to realize that you're going to derive the most benefit with this specific feature when using a pressure-sensitive tablet, such as one from Wacom, for example. I'll also point out that Wacom sells a variety of different pens that you can use with their tablets. There is one pen specifically, called the Art Pen or the 6D Art Pen, which works beautifully with this feature.
In fact, I have one of those pens in my hand right now. And one of the benefits of the Art Pen is that it tracks Bearing, meaning I can choke the pen, and also rotation. As we'll soon see, I'll be able to mimic the exact adjustments that I might make if I were holding a paintbrush in my hand. First, let's take a look at some of the shapes that I can choose. I'm going to go here where it says Shape, and you'll see that I have Round and Flat Brushes that I can choose from, and each of those can also be pointed, Blunt, Curve, Angle or Fan Brushes. Just so that you can more clearly see how the bristles work, I'm going to choose the Flat Fan brush here.
I can adjust the size of my brush. And then I also have a bunch of settings here that I can apply to the bristles themselves. The Length, Density and Thickness of the bristles can also control exactly how my art works when I use these brushes. I can also choose whether the paint is Translucent or Opaque and even settings, such as Stiffness, for example, can control exactly how the artwork looks like when I'm working with it. I don't want to worry about these settings right now because I'm going to show you some examples later of the types of art that you can create using these bristle brushes. So, for now, I am just going to click OK to create this brush.
Notice now on Brushes panel, I now see that I have a Fan Brush that I created with this size that has this appearance. Using the Bristle Brush is incredibly easy. First, I'll select the Paintbrush tool and next, I'll choose a stroke color that I want to work with. It's important to understand that when you're working with the Paintbrush tool, the paintbrush actually paints not using the Fill Color, but the Stroke Color. So, I'll go over here, and I'll choose maybe a blue color, maybe if I wanted to paint, for example, a sky. Now, watch what happens when I move my cursor now over the page itself. Because I'm using the 6D Art Pen, I can actually see a little bit of preview of what my bristles might look like as I move or rotate the pen in my hand.
What I'm going to do now is I'm going to tap some keys on my keyboard. I'm going to use the square bracket keys. The square bracket keys allow me to adjust the brush size similar to the way that I can adjust brush size inside of Photoshop. Likewise, I can also adjust the brush's opacity by typing in any of the numbers in the top of my keyboard 1-9. But as you can see, now I'm moving and rotating that particular brush around on my screen, and Illustrator is giving me a preview of the types of brushes, or the types of strokes, that I'll be creating when I start drawing. If you're using a mouse, by the way, I'll quickly switch over to the mouse here, you will not see that preview.
When you're using the mouse, you don't have the ability to control rotation or bearing, so anything that you draw the mouse will be drawn in a one particular angle. Again, this is one of the benefits of working with a 6D Art Pen. So, I'll quickly draw a shape here right on the page, just draw a straight-line, couple of lines here, and you can see that I'm creating some form of like maybe a sky, and these are paths, or appearances that would be very difficult to achieve, or almost impossible to achieve normally inside of Illustrator. What Illustrator is really doing here is it's overlapping many different transparent paths to get this wonderful effect.
If I go into Outline mode, you'll see that I've just created a few straight lines, but the Bristle Brush gives it a beautiful appearance. Now Illustrator actually ships with an entire library of a variety of different brushes that you can use. This is a great way to start and understand how this feature works. If I go to the Brushes panel, I'll choose here on the bottom to go to where it says Bristle Brush and open up the Bristle Brush Library. Here, I have a variety of different brushes. For example, drawing with this brush gives me a very different appearance as drawing with this brush.
And I can scroll down the list here and work with other brushes as well. Here's a nice big Fan Brush here. And here's a pointed brush that I can work with. So, we can already see that the Bristle Brushes itself really is hundreds and hundreds of brushes. It's not really just one type of brush. And as such, let me give you a few examples of how you might use different types of Bristle Brushes to get some art done. I'm going to switch to a document that I've already started working on. It's called bonsai_tree, and what I want to do is actually work from an original photograph and create some kind of artistic impression of that.
The first thing I'm going to do, just to make it easier to work with, is I'm going to switch to the Painting workspace that comes with Illustrator. This will open up the panels that I need, and you could automatically see, here in my Layers panel, that I have several things already in place. I'm really just using the photograph here as a base for my drawing, but I'm going to hide that drawing right now. And let me start by first creating a sky. So, I'm going to highlight my Sky layer right here and go ahead and center this artwork right here in the middle of my screen. And I'll start by defining a brush that I want to use to draw the sky. I'll go out to my Brushes panel, click on the Create New Brush icon.
Let's create a Bristle Brush, click OK and because I want to paint just broad strokes across my screen to create the sky, I'm going to use a Round Blunt brush. I'm going to increase the size so that it's much bigger, and I'll also increase the Bristle Length. The longer your bristles are, the more flexibility, or the more bend I'll have to them. Likewise, because I want more texture in my brush, I'm going to increase the Bristle Density. That's the number of bristles and how close the bristles are to each other inside of the brush. I'll want to have Fine bristles. The actual bristles themselves are smaller so I'll get nicer texture in my sky. And I'll also lower the Opacity just a little bit because I want the paint to actually overlap each other in very nice ways.
Finally, I'll make sure that my Stiffness is set to something a little bit more flexible because I do want there to be some kind of a bend and softness to the sky. In fact, because I know that I'm drawing a sky for this, I'm actually going to name my brush over here a Sky Brush. I'll click OK to define the brush, and I'll go ahead now, and I'll show my Sky layer, turn the little eyeball over here on. I've highlighted so I know I'm now going to be drawing on this layer. I'll select my Paintbrush tool. Let me set my Fill here to None and set my Stroke to a nice blue color here, and I'll start now moving my cursor over the page, and you can see right now my bristles.
You see how long they are? Because I've set them to be much longer. And again, I'm rotating this pen now in my hand so you can see exactly how those strokes will get laid down on the Art Board. So, I'll start by just creating these nice broad strokes across the screen itself. See how when they overlap, because of the opacity, I'm actually seeing some pink through the strokes. I find that as I use the Bristle Brush, I'm thinking about how I'd normally paint with a real paintbrush on canvas. So, I may go over certain areas and kind of lay down more paint in those areas as I'm working.
So, now I have a really nice sky for my artwork. Now, I actually want to create the leaves for this tree. Going back for a minute here to the Layers panel, I'm going to turn off the Sky layer and turn on the Original Photo layer, so I could really focus on exactly what these leaves look like. They're very unique, and I can build a brush specifically to paint this type of artwork. Let's see how I might do that. Let me turn the Sky layer back on again and turn off the Original Photograph here, and I'll go to the Brushes panel and create a new brush again, once again, a Bristle Brush. Click OK.
But now I'm going to use very different settings because I want to get really, really nice textures in the leaves that I'm going to create. I'll leave the Size where it is because I can actually change the Size later using the keyboard commands, but I'm going to want to use a brush that has actually a Flat Fan shape. Next, I'm going to specify a very Short Bristle Length. I don't really want them to bend very much. In fact, I'll also make sure that they're very Rigid as well. I want to Bristle Thickness to be Coarse, and I want there to be a Low Bristle Density so there is lots of space between the bristles as well. Finally, when it comes to Paint Opacity, I'm actually going to make the brush completely Opaque, no transparency whatsoever.
In this way, I'm really going to see the effects of the bristles itself as I paint with it. Once again, I'm going to go in to Name my Bristle Brush, I'm going to call this one Bonsai Leaves, click OK. And there is one more thing that I want to do. I want to start using really nice colors for this. So, I'm going to load some colors into Illustrator. One of the really nice things about Illustrator is that it comes with many different presets. Some of those presets are Swatches. I'm going to go to my Swatches panel. I'm going to go over here to the icon right here that says Swatch Libraries menu. And I'll click on that, scroll down to where it says Nature, and then I'll choose, for example, Landscape.
Many of the colors that I want to use can be coming right from this one right here called Desert. And one of the really nice things about the Painting workspace is that the Color Guide is visible right here. So, as I click on a color, it will go ahead and offer different variations of those colors. It's almost as if I had my regular paints and brushes right in front of me. For the Color harmony here, I'm going to choose Monochromatic 2. I'm going to focus on using some of these nice green colors. Let me close this library for now. And to make it easier to choose colors, I'm going to bring my Stroke into focus. Right now, when I'm working, you can see that my Fill is in focus.
My stroke is not in focus right now. If I choose a color, that new color is going to be applied to the Fill. The easiest way to change the focus is to actually tap the X key on your keyboard. Now that my Stroke is in focus, any time I choose a new color, that color is going to get applied to the Stroke color. Once again, I'll click on the green color that I want to work with, and I'll start with this dark green color right over here. Now, I have my Paintbrush tool selected, and I also have this brush selected right here, which I've just created, the Bonsai Leaves. And notice that when I move my cursor over the document itself, I start to see what those bristles look like.
I'm going to make that brush a little bit bigger because I really want you to see what's happening right here. And you notice that as I move this around, I can actually control exactly how my brush is going to look when I start working with it. And rather than just create long strokes, I'm going to do the same thing that I might do on a regular canvas. I'm actually going to go ahead and just tap this on the screen. And when I do so, I get these beautiful nice little strokes. Notice here as I rotate and move this around, I can actually get a very nice-looking appearance as I'm working these strokes. So, I'll just create a few more of these over here and start to fill in where I want the leaves to go on the brush.
I've actually created a quick little sketch out line to give me an idea of where I want these leaves to go. So, I'm working with this dark color now. I'm simply tapping and drawing really, really short strokes, as I'm working with the Bristle Brush here inside of Illustrator. At the same time, I'm rotating my brush so that my strokes are going in different directions. Great! I'm really happy with what's happening right now. I'm now going to switch to use a different color. I'll choose this color over here, and I'll start drawing on top of that.
Again, just tapping and moving the brush around in different locations and different areas. It's really almost as if I were working inside of a canvas right now, and I'd just be tapping the brush on the canvas. And the harder that I press, you can see the thicker or the darker those lines are. The lighter that I press, the thinner those lines are. This is all happening because Illustrator is mimicking the actual bristles of a brush. Finally, I'll take a brighter green color over here, and I'll start adding those as well. You can imagine how hard this might be if I were actually drawing this from scratch.
Finally, I'm done. I've created my leaves right here, and you can easily see how the Bristle Brush itself has so many different options inside of it, nice, clean, smooth strokes, short little tight strokes, almost anything you can imagine. It's one of those tools where, literally, the sky is the limit.