How to Use the Scribble Effect in Illustrator
If you’ve ever downloaded photos or vectors of stationery objects like highlighters, paintbrushes, crayons, markers or any other kind of writing instrument, then one useful way to incorporate them into your designs is to create a scribble background.
Applying the Scribble Effect
Start by drawing a box with the Rectangle tool and give it a nice purple color from the Swatches panel (since we’re using a purple highlighter, you can download one from my gallery). With the box selected, click on the menu, Effect > Stylize > Scribble. A Scribble Options dialog box will pop-up and present eight different settings. We will manipulate these settings to achieve just the right look for a highlighted scribble.
First, we’ll rotate the Angle dial to 20 degrees so the scribble strokes look like they’ve been drawn at the same angle as the highlighter.
Then set the Path Overlap value to 7pts so the scribble lines slightly extend outside of the box we drew. We don’t want them to extend outwards all the same distance so vary them by moving the variation slider next to this to about 2pts.
The next three settings are all grouped under Line Options, because they all change the appearance of the scribble line. The first is the Stroke Width, which adjusts the thickness of the scribble line. Since we’re going to expand everything in a moment and apply a brush, we won’t worry too much about this because we’ll adjust the thickness of the brush instead, should we need to. The second setting is the Curviness, which I’ll keep at 0% so we have a scribble with a nice angular corner-to-corner motion and not a wavy, all-over-the-place one. We’ll give it a 10% Variation though, just so everything does not look too identical. The last setting is Spacing, which we’ll move to 16pts with a Variation of 6pts so there’s some gaps between the scribbles lines. Now click OK to exit out of the Scribble Options dialog box.
Expand and Apply a Brush
Our scribble does not yet look like it has been done with a flat tipped highlighter, but rather a round-tipped marker. To fix this, expand the scribble by clicking on Object > Expand Appearance to turn it into a regular path. Now we can apply the appropriate brush. Bring up the Brushes panel by clicking Window > Brushes. Find the calligraphic brush called 5pt Flat and click on it once. This will apply the brush to the scribble path and the result is something much more realistic. Obviously, if you were doing this for a paintbrush instead of a highlighter, you would want to experiment with the many watercolor or other artistic brushes that can be found through the Brush Libraries Menu at the bottom left corner of the Brushes panel.
Now that you know this technique, don’t just limit yourself to boxes, but try applying the Scribble effect to other different shapes. For example:
The possibilities are endless, so get practicing and have fun scribbling!