What are Brushes?
Adobe Illustrator comes packaged with a variety of stroke presets, which affect how the strokes look. These presets are known as "brushes", because they work just like paintbrushes, creating distinct lines and patterns with their digital bristles. Of course, you can use a default brush to draw basic lines and shapes, but if you're looking to spruce things up, you'll probably want to install a few new brush libraries for variety's sake. Essentially, brush libraries are a collection of brushes packaged together as a .AI file.
How to Add Brushes to Illustrator
1. First, download the brush library and locate it on your hard drive. In most cases, it will have the .AI file extension and the word "library" in the title. Then, launch Illustrator, and choose "Window" > "Brushes" to make the Brushes panel visible.
2. To install your new brush library, choose "Window" > "Brush Libraries" > "Other Library…", find the library file on your hard drive, and click "Open". This will launch a new panel that looks similar to the main Brushes panel, but only lists the new brushes.
3. As it stands, the new panel will only stay open during the current Illustrator session. However, if you click the dropdown arrow in the top right corner of the panel and choose "Persistent", the new library will be visible whenever you launch Illustrator.
4. Likewise, you can also copy and paste the library file into Illustrator's "Brushes" folder on your hard drive ("Adobe Illustrator" > "Presets" > "Brushes"). Then, you can access the library in Illustrator at any time, just by choosing "Window" > "Brush Libraries".
5. To use your new library, click on a brush in either panel, select the Paintbrush tool, and start drawing! You can also start working with the Pen, Pencil, or other drawing tools, and then apply a brush retroactively. Once you've drawn a path, just select it with the Selection or Direct Selection tool, and then choose a brush from the list. As if by magic, your path will automatically change to the new brush style.
Types of Brushes
Here are five of the most useful brushes that you can add to Illustrator:
- Art Brush: Use these to transform a basic line into a bespoke marvel, with brushes that look sketched and handmade.
- Calligraphic Brush: Simulate the variable width found in real calligraphy, creating an elegant and natural shape.
- Bristle Brush: Extend the brush stroke to simulate physical bristles, which can be adjusted until you find the ideal density and thickness.
- Pattern Brush: Create complex, repeating patterns that follow your vector path seamlessly.
- Scatter Brush: Use the vector path as a starting point for scattered designs that inject a bit of randomness into your illustration.