Three Tips for Using Illustrator’s Pattern Brushes

If you haven’t delved into making custom pattern brushes in Illustrator, you’re kind of lucky, because they can get a little addictive once you start. Sharon Steuer shared a fun, robot-inspired tutorial here if you need to get up to speed on the entire creation process.

I love creating custom designs, but I find the trickiest part is properly creating—then maintaining—the individual elements that make up the pattern. I start with the elements, combine them, then refine them. Here are three of my tips for working with custom pattern brushes.

Work Big

When I create the designs that will form the basis of my pattern, I work big. I make my elements large-ish (often working on a separate artboard to avoid confusion) so that I can spot any issues in the finished stroke. Once I’ve perfected my pattern, I often go back and adjust the scale. To do that, double-click on your finished brush in the Brushes panel then adjust the Scale slider.

The elements used to make the side tiles and the corners

The elements used to make the side tiles and the corners

Reduce the scale of the elements in relation to the path

Reduce the scale of the elements in relation to the path

Add to Swatches

Any pattern element you create should first be added to the Swatches panel. To get these elements in there, either drag them directly into the Swatches panel, or choose Object > Pattern > Make. If you need to change the pattern later, double-click its icon in the Swatches panel to enter edit mode, make the changes, then click Done. You’ll then need to re-assign the swatch to the proper segment in the Pattern Brush Options dialog box.

Custom Corners

Instead of letting Illustrator auto-generate corners—which often ends in distorted patterns—craft separate corner elements. I build my corner elements right next to the elements I used to create the side tiles to help get the scale relationship right. Once the corner elements are in the Swatches panel, you can select them from the Inner/Outer Corner pull-down menu in the Pattern Brush Options dialog box. But my favorite way to add corner elements is to Option-Command/Alt-Ctrl drag the elements directly onto the proper brush segment section in the Brushes panel.

The finished pattern brush

The finished pattern brush

Posted on: March 17, 2017

Erica Gamet

Erica Gamet has been involved in the graphics industry for an unbelievable 30 years! She is a speaker, writer, and trainer, focusing on Adobe InDesign and Illustrator, Apple Keynote and iBooks Author, and other print- and production-related topics. She is a regular presence at CreativePro Week’s PePcon and InDesign Conferences, and has spoken at ebookcraft in Canada and Making Design in Norway. You can find Erica’s online tutorials at CreativeLive and through her YouTube channel. When she isn’t at her computer, she can be found exploring her new homebase of Seattle and the greater Pacific Northwest.

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