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How to make a vector pattern brush

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Hey everybody! I hope the last few weeks have gone well for you – whatever that may mean. I hope that you found at least a little time to soak up all the great resources and knowledge being shared around the design blogosphere. Finally I hope you enjoy this little tutorial and share it with your design friends.

We’re going to make a pattern brush.

how to make a pattern brush step 1

We’re going to start in Illustrator (I’m using CS3).

I chose to make a wavy line brush because it’s relatively easy and it teaches the basics of pattern brush construction without a lot of messy details. It also gave me a chance to share another technique involving blend modes and distort filters.

So to start off, hit the backslash key or click the line segment tool from your Illustrator Toolbox. Draw a line about 650px wide. Now hit “v” to switch to your selection tool and select the line segment. While holding the ALT key (Option key on a Mac), drag the line segment down about 80px. You’ll see that holding the ALT key while dragging makes a copy of the selected object. Now, I hope you didn’t click anything else, because we’re going to hit CTRL+D to duplicate the last action again. Now you should have three lines nicely spaced on top of each other.

Like this:

adobe illustrator step 1

how to make a pattern brush step2

Now we’re going to make a blend between these three lines. First we need to modify the default blend options.

Go to Object>Blend>Blend Options.

how to make a pattern brush blend options

Change the default setting from “smooth color” to “specified steps”, and then change the number of steps to about 8.

With all three lines selected, hit ALT+CTRL+B, or

go to Object>Blend>Make.

You should now have 8 lines between each of your original 3 lines.

how to make a pattern brush step 2a

how to make a pattern brush in illustrator step 3

Looking good so far. Let’s give our lines some personality with a distort filter. For this brush I used the Roughen filter. With your lines selected, go to

Effect>Distort & Transform>Roughen.

how to make a pattern brush 3a

The Roughen filter has quite a few options. I changed the defaults from “corner” to “smooth”, and decrease the size and detail to 6 and .93, respectively. The screenshot below shows the effect I got from those settings. Just put in whatever settings look good to you – it won’t prevent you from following the rest of this guide.

how to make a pattern brush in illustrator step 3b

how to make a pattern  brush in illustrator step 4

We’ve got a little change of pace coming. We’re going to have to move out of Illustrator for a little bit to get this pattern brush… well… patterning.

Open Photoshop and make a new document 2500×2500 pixels.

how to make a pattern brush in illustrator 4a

Copy your wavy lines from Illustrator and paste as a smart object into your Photoshop Document. After you paste, hold the shift key and scale the smart object so that it just touches the edge of your document.

how to make a vector pattern brush 4b

Photoshop’s Offset filter shifts the pixels of your image by a certain amount. This is really handy for making edges seamless.

Go to Filter>Other>Offset

(They really hide this super useful filter, huh).

Since your document is 2500 pixels wide, set the shift to something about 1/2 of that, or close to 1250 pixels. Make sure the “wrap around” option is checked.

how to make a vector pattern brush 4c

You’ll see the seam right away. It should be just about dead center. This is what we need to fix.

how to make a vector pattern brush 4d

how to make a vector pattern brush 5

Fixing this seam is really the only subjective part of this whole guide. It really helps if you have a Wacom set up. Hit “B” to activate the brush tool. Set it to 100% hardness. Now just use the bracket keys to find increase or decrease the size of the brush until it’s equal to the thickness of your lines. For me, this was about 4px. Now erase and draw in the lines so that they connect nicely. Here’s how mine looked about 1/2 through the fix-up:

how to make a vector pattern brush 5a

Keep at it. Try to imitate the movement of the rest of the lines. This will depend on what Roughen settings you chose back in Illustrator.

Finally, okay I’m done.

how to make a vector pattern brush 5b

Save your document as a PSD somewhere handy, and we’ll get back to Illustrator in the next step.

how to make a vector pattern brush step 6

We’re almost there. Let’s get that PSD into our Illustrator document.

Go to File>Place

and browse to the PSD you saved. In order for this to be vector again we need to autotrace it (this is why we worked at a nice high resolution while in Photoshop). With the PSD selected, go up to the little down triangle beside the Live Trace button and choose “Detailed Illustration” from the list of autotrace presets (this one almost always works the best for me).

how to make a vector pattern brush 6a

Sweet! You probably want to make this thing a lot smaller before you make a brush out of it. So with the selection tool, hold shift and drag inward from a corner to scale it down.

Drag the whole object over to your Brushes panel. A new brushes dialog will pop up. Choose “pattern brush”.

how to make a vector pattern brush 6b

Now you’ll be faced with a few options. The only one I really changed on this screen was the Colorization method. I changed it from the default to “Hue Shift”. This setting means that the brush will take on the stroke color.

how to make a vector pattern brush 6d

Now you’re free to draw away with your new brush! The best way to test it is to hit L to draw a circle shape and use the brush as the stroke. If you don’t see any seams – it worked!

how to make a vector pattern brush 6c

This method applies to all kinds of pattern brushes. If you want to make a chain pattern brush, just draw one. Then export to Photoshop, use the offset filter and fix the seam. Then back to Illustrator for autotracing and brush-making.

Something cool that was not covered in this guide is that pattern brushes have special parts for the beginning, end, and corners of strokes. This is really cool and adds a lot more flexibility. Keep your eye on the Go MediaZine and maybe a future post will cover these parts of a pattern brush.

Happy designing!

About the Author, Adam Wagner

I'm a marketer, designer, armchair singer/songwriter, wannabe theoretical physicist/philosopher and recent college grad trying to pack as much living as possible into each day. Working at Go Media makes this pretty easy. Catch me on Twitter!!
Discover More by Adam Wagner

Discussion

We want to hear what you have to say. Do you agree? Do you have a better way to approach the topic? Let the community know by joining the discussion.

  • t.gee.

    It was kind of hard to figure out what program you are tutorializing here.
    An Illustrator version, not sure which one,
    then bringing it in as smart object to photoshop…
    Any ideas on the version numbers that support your tut?

  • t.gee.

    It was kind of hard to figure out what program you are tutorializing here.
    An Illustrator version, not sure which one,
    then bringing it in as smart object to photoshop…
    Any ideas on the version numbers that support your tut?

  • http://www.gomedia.us Adam Wagner

    @t.gee. I’m using CS3 versions of both Illustrator & Photoshop. I hope that helps!

  • http://www.gomedia.us Adam Wagner

    @t.gee. I’m using CS3 versions of both Illustrator & Photoshop. I hope that helps!

  • http://www.classicwfl.com WFL

    I’m curious – why bring it into Photoshop? Wouldn’t it be easier, in this case, to connect the lines in Illustrator instead?

  • http://www.classicwfl.com WFL

    I’m curious – why bring it into Photoshop? Wouldn’t it be easier, in this case, to connect the lines in Illustrator instead?

  • http://www.battlemedialab.com Joe

    Cool tut.

  • http://www.battlemedialab.com Joe

    Cool tut.

  • brian

    nerrrrr, as you can see in step 1 he’s using CS3 (the top of the toolbar)

  • brian

    nerrrrr, as you can see in step 1 he’s using CS3 (the top of the toolbar)

  • http://www.gomedia.us Adam Wagner

    @ WFL: I use Photoshop mostly for the Offset Filter. Once in Photoshop, it was just out of habit to use the flexibility of the eraser and brush tools instead of going back to Illustrator right away.

    Plus, if you’re making more complicated pattern brushes, you’ll want to stay in Photoshop to add little details with pressure sensitive brushes.

  • http://www.gomedia.us Adam Wagner

    @ WFL: I use Photoshop mostly for the Offset Filter. Once in Photoshop, it was just out of habit to use the flexibility of the eraser and brush tools instead of going back to Illustrator right away.

    Plus, if you’re making more complicated pattern brushes, you’ll want to stay in Photoshop to add little details with pressure sensitive brushes.

  • http://colorburned.com Grant Friedman

    Great tutorial Adam! Glad to see you guys aren’t slacking off while the boss is on his honeymoon!

  • http://colorburned.com Grant Friedman

    Great tutorial Adam! Glad to see you guys aren’t slacking off while the boss is on his honeymoon!

  • http://www.williambiwer.com Bill Biwer

    Great tutorial, very useful.

    Thanks, keep it up.

  • http://www.williambiwer.com Bill Biwer

    Great tutorial, very useful.

    Thanks, keep it up.

  • http://www.geoffmay.com Geoff May

    Sweet tutorial. I never use the pattern brush. This has inspired me.

  • http://www.geoffmay.com Geoff May

    Sweet tutorial. I never use the pattern brush. This has inspired me.

  • http://spicoli.ca Lex

    I agree with WFL, Adam! This is a great tutorial, but I found that it was much easier to stay in Illustrator to connect the lines. I just did an expand on the appearance, duplicated the paths and connected them that way. Since your anchor points are already equally distributed, it’s easy to just snap off the ends of each curve.

    Thanks for the tutorial! This makes an awesome brush!

  • http://spicoli.ca Lex

    I agree with WFL, Adam! This is a great tutorial, but I found that it was much easier to stay in Illustrator to connect the lines. I just did an expand on the appearance, duplicated the paths and connected them that way. Since your anchor points are already equally distributed, it’s easy to just snap off the ends of each curve.

    Thanks for the tutorial! This makes an awesome brush!

  • pat

    glad to see you guys use offset for your work too I wrote a tut a few weeks ago on using offset for background patterns but this a pretty cool use for it to

  • http://www.gomedia.us Dave

    Great tutorial Adam.

  • http://www.gomedia.us Dave

    Great tutorial Adam.

  • muscarto

    many thanks for this nice tut.

    mega cool
    :)

  • muscarto

    many thanks for this nice tut.

    mega cool
    :)

  • http://www.scottnash.net Scott

    Whaddya do when there IS a seam? When I zoom on the seam, there’s a gap. Did I miss something? – I thought I followed closely.

  • http://www.scottnash.net Scott

    Whaddya do when there IS a seam? When I zoom on the seam, there’s a gap. Did I miss something? – I thought I followed closely.

  • http://www.classicwfl.com WFL

    I’m trying to envision a case where offset would make more sense, but it isn’t happening. Still, I rarely need to make pattern brushes, so I don’t have much experience in the area to really criticize. Of course, my biggest beef would be that no matter how high the DPI, you are still technically losing detail through the live trace (even though nobody would realistically notice). I tend to obsess needlessly over stuff like that :)

    Not going to knock your way, though. Whatever gets the job done – I’ve learned that lesson working in the newspaper industry. There are (almost always) multiple approaches to a singular problem, and when you’ve got time as a factor, you might as well go with the solution you are most familiar with and can get through the quickest.

  • http://www.classicwfl.com WFL

    I’m trying to envision a case where offset would make more sense, but it isn’t happening. Still, I rarely need to make pattern brushes, so I don’t have much experience in the area to really criticize. Of course, my biggest beef would be that no matter how high the DPI, you are still technically losing detail through the live trace (even though nobody would realistically notice). I tend to obsess needlessly over stuff like that :)

    Not going to knock your way, though. Whatever gets the job done – I’ve learned that lesson working in the newspaper industry. There are (almost always) multiple approaches to a singular problem, and when you’ve got time as a factor, you might as well go with the solution you are most familiar with and can get through the quickest.

  • http://wizkidmedia.com WizKid

    Very nice tutorial. I’ve always wondered how you got patterns on strokes in Illustrator (still learning Illustrator) and this tutorial taught so much. Thank you.

  • http://wizkidmedia.com WizKid

    Very nice tutorial. I’ve always wondered how you got patterns on strokes in Illustrator (still learning Illustrator) and this tutorial taught so much. Thank you.

  • Ruben

    awesomely simple, great tut guys!

  • Ruben

    awesomely simple, great tut guys!

  • pat

    glad to see you guys use offset for your work too I wrote a tut a few weeks ago on using offset for background patterns but this a pretty cool use for it to

  • http://www.gomedia.us Adam Wagner

    @ WFL: I think I use the Offset filter because I feel lazy. If I just dupe the shape and connect the seam, the brush won’t pattern.

    What do you do? I guess you would have to measure the exact length of the original lines, then make a rectangle shape of that length, center it over your seam, and do an intersect operation (or clipping mask). Does this sound lengthy? Do you have a shortcut? Let me know, I’m interested in your method.

  • http://www.gomedia.us Adam Wagner

    @ WFL: I think I use the Offset filter because I feel lazy. If I just dupe the shape and connect the seam, the brush won’t pattern.

    What do you do? I guess you would have to measure the exact length of the original lines, then make a rectangle shape of that length, center it over your seam, and do an intersect operation (or clipping mask). Does this sound lengthy? Do you have a shortcut? Let me know, I’m interested in your method.

  • http://www.gomedia.us Adam Wagner

    @ Scott: Review step 5. If you mean there is just a tiny, tiny seam – this is probably just an anomaly in the way Illustrator renders (it’s not really there).

    If it is a medium seam, you might need to bump up your Photoshop resolution (if you went that route) so the autotracing is more accurate. Hope this helps.

  • http://www.gomedia.us Adam Wagner

    @ Scott: Review step 5. If you mean there is just a tiny, tiny seam – this is probably just an anomaly in the way Illustrator renders (it’s not really there).

    If it is a medium seam, you might need to bump up your Photoshop resolution (if you went that route) so the autotracing is more accurate. Hope this helps.

  • http://www.classicwfl.com WFL

    @Adam I’d just duplicate the desired object to be patterned/looped, shift it over to the left or right and leave enough space for the desired “bridge” to be drawn, and then draw my bridge in illustrator (usually creating a guide to show me where the cutoff is). This works great for detailed patterns, because it means you aren’t losing anything you’ve already created. Of course, this works best with something where you have a very specific idea of what you are doing. This is also a great way to build a pattern brush in sections – for instance, a heart monitor pattern that has a few rumbles and then a spike (which would be your bridge).

  • http://www.classicwfl.com WFL

    @Adam I’d just duplicate the desired object to be patterned/looped, shift it over to the left or right and leave enough space for the desired “bridge” to be drawn, and then draw my bridge in illustrator (usually creating a guide to show me where the cutoff is). This works great for detailed patterns, because it means you aren’t losing anything you’ve already created. Of course, this works best with something where you have a very specific idea of what you are doing. This is also a great way to build a pattern brush in sections – for instance, a heart monitor pattern that has a few rumbles and then a spike (which would be your bridge).

  • http://www.scottnash.net Scott

    Advice was right on – bumped up the res. in PS, s’all good now. The issue was how Illustrator was rendering the placed file – it was rounding off the end(s) of the line therefore creating a seam. Thank you.

  • http://www.scottnash.net Scott

    Advice was right on – bumped up the res. in PS, s’all good now. The issue was how Illustrator was rendering the placed file – it was rounding off the end(s) of the line therefore creating a seam. Thank you.

  • http://www.spaghettibomb.com Spaghetti Bomb!

    Nice tutorial, thanks, I’ve done one of my best pattern brushes using your tutorial, I will post it on flickr soon :)

  • http://www.spaghettibomb.com Spaghetti Bomb!

    Nice tutorial, thanks, I’ve done one of my best pattern brushes using your tutorial, I will post it on flickr soon :)

  • Simon H.

    Thanks Adam, I was looking for that kind of tutorial.

  • Bruno Fernandes

    Nice tutorial Adam, but I have to agree with WFT, the method he used to adjust the pattern works way better for me, because you retain the editability of the pattern itself. For example if you need to increase the stroke size it’s way easier and you do it all inside Illustrator :)

  • Bruno Fernandes

    Nice tutorial Adam, but I have to agree with WFT, the method he used to adjust the pattern works way better for me, because you retain the editability of the pattern itself. For example if you need to increase the stroke size it’s way easier and you do it all inside Illustrator :)

  • Simon H.

    Thanks Adam, I was looking for that kind of tutorial.

  • http://www.instantshift.com DKumar M.

    That is the beauty of adobe products. you can do what you want… there is no limit for testing your skills.

  • http://www.instantshift.com DKumar M.

    That is the beauty of adobe products. you can do what you want… there is no limit for testing your skills.

  • http://svensworld.de sven

    Illustrator is still a world in itself for me, and I did not enter yet, but I’m working on it. Guides like this make it far easier, even though I feel that illustrator and photoshop are so different that it’s still pretty hard to learn without a mentor.

  • http://svensworld.de sven

    Illustrator is still a world in itself for me, and I did not enter yet, but I’m working on it. Guides like this make it far easier, even though I feel that illustrator and photoshop are so different that it’s still pretty hard to learn without a mentor.

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  • monk

    awesome tutorial!
    I had never needed to do something like this but in trying to learn I discovered a couple improvements. I hope I can contribute.

    Step1. create a line, then drag + alt + shift to duplicate.

    Step2. adjust blend option for 8 specified steps.
    with the two lines selected ctrl + alt + B.

    Step3. object / expand / object only

    step4. the roughen filter

    step5. with the reflect tool make a copy

    step6. drag together to the brushes panel and choose pattern brush

    no photoshop needed, keeping all as vectors paths.

  • monk

    awesome tutorial!
    I had never needed to do something like this but in trying to learn I discovered a couple improvements. I hope I can contribute.

    Step1. create a line, then drag + alt + shift to duplicate.

    Step2. adjust blend option for 8 specified steps.
    with the two lines selected ctrl + alt + B.

    Step3. object / expand / object only

    step4. the roughen filter

    step5. with the reflect tool make a copy

    step6. drag together to the brushes panel and choose pattern brush

    no photoshop needed, keeping all as vectors paths.

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  • Pingback: How to make a vector pattern brush How to make a vector pattern brush DesignerFied.com

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  • tim_h

    dunno if this is relevent any more, but all i did was take it into photoshop, duplicate it once, hit ctrl+t to go into transform, selected flip horizontally, then shift+dragged it to the right til the lines seamlessly connected up, then selected both the original layer, and the duplicated one, and repeated, but dragged it to the left. seamless, and appears to work fine once taken back into illy.

  • tim_h

    dunno if this is relevent any more, but all i did was take it into photoshop, duplicate it once, hit ctrl+t to go into transform, selected flip horizontally, then shift+dragged it to the right til the lines seamlessly connected up, then selected both the original layer, and the duplicated one, and repeated, but dragged it to the left. seamless, and appears to work fine once taken back into illy.

  • http://www.nycitycab.com Great

    Great work

  • http://www.nycitycab.com Great

    Great work

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  • http://www.badmilk.com.cn runbing

    cool!~

  • http://www.badmilk.com.cn runbing

    cool!~

  • Jebadee

    I also stayed in illustrator… keeping it all vector saves space and allows infinite scalability. Brushes are a great way to show you know what you are doing!

  • Jebadee

    I also stayed in illustrator… keeping it all vector saves space and allows infinite scalability. Brushes are a great way to show you know what you are doing!

  • noa

    can you or anyone, put a tutorial to make a chain in illustrator?? :( but no a simple chain with circles… i refer a chain like this, that i suppose that all are interested

    http://img.inkfrog.com/pix/stella/15000_SilverChain_CubanLink_15mm_4_001.jpg

    and an illustration http://souloff.deviantart.com/art/we-rock-baby-81142364
    thank u so much!! ^^ and love all your tutorials!! from your page and this

  • noa

    can you or anyone, put a tutorial to make a chain in illustrator?? :( but no a simple chain with circles… i refer a chain like this, that i suppose that all are interested

    http://img.inkfrog.com/pix/stella/15000_SilverChain_CubanLink_15mm_4_001.jpg

    and an illustration http://souloff.deviantart.com/art/we-rock-baby-81142364
    thank u so much!! ^^ and love all your tutorials!! from your page and this

  • william liu

    you can offset and fix the edge in AI directly.
    1. double click the select tool button,set the horizon positon and click “copy”
    2. select the copyed element,Ctrl+2 lock it
    3. modify the ORIGINAL element to make edge seamless.
    4. delete the copyed one
    5. select the modified element and define it as an new pattern brush.

  • william liu

    you can offset and fix the edge in AI directly.
    1. double click the select tool button,set the horizon positon and click “copy”
    2. select the copyed element,Ctrl+2 lock it
    3. modify the ORIGINAL element to make edge seamless.
    4. delete the copyed one
    5. select the modified element and define it as an new pattern brush.

  • http://www.roomfurniturechina.com bedroom furniture

    it isn't happening. Still, I rarely need to make pattern brushes, so I don't have much experience in the area to really criticize. Of course, my biggest beef would be that no matter how high the DPI, you are still technically losing detail through the live trace

  • http://vectorlady.com/ Vector Lady

    It's more then useful thanks a lot!

  • http://wwww.rmadeat.com/ rmadeat
  • Matt

    Thanks for this nice work!
    dizi izle

  • http://www.photoshopclippingpath.us Photoshop Clipping Path

    Thanks for inspiring. Keep it going

  • gucci pelham shoulder bag

    Thanks Adam, I was looking for that kind of tutorial.

  • http://www.domain2host.in Domain Registration

    Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.