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In this article you will learn how to quickly set up brushes, how to select the appropriate colorization method, how to quickly modify only the selected stroke, the compatibility of brushes with the variable width path and much more. This should enable you to work more efficiently and avoid making common mistakes.

1. Quick brushes setup

In most cases, it is difficult to immediately set up the brush parameters to match your expectations. Therefore, I recommend that you first make a brush stroke with the default settings. Then open the Brush dialog box, turn on the preview option, and play with the numbers and options, observing the changes that occur.


2. Colorization methods

If you want to create a universal brush that will change its color depending on the stroke color, you should definitely use colorization methods. This applies to Scatter, Art and Pattern brushes. Calligraphic and Bristle brushes are colored with stroke color automatically. Some users have difficulty understanding the colorization methods, so let's look at it from a practical point of view.

Tint – Displays the brush stroke in tints of the stroke color. If the object that was used to create the brush is black, then the stroke will have a stroke color. In all other cases, these will be lighter tints of stroke color. For example, create an Art brush which consists of several rectangles with different tints of Grayscale from K100 to K0.


Select the blue color for the Stroke Tint method in the Art brush dialog box and draw the path with Paintbrush.



As you can see, the black color has turned into the color of the stroke, the white color has remained the same, and the remaining tints of gray color acquired the corresponding tints of the stroke. The tints method is useful to print. If you used the spot color for the stroke, all tints will be represented by percentages of this color.


Tints and Shades – Displays the brush stroke in tints and shades of the stroke color. Tints and Shades maintains black and white, and everything between will be a blend from black to white through the stroke color. Because black is added you may not be able to print to a single plate when using Tints and Shades with a spot color. Choose Tints and Shades for brushes that are in Grayscale.


Personally, I have never used this method in multiple years of my practice, but it may come in handy for someone else.

Hue Shift – Uses the key color in the brush artwork, as shown in the Key Color box (by default, the key color is the most prominent color in the art). Everything in the brush artwork that is the key color becomes the stroke color. If you have a brush object of a single color, it will match the key color and the brush stroke will have the stroke color. I often use this method, as it's usually more predictable in such cases.



If brush artwork has multiple colors the result will be less predictable, but it can be useful for quickly obtaining several color variations of the brush, as you can change the key color using the eyedropper in the dialog box.


3. Changing the parameters of existing brushes

Often there are situations when the brush parameters must be modified for new tasks. After saving the changes, you will see a dialog box. Leave Strokes means applying new parameters in the future for new strokes. Apply to Strokes means changing all existing strokes.


I believe however, that the more convenient way is to change the parameters of only the selected brush, leaving all other strokes unchanged. To do this, click on Options of the Selected Object button in the Brushes panel.


4. Using brushes with variable width paths.

Art and Pattern Brushes are compatible with variable width paths. You can either change the path width using the Width Tool or apply width profiles in the Stroke panel, this will result in a corresponding change in the local width of the brush.


You can draw using Art and Pattern Brushes with DynamicSketch, because it creates variable width paths. To do this, select the brush, set any width profile in the Control panel. Then set the necessary parameters in the DynamicSketch panel and draw.



Besides this, there are multiple intelligent tools available in the WidthScribe plug-in which are designed for convenient and fast work with variable width paths.

5. Brushes with gradients

Experienced users are aware that objects with gradients, unfortunately, cannot be used as brushes. To replace gradients, you usually use blend objects. But we can draw variable width paths with DynamicSketch using the gradient on stroke feature.



6. Brushes shortcuts

Shift constrains the direction of the straight segment to the 45-degree angles around the constrain angle.


Opt/Alt closes the shape.


and "[" (left bracket) reduces and "]" (right bracket) increases the size of Calligraphic and Bristle brushes before drawing, and for the existing paths.

To resize the Scatter, Art and Pattern Brushes, set a new value for the Weight in the Stroke panel or change the Size option in the Brush dialog box.

If you want to apply a different brush to the path and want to use the brush stroke settings used with the original brush, hold down Opt/Alt when clicking the new brush in the Brushes panel. We can switch between brushes that have the same properties e.g. Art brush 1 > Art brush 2 > Art brush 3 > Ö or Pattern brush 1 > Pattern brush 2 > Pattern brush 3Ö .



7. Create custom brush libraries

Add the brushes you want to the Brushes panel, and delete any brushes you don't want. Choose Save Brush Library from the Brushes panel menu, and place the new library file in one of the following folders (depending on your system) so that it will appear in the Brushes panel menu (Open Brush Library > User Defined > My Brushes) after you have saved it (failing this, restart Illustrator):
• (Windows) C:\Users\"User name"\AppData\Roaming\Adobe\Adobe Illustrator 21 Settings\"your language"\x64\Brushes
• (Mac OS) /Users/"User name"/Library/Application Support/Adobe/Adobe Illustrator 21/"your language"/Brushes

To import brushes into the Brushes panel from another file choose Open Brushes Libraries > Other Library in panel menu and select the file.



This picture shows 20 free brushes from Drag and Draw vector brush pen set created by Von Glitschka. If you own DynamicSketch v2, then you can download this set from the Downloads page of your Astute Graphics customer account.


Learn more about DynamicSketch

Learn more about WidthScribe

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