How to create a calligraphic brush in Illustrator tutorial

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Calligraphic brushes tutorial

Options for Illustrator Calligraphic Brushes

The scatter / artistic strokes can use different sources for the stroke. The Illustrator calligraphic brush preset cannot (sadly) but there are still many different uses for the presets. You can use the preset with the paintbrush tool as well as paths and type and also the pencil tool and blob. I really love to use the stroke for my comics (I especially love to work in vectors for comics instead of the more traditional pencil artwork). You can change the angle, color, roundness, size / diameter of the calligraphic brush as well as adding in variation based on pressure if using an art pad. There are definitely not as many 'options' with them as the scatter etc but they are definitely worth checking out. You can create wonderful artworks with any selected strokes whether they are open or closed paths as well as spirals or stars or perhaps a mix of 100s of lines and much more.

 

calligraphic brushes in Illustrator

 

How to create some randomness with the Calligraphic Brushes

The options for the tool can be displayed when you create the item and you can also display the options again when you double click the tool in the presets panel. They are all displayed at the top of the panel (there appears to be no way to re-position them). I would love AI to introduce perhaps a grouping structure or perhaps a different color scheme for each of the types of tools such as scatter and artistic etc. Anyway,when you double click the presets then you will see the options for the angle / roundness / size but beside them you will see a number of dropdowns that include a variety of settings such as fixed (default) as well as randomness and also pressure / stylus wheel etc but unless you have an artpad then the remaining items are of less use. You can set the tool to random and set a randomness setting for all of the items but sadly the randomness only works on a stroke by stroke basis so using it with one line will result in one set of size / roundness and then next will have a different size / roundness etc but it is for the entire line. You cannot also add any randomness to the stroke via the width profiles which have no effect on them. You can modify the size but again that is per stroke. The variation in the randomness can be small or large, if you select the randomn option then you can change the variation from 0 to 180 degrees for the angle and 0 to 5pt for the roundness and 0 to 50pt for the size.

 

Libraries

A couple of libraries come with Illustrator CC CS6 CS5 CS4 for starters. You can find them artistic section of the libraries but sadly they offer nothing more than a selection of presets based on different roundness / diameter etc but you can quickly use these with any selected stroke and change a round artwork into a slanted or straight line artwork in seconds. You can also quickly create your own variations by changing the current ones or by going to the new brush command in the panel and then defining them there with different roundness etc settings

 

How to use Illustrator Calligraphic brushes with an artpad

They come into their own if you are using them with an artpad and the pressure setting. Using them with a mouse is fine but with an artpad you can create all kinds of stunning line work with the paintbrush tool.

 

How to use them as Illustrator paths

You can use them as is and never change them but you can always select a path (either open or closed) and then add a stroke and then go to the object menu and use the expand appearance command to generate a normal filled closed path instead. The result will probably have too many points and you may like to use the smooth tool to remove or reduce the points or perhaps the path simplify command found in the object menu. Another option to remove and cleanup the path is to use the Astute Graphics' excellent Vectorscribe plugin which includes a smart remove tool. You can also then add the preset to the end result.

 

How to use with color

You can use the Illustrator calligraphic brushes in black but you can always add the strokes in any color. You can set the color via the stroke panel / panel. You can create a multiple colored item by alt key to duplicate the item and then re-color them and having them slight offset.

 

How to use them with the ColliderScribe plugin (Astute Graphics)

You can create some amazing backgrounds and path fills in seconds by using the Astute Graphics' ColliderScribe plugin as you can select any path (say a large rectangle) and a stroke filled with the preset (slanted or rounded) and then apply the space fill plugin. You can make all kinds of randomized fills using different curved strokes as well as straight strokes or zigzag filled ones as well as single or multiple colorful filled strokes. You can then expand the path.

 

How to use them with the appearance panel

You can re-color them via the fill and stroke panel but if you want to add a more color then you can use them with the appearance and you can add multiple fills and multiple strokes as well as effects such as blurs and zigzags and distortions etc). All can then be expanded via the object menu expand appearance command. You can add the effect to the fill which is not so effective as adding the effect to the stroke when it comes to the calligraphic brushes. You can also add into the mix effects such as transformations via the effects menu. The transform command is great for a single path but you can also add a number of copies so instead of one stroke, you can see 100s of the strokes all rotated or scaled in different ways though the actual calligraphic setting is the same for all of them (even if randomness has been set with the preset). A workaround would be just to duplicate the items and perform the transformation for all manually.

 

How to use calligraphic brushes with type

You can't add them straight to type but you can add them to type via the appearance panel. Select some type and then go to the appearance panel and then add a new stroke and then add the presets so you can create a whole range of interesting slanted strokes / rounded strokes with the type. You can also add multiple strokes and combine them with different effects such as offsets to create interesting contour effects; or perhaps use them with transformations / live effects to create all kinds of echo strokes. If you select the stroke entry in the appearance and there is randomness included in the preset then the type stroke will change over and over every time you click the preset. If you have multiple strokes added to the item (and perhaps the offset) then all the strokes will have different randomness so one slant will be one way and the other in a different direction etc.

 

How to use with the blob tool

The blob (not the character from the Marvel comics - X-men) is a weird tool. Set the preset via the brushes panel and you can then use the blob with those settings though if you double click the blob tool, the settings are not reflected in the blob options (odd) - even though the tool clearly uses the preset. So what is the difference ? The blob uses the item as a fill instead of a stroke so you don't have to expand the item. The blob tool also has a self pathfinder unite feature so if you pass over any of the previously generated line then it is added and united to that. You can then use the direct selection tool to modify the corners but to be honest, it never seems to work well as there are just so many points generated. After using the blob brush I always find I really need to cleanup the result and remove a lot of points using smart remove tool or smooth tool. You can also then add the calligraphic brush preset to that as well and so on.