How to use bristle brushes in Illustrator tutorial

Bristle brushes are Illustrator's wonderful painting brush for CC 2018 2017 2015 etc for smoother and more transparent strokes and natural designs

Bristle brush in Illustrator

bristle brushes for Illustrator create and use
  1. Select the Paintbrush tool (there is no bristle brush tool) in Illustrator toolbar

  2. Window menu and brushes category

  3. Select a bristle brush in the brushes panel

  4. Duplicate bristle brush via right side menu in presets panel

  5. Double click the new stroke

  6. Edit the size, length, density, thickness etc (see preview to see the result of changes)

  7. Click OK

  8. Save document with new tool for later use


videoVideo tutorial on the subject by (youtube)


Create new stroke : new brush and bristlesCreate a new stroke, simply go to the presets panel and new command. You will be offered a choice of type and the one you are looking for is fourth in the list. You will then have to give it a name as well as a shape setting as well as size etc and then click OK


If you wish to modify the settings for the tool : panelDouble click an Illustrator bristle brush preset in the panel or go to the options or create a new preset. You will then see the panel for the tool and the different settings


Shape (round point, round blunt, round curve, etc and flat angle and flat fan etc).

Size (though the actual size setting will modify that as well)




Paint opacity



Apply multiple times : bristle brushes re-applyYou can use the Illustrator bristle brush once but the strokes probably work best if you apply the tool over and over on top of the previously applied strokes and then vary the settings as well as the opacity and colors etc.


Underlying paths : expandIt is often interesting to see what is behind the technology and the strokes are actually made up of multiple paths. You just don't see them until you expand the applied line.


Apply to a path and then expand the artwork via the object menu and expand appearance. You will then see the underlying structure such as lines spread or long lines as well as the opacity etc.


You can then ungroup the art and perhaps change individual paths or perhaps copy the expanded artwork to Photoshop


It shows that ypu easily create a similar design with a selection (a lot of) of paths and different opacity and grayscale variation


Use with type : bristle brushes and type in IllustratorTo use the BB with type, you must either expand the artwork or use the appearance panel. If you use the appearance panel approach, go to the panel's right side menu and select the add stroke to add to type and you can add multiple strokes to the path. Once you have the strokes, you can then add the BB to them.


You can generate some truly amazing natural painting to type and as the appearance panel approach means the type is live, you can also change the type at any point and any applied BB strokes will be updated in seconds


Tryout different settings : testThe quickest way I have always found is just to create a line using the line tool and apply a pre-defined preset and then double click the Illustrator bristle brush in the presets panel and display the settings and then just keep changing the settings and seeing how the line changes. This is not a perfect solution and perhaps a couple of curved lines will be handy as well especially as sometimes you will get odd jagged design on a rapid turn of the stroke and that may not be visible when you are just trying out the settings.


It should be noted that that a BB applied to one shape does not always end up looking much like the result applied to another shape.


Sadly there is no randomize feature within the panel


Opacity : opacityChanging the paint opacity setting in the panel makes the stroke a lot darker or transparent, so set the opacity to a low value if you want to apply it over and over. You can also use the opacity for the tool once you are outside the panel and then apply the strokes with a low opacity over and over to build up far more complex strokes which can then be grouped together


Blending modes : blendYou can also use the tool with blending modes via the opacity panel. Open the panel and then change the blending mode to difference and then apply the tool with different colors to create many interesting and different strokes


Saving the work : You can save the artwork generated by this tool and use it with symbols by copying the design into the symbols panel and then using it as a symbol instance. You can re-apply the symbol instance 1000s of times as well as combine it with other paths. You can also add the artwork to the CC library found via the window menu. Once you have saved the artwork to the CC library you can then use it in Photoshop as well as Adobe Indesign amd Adobe After Effects etc though the actual feature and settings will not be available, the actual design will be. You can also save the artwork to an AI file and then use the designs in other applications that support AI files such as Painter. You can also save the artwork as a PDF file and also as a SVG file. You can also use the file export commands to export the artwork to PNG format and PSD format and JPG etc and use the colorful designs in applications such as Painter, Affinity Photo, Affinity Designer, Krita etc


Keywords : How to use bristle brushes in Illustrator tutorial


Return to home page


Commercial use - Royalty free - No time limit, no credit - All by - Secure sales via (c) 1995-2018 Andrew Buckle, Maidstone artist, tel: +44 1622 / 688 375 E-mail: support@