How to make / use a calligraphic brush in Illustrator

How to create amazing calligraphic brush strokes in Illustrator CC 2018 2017 2015 CS6 CS5 CS4 CS3 etc tutorial.

Create calligraphic brush

calligraphic  create brush in Illustrator tutorial
  1. Window menu in Illustrator

  2. Brushes

  3. Right side menu of brushes panel

  4. New brush

  5. Select calligraphic brush option

  6. Set name, settings etc

  7. OK

The first thing is to create a calligraphic brush via the brushes panel right side menu. Select new brush option. Select calligraphic brush. Select the size, angle, roundness, set the calligraphic size to random or fixed etc (note that this is per brush stroke). Add randomness to the calligraphic brush stroke in Illustrator via the random setting. Select calligraphic brushes via the Illustrator brush libraries supplied with the application.

Options for Illustrator Calligraphic Brushes such as size, roundness etc

calligraphic brush options in Illustrator

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A guide to 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 calligraphic brush 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 the Illustrator calligraphic brushes as the scatter brushes 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.


Anyway, to get started

  1. Go to the brushes panel

  2. Right side menu

  3. New brush

  4. Select calligraphic

  5. Select options as required such as angle, roundness and size

  6. Give it a name

  7. Press OK

How to create some randomness with the Calligraphic Brushes in Illustrator

calligraphic brushes illustrator

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 has no effect on them. You can modify the size but 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.

  1. Double click on one of calligraphic brushes in brushes panel

  2. Set size 10pt and set random and variations to 5pt

  3. Click OK

  4. Apply brush stroke with black stroke

Results can be seen on the right for a number of repeat applications of the Illustrator calligraphic brush

Accessing the calligraphic brush libraries and using them in Illustrator CC CS6 etc

calligraphic brush libraries

A couple of calligraphic brushes 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

You can also use the calligraphic brushes with paths in Illustrator

spiral calligraphic

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.


Once you have the designs into normal paths you can also convert them into library presets or symbols

  1. Create spiral path in Illustrator

  2. Select spiral path

  3. Go to the brushes panel

  4. Double click calligraphic brush

  5. Set angle to 40 and random and variation to 113

  6. Set roundness to 40% and random and variation to 20%

  7. Size 10pt and random and varation 5pt

  8. OK

  9. Click apply to strokes

How to use them with the appearance panel and effects and combine the calligraphic brushes with 3D effects etc

calligraphic brushes and Illustrator spiral 3D extrude

You can re-color the calligraphic Illustrator brushes 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.

  1. Create spiral design

  2. Select spiral

  3. Go to the brushes panel (window menu brushes)

  4. Double click any calligraphic brush

  5. Set angle to 40 and random and variation to 40

  6. Set roundness to 40% and random and variation to 10%

  7. Size 20pt and random and varation 10pt

  8. OK

  9. Click apply to strokes

  10. Go to the appearance panel

  11. Select stroke entry

  12. Set color to red

  13. Effects menu in Illustrator

  14. Set extrude

  15. OK

Expand out the stroke entry, you can now see the 3D extrude applied to the stroke in the appearance panel for the calligraphic brush

Using calligraphic brushes with type / text in Illustrator to create amazing type effects

type and calligraphic brushes

You can't add them straight to type but you can add them to type via the appearance panel.

  1. Select some type

  2. Go to the appearance panel

  3. Add a new stroke via the right side menu

  4. And then add the calligraphic brush 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 the calligraphic brush strokes with the blob tool in Illustrator

calligraphic brushes and blob strokes

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 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.

  1. Double click a calligraphic brush in the brushes panel

  2. Set the roundness to 7% and angle 40 and size 20pt and all fixed

  3. OK

  4. Select the blob tool

  5. Set color of fill to red

  6. Effect menu in Illustrator and 3D and extrude

  7. Create extrude with depth 50pt etc

  8. Apply blob strokes / calligraphic

Other Tutorials

1. how to use and create new bristle brushes in Adobe Illustrator tutorial

2. variable width strokes in Illustrator (with brushes and type etc)

Sources and references

1. Calligraphic brushes on


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