Creating a custom brush in Illustrator for line art

I often receive comments about the line work on my web comic. People have asked for example if I draw the comic on paper and then scan it into the computer. The answer would be no. In order to create my line work as well as the finished product of each strip I do, I use Adobe Illustrator CS3. I’d never claim to be an expert in Illustrator but I do have enough knowledge of the software in order to get it do what I want it to.

When you draw with traditional media whether it be pencil or pen, the thickness of your lines will usually vary depending on the pressure you apply with each stroke. You can mimic that effect in Illustrator. I’m going to show how to create a custom brush which will make it quite simple to do so.

Step 1: Open up Illustrator and create a new document. Once you’ve done this you’re going to be using the oval tool.

Custom Brush Tutorial

Step 2: Using the oval tool, draw yourself a somewhat thin oval like the example below.

Step 3: Go ahead and select that oval. It should now be outlined and have visible end points.

Step 4: Next we’re going to be using the Convert Anchor Point tool, which you will find by selecting your pen tool and holding down on it until a drop menu appears like in the following example.

Step 5: Using the Convert Anchor Point tool go ahead and click on both end points of your ellipse. This will cause them to taper, creating a fine point. You should see something like the following image.

Step 6: With your ellipse still selected, the next thing you need to do is open your Brush palette. You can do so by choosing Window in the menu across the top of the application and then navigating to Brushes. Alternatively you can just press F5 which is the keyboard shortcut.

Step 7: On the right upper corner of the Brush palette you’re going to look for an arrow and click on that in order to open the Brush palette menu. Choose New Brush…

Step 8: Now a window should pop up giving you several different options. You want to select the option to create a New Art Brush.

Step 9: Now you’re going to choose the proportional option, or in the case of my screenshot “proportiona”. Don’t ask me why the L was cut off. I have no idea ;) Now click Okay.

Now your new brush should appear in the brush palette, like so.

Go ahead and test out your new brush. I use a Wacom Tablet and Pen when doing anything in Illustrator, but if you don’t have one, a mouse will work adequately enough.

You’ll notice with the proportional setting turned on that your lines will look thicker or thinner depending on how long they are.

You’re all set! Enjoy your new custom brush!