Beyond Basic Brushstrokes  E-mail
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Written by Craig Watkins   
Here's a tip for enhancing simple brushstrokes in Illustrator!

First off, set your COLOR MODE to CMYK by going to FILE>DOCUMENT COLOR MODE>CMYK. (You'll see why near the end!)

You could use the PEN TOOL, PENCIL TOOL or PAINTBRUSH TOOL to get your initial curve. You could even use the PAINTBRUSH TOOL with a Wacom tablet to get a really hand-drawn feel if you have access to one. I used the PAINTBRUSH TOOL . Just click and draw!



Next, you want to open up your BRUSHES PALETTE.




With your line selected, try out some of the various brush styles by clicking on the samples in the BRUSH PALETTE. I have chosen CHARCOAL - FEATHER. (You can see the names of the samples in the palette by hovering over them momentarily.)

You'll see that the brushstroke now looks like this:



The brushstroke is really just a STROKE. You can adjust the weight of the stroke by adjusting the point size in the STROKE PALETTE. I'm using 1.5 pt for this example.



Now how to add some color like in the example at the beginning of the tip!

Since you can't use a gradient on a stroke. Here's what to do:

With your line selected, go to OBJECT>EXPAND APPEARANCE. This will convert the stroke into an object.



Now zoom in on your object and go to VIEW>OUTLINE. See the line that runs through the center of the object? Get your GROUP SELECTION TOOL and click on the line and hit DELETE to remove the line.



Got to VIEW>PREVIEW to return to the normal viewing mode.

Now that what was a STROKE has become an OBJECT, you can use the GRADIENT PALETTE to apply the color! (WINDOW>GRADIENT if the palette isn't already open.)



Select the object and click on the swatch in the GRADIENT PALETTE to fill the object with a basic gradient. It will look something like this:



With the object selected, you can now adjust the gradient to your liking!


First off, click on the white GRADIENT SLIDER and move it to the right to approximately where the red hits in the original example.

Deselect the object and set the FILL to black in the COLOR PALETTE. Select the object again, and drag the black FILL swatch in the COLOR PALETTE to the far left of the GRADIENT SLIDER bar in the GRADIENT PALETTE. Move the sliders in the GRADIENT PALETTE, especially the black slider swatch on the left and the little diamonds on top, until you are satisfied with the result.



You should now have something that looks like this:



Deselect the object again and create the red color you wish to use as a FILL color in the COLOR PALETTE by using the sliders in the palette or by entering the numbers. I'm using C=0 M=100 Y=100 K=0. You can also use a preset red SWATCH if you have the SWATCH PALETTE open.



Select the object again and drag the red FILL color from the COLOR PALETTE and release it directly on top of the white slider swatch in the GRADIENT SLIDER bar. Make adjustments to the sliders as necessary.



And there you have it!

Here's an added tip: See the kind of brownish color that occurs in the transitions between the black and red? This will be especially evident if you ever print this out. To eliminate this, select the object and click on one of the black slider swatches. (Use the fly-out menu in the upper right corner of the COLOR PALETTE and choose CMYK if the black is not already a CMYK mixture.). Set the numbers in the COLOR PALETTE to C=0 M=100 Y=100 K=100. Repeat for the other black slider. This will give you a smoother transition because you are basically making red and then adding 100% black to it to make a "rich black"!



Note: This image was originally sent in by a client who wanted to use Illustrator for a web site project, so here were additional instructions:

You can now either change the COLOR MODE of the document to RGB by going to FILE>DOCUMENT COLOR MODE>RGB or you can just save the artwork out as a JPEG or GIF by going to FILE>SAVE FOR WEB and then setting your JPEG or GIF settings.

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