Create Your Own Set of Multi-Colored Illustrator Paint Brushes

You guys may remember several months back when I released several sets of Multi-Colored Illustrator Brushes on this site as well as several others. Those brushes quickly became some of the most popular sets of brushes that I’ve ever released. Last summer I spoke at the Front-End Design Conference where I showed the attendees how these sets were created. Today, I plan to do the same for my readers. These kinds of brushes are a lot of fun to create and play with. Hopefully, you will agree.

Final Image



Here is what you will need before you get started.

  • Several tubes of acrylic paint
  • A page of glossy photo paper
  • A brush
  • A scanner
  • Adobe Photoshop
  • Adobe Illustrator

Step 1: Video: Create the Paint Stroke

The first step in creating a multi-colored Illustrator Paint Brush is to create a brush stroke using paint and paper. To make things easier, I created a short video demonstrating my technique.

Step 2: Scan the Image

After you have created your paint brush stroke, give it a good 24 hours to dry. This is really important because you don’t want any paint to transfer from the paper to the scanner; that would be bad. Scan your image at 300 dpi.


Step 3: Make Adjustments

Once you have scanned your image and imported it into Photoshop, you will now have to make a few quick adjustments. Each of you will experience different results but here is what I suggest.

1) Go to Filter > Noise > Median. Set to 2. If you would like to skip this step, feel free to do so. I only do it because it helps to reduce noise and file size in the finished brush. Skipping this step will likely make your finished brushes slightly more realistic.


Step 4: Retouching

Take a white brush and clean away any parts of the scan you don’t want to show up. This isn’t terribly important but it may save you some steps in Illustrator so it doesn’t hurt just to remove any non-essential elements.

Step 5: Import into Illustrator

After you have saved your image to your hard drive, open up Illustrator and place it on your canvas.


Step 6: Run Live Trace

To run Live Trace, select the image > go to Object > Live Trace > Tracing Options. Use the following options. After the trace has completed, click Expand, then Ungroup.


Step 7: Delete White Edges

These types of brushes work best on a white background. However, if you would like to use these brushes on a background color other than white, it is best to select the magic wand tool and delete any hint of white from the edges of the brushes. To demonstrate this I have placed the brushed on a black background. Keep in mind that it probably won’t be perfect.


Step 8: Create the Brush

Select the parts of the trace that you would like to convert to a brush. Drag it into the Brush Palette and create a new art brush from it.


Step 9: Time to Play

Now that your brushes are done, try applying them to some paths. Tip: Adjust the stroke size; it has a tendency to make the brushes look a bit more realistic.



I have included the brushes that were created in this tutorial. Feel free to download them and use them in your work.

File type: .ai
Compatibility: Illustrator CS+
Size: 4.44 MB

Download this file!

Grant Friedman

Grant Friedman is a graphic design, blogger, and author. In addition to being the founder of this website, Grant is also the editor of Psdtuts, one of the world's most popular tutorial websites.

  • Gary

    Nice job, so that’s how you do it, lol…….

    November 18, 2009 at 4:28 PM
  • BebopDesigner

    Excellent tut! looks perfect… thanks for sharing
    .-= BebopDesigner´s last blog ..Blog Action Day 2009 – Climate change: what can a freelancer do to help? =-.

    November 18, 2009 at 4:50 PM
  • jeyaONE!

    Great post Grant. I love how your doing the videos.

    I have always had really good luck getting rid of the white by first taking the scans into Photoshop. Adjust the Levels for maximum white around the areas of the brush, Create a new Alpha Channel. Paste everything into the Alpha Channel. Then Invert the Alpha. Finally, set your selection to the Alpha Channel and then create a new layer via selection. Duplicate that layer a couple times if needed.

    One other thing I like to do is when creating the AI brush, change the Colorization Method to Hue Shift. That way you can change the color of the brush with your color swatches.
    .-= jeyaONE!´s last blog ..Distressed Grunge Pack – 26 Brushes + 26 Vectors =-.

    November 18, 2009 at 5:54 PM
  • Dzinepress

    amazing multi colored illustrator brushes for web and print designs. thanks
    .-= Dzinepress´s last blog ..50 Extremely Creative Vintage and Retro Photoshop Tutorials =-.

    November 19, 2009 at 1:30 AM
  • Paul

    very good! never knew how to create brushes before, thats my inexperience. thanks for sharing
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    December 9, 2009 at 4:13 AM
  • Trevor Collins

    Nice one. I will be showing the boys this tomorrow. Thanks for taking the time to show us.

    February 11, 2010 at 12:59 PM