Illustrator Process Video #3 - Freehand Brushes for Cartoon Style Inking

Video #3 - Freehand BRUSH Tool
SpongeBob Illustrator inking tutorial on Brushes
Click on image - video will open in new window
(There's also a smaller version at the bottom of the post in case you have trouble watching the large video)

Okay -- here's where it starts getting fun!
We're going to be covering the freehand brush tool in today's Adobe Illustrator Inking Tutorial video
SpongeBob Illustrator inking tutorial calligraphic Brush strokes
Adobe Illustrator inking tutorial custom Brushes palette

The freehand brush seems to be one of the least-known features in Adobe Illustrator. Most people associate Illustrator with very clean and technical lines -- and not the hand-drawn look that traditional cartoons and comic books use. It turns out, though, that Adobe Illustrator is a fantastic tool for doing comic book inking and cartooning cleanups still have that spontaneous & freehand look.
SpongeBob Illustrator inking tutorial calligraphic Brush strokes

I want to make sure to point out that you'll need some sort of pressure-sensitive drawing tablet to get all the calligraphic effects that I'm going to be showing in this video. The most common drawing tablets are made by Wacom, and they range in price from under $99 for the Bamboo Fun to "an arm and a leg" for the Cintiq. All of these brush effects can be done with even the simplest and the smallest drawing tablet (as long as it supports pressure sensitivity).
Adobe Illustrator inking tutorial Brushes angle settings

A lot of people complain that the hand-drawn lines that they try to draw with the freehand brush tool become distorted as soon as the line has finished being drawn. That problem will be corrected if you copy the brush settings that I use in this video. Of course, I also encourage everybody to play with those settings and customize to them to your own specific needs.
Adobe Illustrator inking tutorial Brushes diameter settings
Adobe Illustrator inking tutorial Brushes line variation

Today's video will show you how to find and use the custom brushes that I included in the downloadable template, and it also shows you exactly how to customize and create your own custom freehand brushes. Once all that information has been covered, will be ready for tomorrow's video -- when I actually start INKING the darn thing! So be sure to come back for the next episode, too!
Here's a smaller version of today's video if you're having trouble viewing the larger version:

If you want to keep up with all the videos, here's where to find the first two lessons:


Bob Flynn said...

These are great, Sherm. I know for me the big realization was knowing that you could and should build your own brush. I'm pretty sure pressure sensitivity is shut off by default, which I find weird.

Sherm said...

Bob -- I think you just nailed it! THAT's the reason a lot of people don't know about the pressure-sensitive brush...the first time they try it, it doesn't work because it's turned off. Maybe the folks at Adobe will change this if we ask ^_^

Sally aka Fixpert said...

Hey, thanks so much for taking the time to write these posts and put together these videos. I know it's time-intensive, so I really appreciate it.

In this Freehand Brushes tutorial, you gave a lot of details about the brush settings in the Illusrator file. Would you mind also posting which tablet you use and then the system-wide preferences that you have set for your tablet (if you're in a mac it's under System Preferences > Tablet)?

I think that those would influence the behavior that you would get from the brush in Illustrator, since the system-wide tablet preferences also have settings for pressure sensitivity, etc?

Thanks again!!

Bryan Castleman said...

For the longest time this part of Adobe Illustrator has eluded me. It was probably 3 years ago when I posed a question towards my Art Teacher about vector line variation / quality and how it was achieved. She told me it was a hand drawn shape made with the pen tool. My Tablet PC has been very useful to me in Photoshop but I have really struggled with Adobe Illustrator. This video was exactly what I needed. This is amazing and unique advice that was never taught to me in my college Art Program. You would think it would be taught from a drawing standpoint. Hmmmm..... so glad you made this !

Sherm said...

Hi Bryan...thanks so much for sharing that's because of that huge gap in Illustrator teaching that I made these videos. It means a lot to me knowing that they helped fill in the missing pieces ^_^

diva42 said...

Thank You for taking your time to help the aspiring artists like me your work and techniques a great.


Unknown said...

Ok thanks this is AWESOME!!!!! i am excited but then realised I cant do anything as I don't have a wacom tablet so boohooooo.

Which one do you use?

Unknown said...

also I live in south africa so the dollar is hugely expensive I don't want to buy the wrong thing twice.