Fashion Brushes For Illustrator

You’re currently reading Chapter 7, Part 7 of The Ultimate Guide to Adobe Illustrator for Fashion Design

There are a lot of really cool and powerful features in Illustrator.

But sometimes, how we can use them as fashion designers isn’t always SUPER obvious.

Brushes are one of these features.

Way too often I see designers doing things manually that they could do with a brush…

And I bet you’re guilty of AT LEAST one.

It’s those squiggly little lines we use to emulate things like gathers, ruffles or ruching.

Yeah, you know the ones. They look like this:

ruffles ruching illustrator wrong way

Guilty of drawing Every. Single. One. Manually like the image above? Raise your hand.

Is your hand in the air? #yes

I had a feeling.

The great thing about brushes is very complex artwork can be controlled by moving or adjusting just one line (path as it’s called in AI).

So if the curve of your garment changes, you don’t have to manually move all those little squiggly lines. You just adjust the curve of the brush path and MAGIC! Everything adjusts.

Before we dive into tutorials, here’s an overview on how brushes work – and why to use them. If you’re just getting started, this should get you up to speed.

Pattern brushes are a very powerful feature in Illustrator and offer many benefits:

  • Improve file organization
  • Speed up workflow
  • Decrease time for editing/changing details

Simply put, Pattern Brushes are repeating pattern tiles along a path – think of them like a repeating pattern of any linear based design/feature such as zippers, stitching or strapping.

pasted image 0 57

When thinking about using pattern brushes, train your mind to think about how they can be used in the most simple ways, like for basic double needle topstitching (DNTS) to more complex and perhaps less obvious ways such as placing a border along the hem of a garment.

why use pattern brushes2 1

While you may think that it’s easier on simple brushes like DNTS to use two rows of dashed paths, this is inefficient.  If you need to manipulate the line (path), you now have 2 lines (paths) to control. You’ve just DOUBLED your work. Pattern brushes allow you to manipulate just ONE path and control BOTH rows of stitching.

why use pattern brushes3 1

Pattern brushes are also great since you can save them as libraries to use over and over again ← BOOM, the power of Illustrator (and brushes)!

Got it? Ok, let’s dive into the first tutorial.

How to Draw Movement Lines for Ruching or Gathering in Illustrator (using a Brush)

pasted image 0 63

In Illustrator, it’s easy to emulate ruffles, ruching, elastic and gathering with brushes. (Read: DO NOT draw these squiggly lines manually one by one!)

Draw some zig zag paths with the Pen Tool and let Illustrator do the work for you. Selected all corner anchor points (all anchor points except the start and end points) with the Direct Selection Tool (white arrow).

pasted image 0 62

Then, along your Control Bar at the top of your workspace, you’ll see options to “convert to corner” and “convert to smooth”. For this example, choose “convert to smooth”

(Control Bar missing? Turn it on via Window > Control).

To make your paths look more organic, change the stroke profile in the Stroke panel (Window > Stroke) like this:

pasted image 0 56
pasted image 0 60

And if the stroke profile is going the wrong direction? Just flip it:

Now, just drag the squiggly lines into the Brushes panel, choose Pattern Brush, leave all other settings as default and click OK.

Draw a line (or path), then click the brush icon from the Brushes Panel to apply it.

pasted image 0 54

It probably looks great, BUT notice the path runs along the center of the ruffles. Intuitively, you may want it to be along the BOTTOM of the ruffles. Easy to change!

Go back to your original squiggly lines and draw a rectangle along the bottom edge of the ruffles.  Wherever the middle of the rectangle hits (shown with a red dotted line) will define where the path runs along the brush.  Before turning this into a brush, you have to make sure the rectangle has two attributes:

  1. The rectangle must have NO STROKE & NO FILL
  2. The rectangle must be in the very back of the artwork (Object > Arrange > Send to Back)
pasted image 0 65

Then, drag the squiggle lines AND the “invisible” rectangle into the Brushes panel (to overwrite the first brush, hold opt/alt while you drop it on top of the old brush) and create the Pattern Brush.

Now, draw the path again with the new brush and the alignment is on the bottom of the ruffle – PERFECT!

pasted image 0 55

Now, this was a pretty simple example.

And arguably, the situation wouldn’t have been THAT bad had you drawn all of those squiggly lines manually for this kind of design.

So let’s look at an example where you would be in DEEP TROUBLE if you tried to draw all those lines one by one.

How to Draw Quilted Lines with Puckers (ie for a down jacket) in Illustrator (using a Brush OR Repeating Pattern)

You may have a garment that has TONS of puckers that you need to emulate with squiggly lines.

Like a down jacket.

This video tutorial will show you two ways to think about how to create them, both with a brush and a repeating pattern.

You’ll learn when you should use one vs the other, and why this method is SUPERIOR to doing it manually.

After you watch? Vow that you’ll never again draw a big row of squiggly lines again unless you’re creating a brush. #dowehaveadeal?

How to Draw a Zipper in Illustrator (with a Brush)

I’ve seen a lot of designer’s who just use a plain path (line) in place of an actual mock up zipper teeth.

It looks something like this:

wrong zipper teeth mockup illustrator

It’s a fine placeholder. But it doesn’t really show what’s going on with the design.

If you were to send that to a factory? They’d interpret it as a reverse coil zipper (where the teeth are on the inside). Because that’s what a plain line emulates. See?

pasted image 0 58

But to draw accurate fashion flats, you have to draw accurate details. And that means you need to draw zipper teeth how they look in real life.

And pro tip? Not all zipper teeth look the same. Here are a few different kinds from just one zipper supplier:

pasted image 0 59

Now that you’re caught up on zippers….#iamanerd

Let me show you how to draw one…as a brush. More specifically, as a pattern brush.

Click play on the zipper tutorial below:

How to Draw A METALLIC Zipper (with the pull, stop AND stitching in ONE brush!)

If you’re looking for a little more HARDCORE zipper tutorial…this is The One!

It’ll walk you through step by step how to create the zipper brush, add a metallic effect (even though Illustrator doesn’t allow gradients!), and make it complete with the pull, stop and stitching…ALL IN ONE BRUSH!

Oh, and bonus? You’ll even learn how to change the color of your zipper with ONE click.

Here’s a quick preview:

And here’s the full tutorial! Check it out now:

How to Draw Stitching in Illustrator (Coverstitching, Flat Lock, etc)

Drawing one single row of BASIC stitching? Just draw a path and check ONE box in the Stroke Panel.

Like this:

pasted image 0 64

Want to draw anything more complex? DO IT AS A BRUSH.

Because just like with zippers, you need to draw ACCURATE stitching in your fashion flats and tech sketches.

Otherwise? Your factory will interpret what they SEE. Not what you WRITE.

So even if your tech sketch looks like this:

tech sketch incorrect

Your samples will come out WRONG. Because what you’ve drawn is SINGLE NEEDLE TOP STITCH. But what you’ve WRITTEN is ¼” COVERSTITCH.

A picture is worth a THOUSAND words, so your drawing needs to be CORRECT.

And a lot of factories? English is a second language. So they make what they SEE. Fair enough.

It’s YOUR job to take the time to learn how to draw it right with the video tutorial below.

Create a Lace Brush from a Photo (or any other realistic trim like sequins, pearls, etc)

Introduced in Illustrator CC, we have the option to turn a photo (or any raster / pixel based image) into a brush.

Now, if that terminology doesn’t mean anything to you…let me put it in other words.

This was a GAME CHANGER.

Before, you could only create brushes from artwork that you drew in Illustrator.

Now, you can turn pretty much ANYTHING into a brush.

AND? Even if you’re creating a brush from an image (like in the lace example below), you can CHANGE THE COLOR. In ILLUSTRATOR.

That’s right. I’m going to show you how to change the color of a photo in Illustrator…so you can mock up any shade of the rainbow lace you want…all from one image. #PhotoshopNOTrequired

Enough of my excitement already. Watch the dang tutorial!

Where to Save Brushes in Illustrator (so they automatically load in EVERY file EVERY time)

My guess is that your workflow goes something like this:

  • Create a new document or open an existing one to “frankenstein” from.
  • Dig through 8 Illustrator files to find that zipper brush you used last season.
  • Copy the zipper from the old file into the new file.

That sounds HORRIBLE.

And now I understand why you and Illustrator have a LOVE HATE relationship.

This video will show you how and where to save all your assets (not just brushes, but things like custom swatch libraries or symbol libraries) so that the AUTOMATICALLY load in EVERY Illustrator document you create or open.

No more digging through old files trying to find that heather texture or ruching brush you KNOW you already made…argh.

Watch this tutorial to FINALLY get your workspace set up right…and have access to ALL your brushes, ALL the time.

Go to The End, What’s Next?