In Illustrator, it’s easy to emulate ruffles, ruching, elastic and gathering with brushes. This is by far one of the more underutilized brushes I see, finding that most fashion designers draw ruffles manually one by one. This tutorial will go through a few different techniques to easily create a basic ruffle brush to use on fashion flats:
Instead of trying to draw smooth curved paths for our ruffles, we’ll start with jagged zig zag paths and let Illustrator do the work for us. I’ve drawn a variety of paths with the Pen Tool that I want to use for my ruffle brush, and I’ve then selected all of the corner anchor points (all anchor points except the start and end points) on each path with the Direct Selection Tool (white arrow). With those points selected, you will notice along your Control Bar along the top of you workspace there are two convert icons: convert to corner and convert to smooth (if you don’t see the Control Bar, turn it on via Window > Control). For this example, we want to convert to smooth, so click that icon.
Our paths look like a pretty good start to a ruffle, but they’re not quite as realistic as they could be. I want to vary the width of the stroke so they aren’t all exactly 1 pt weight. Using the various Stroke Profiles, we can easily adjust this. For ruffles, I like Width Profile 5. From the bottom of the Stroke panel, choose the profile you like best.
Depending on what profile you’ve chosen, it might not be applied to the path in the correct direction. Don’t worry, you can easily fix this! Select the path(s) with the profiles you want to change direction of, and choose Flip Along at the bottom of the Stroke panel.
With your ruffles selected, drag the artwork into the Brushes panel and choose Pattern Brush from the options. Leave all settings as default and choose OK. Now, draw a path and apply the brush to it. It probably looks great, BUT you will notice that the path runs along the center of the ruffles, which in my opinion is not a very intuitive place for the path to be.
If you want the path to run along the bottom of the ruffles, it’s simple to define. Draw a rectangle along the bottom edge of the ruffles. Wherever the middle of the rectangle hits (as 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:
Once you’ve done this, drag the ruffles and the “invisible” rectangle into the Brushes panel (if you want to overwrite the first brush, simply 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 you will notice the path alignment is on the bottom of the ruffle – PERFECT!