Create a Fancy Rope Brush In Illustrator
In this tutorial we’ll create a custom pattern brush that can be used to draw cool, comic style ropes in Illustrator. We’ll make heavy use of the Pathfinder tool while working on the individual shapes and of course you will learn how to create brushes in Illustrator.
The rope brush can then be applied to any path and shape in any size needed.
The Final Rope Brush In Action
Creating The Pattern Brush
Open a new document in Illustrator and grab the Rounded Rectangle Tool. Click somewhere on the stage. Set the width to 20px, height to 35px and the corner radius to 10px, then click OK. Set the color of the shape to brown.
Draw a vertical line on top of the shape, select both the line and the shape and hit the Divide button from the Pathfinder window. This will split the object in half.
Ungroup the resulting object by hitting cmd+g, then place the the right half on top the left half, select both and unite the shapes via the Pathfinder window. Use the Direct Selection Tool to move the upper vertices down a little bit. This way you can reduce the height of the shape without interfering with the rounded corners. This is the basic shape from which the rope pattern will be created.
Hold down the shift key and rotate the shape clockwise by 45°. Hit cmd+c to copy the shape, then hit cmd+f to paste a copy in front. Move the copy down left by hitting the cursor keys a few times. Select both shapes and click the Minus Front button from the Pathfinder window.
Set the color of the resulting shape to a lighter brown and hit cmd+b to paste another copy of the basic shape in the back.
Repeat the last step to create a darker shading at the bottom of the pattern.
Let’s add a thin outline to the current object. Select the big shape, go to Object->Offset Path… and set the offset to 1px. Fill the new shape with a dark brown.
To create the repeated pattern, we need a few copies of this shape and we need them to align perfectly without any gaps. An easy way to get this done is to draw a temporary horizontal guide line with Line Tool as shown below. Copy the shapes and the line and move them in place. Make sure the Snap To Point option is activated.
To create a pattern brush from this, we need to cut out a tile. Drag in two guides and make them snap to two points that define the same position in the repeated pattern.
Draw two lines along the guides and divide all the affected shapes (one by one) using the Divide button from the Pathfinder window. Remove the spare shapes.
This will leave you with the repeatable pattern tile. Select all its shapes and click the New Brush button in the Brushes window.
In the upcoming window, set the brush type to New Pattern Brush and leave the other settings as they are.
And there you go. You can now use this pattern brush on any path you draw. Grab the Pen Tool and draw a random path onto the stage. Apply the new brush to it.
As you can see in the image above, there seem to be some unattractive gaps between the tiles. But don’t worry, they’re only visible in Illustrator’s preview mode and they’ll will be gone, once you export the design.
I added separate tiles for the starting and ending points using the techniques described above. A drop shadow helped to let the rope pop out.
This leaves our comic style rope brush complete. You can now apply it to any path or shape and also use it in typographical designs for example.
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