Create a Fancy Rope Brush In Illustrator

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.

Don’t forget to leave a comment and share this post if you enjoyed it.

46 Comments on “Create a Fancy Rope Brush In Illustrator

  1. Pingback: Create a Glossy Help Icon In Illustrator

  2. Thanks for your work. I realy enjoyed it.

  3. Hi! I just forget to inform you that you said to set the width to 20px, height to 50px and the corner radius to 10px, but at the time of project you set the height 35px. This was a little problem. I think you should change it.


  4. Some really prize content on this website , saved to my bookmarks .

  5. Thank you very much : D

  6. Hi there! I need help. I did this on AI but it appears to exist a white line (1px) between pattern and pattern in my brush, how can i fix this?
    Sorry for my english.

  7. I’m sorry! I haven’t read this „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.“ :)
    THANKS for the AMAZING tut!

    • Hi Mercedes, I’ve been struggling with this myself for a while, before I realized that this is only an issue in AI’s Preview mode. I’m glad, you enjoyed the tutorial!

      • Hi, When I create sharp corners using the brush the rope becomes very distorted / not smooth. Do you know if a corner pattern is need in a addition to avoid this happening?

  8. Thank you for your very interesting tutoriel, it has me allowed to understand how we made the brush of texture.
    On the other hand, I noticed that we see the separations of the shape repeated as on your image number 13! It takes place in 1 or 2 pixel near… Except on your images according to it is first-class! How is it made?

    • Hi there, look at the comment by Mercedes above yours. Those separations only appear in the preview mode of Illustrator. Just export your image and it will be fixed. Good luck with that!

  9. Oh I see! Thank you for your fast answer! If it is just the preview then OK. I hope that Flash is going to import it because it likes not at all outlines!

    • Just go to File -> Export and set the File Format to PNG. You should then be able to import the image into Flash as usual. In case you’re planning to animate the rope in Flash, you might need to try a different approach though.

  10. Mine still had the gap when I exported it to a jpg. What do i do?

    • Maybe your tiles don’t end up perfectly straight on their left or right edges. This would cause gaps even after exporting the image. Hope, this helps!

  11. I am a lil confused regarding step 3.
    I am not sure on what size to set to get the rounded edges, it is pretty small and not sure what numbers, the X-Y W-H should be set as? can you help with this?

    • It’s all your choice what numbers to use. Just play around a little until it fits your needs. As you can see in the screenshot, I used 20/35/10 px for width/height/radius.

  12. I’m fairly new to Illustrator and have gone through this tutorial. I did everything fine, but the original split isn’t precise enough and leaves messy edges on every step. How do you split the original shape precisely. Instructions just say draw a line, but that is not perfectly in the middle. Isn’t there a way for Illustrator to find dead center perfectly for you?

    • Make sure to enable the Smart Guides Option (cmd+U) in the View Menu. Another way would be to select both the shape and click the „Horizontal Align Center“ button from the Align window. I hope this helps!

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  14. thank you that was GREAT

  15. hi…i tried it but when i make it a pattern brush and apply it on a line, it has the space between the repeat/applied brush like ooooo oooooo oooooo. why is it so.

    • Hi, this has been mentioned before. Those gaps only appear in Illustrator’s preview mode. Once you export your image, the brush should work just fine.

  16. Thanks for the tutorial but I am lost at the 3rd step :( There are no images explaining this. I know how to use Direct Selection Tool but I am not sure how to make it look right. I am not great at Ai and could use some help. Thanks.

    „Use the Direct Selection Tool to move the upper vertices down a little bit.“

    • Hi Chris, here’s how I did it: I selected the upper two vertices with the Direction Tool and then moved them up a bit by hitting the Arrow-Up-Key, until I liked the height. You can actually leave this out if you’re fine with the basic shape. At the end of the tutorial you’ll see wheather the results fit your needs or not. Eventually you’ll have to get back to step 3 and adjust the height or width of your basic shape. Hope, this helps!

  17. Great tutorial. Looks perfect.

  18. Wow, this worked great and solved a problem about applying a rope to an oval. I had no gaps either, but the piece entered into the brush pattern had the little extension on the left and not right as in your example, if this makes any sense. As long as the line isn’t too big, not problems. This really helped me so much with a job I was trying to figure out. Danke!

  19. excellent..

  20. can not understand starting & end point.. do we need to add every time..

  21. i cant understand the 7th step. It seems when i draw the lines and divide in pathfinder it groups everything together, it just doens´t do the split like your picture. I´d llike a more detailed step, if possible, thank you.

  22. hi Daniel
    i like what u show us, but Unfortunately I didn’t success the necessary step between 6 to 7, by repeating the step.
    can u advise?

  23. I have a question about the outline – when I do Object – Offset path, it doesn’t just make an outline for my pattern, it does so for every part of it, outlining every layer instead of the object. Did I just miss something, or does anyone else have this issue?

    • You probably only want to select the biggest shape before offsetting the path. I guess the screenshot above that step was a little misleading. Hope that helps!

      • I am having the same issue and am still a little confused. This is also my first time using Ai, I normally work in Photoshop. Do we have to somehow merge the three pieces into one for this step? If I chose all three I get three outlines, choosing the biggest piece in the middle just outlines the middle. Please help! :-)

  24. Very nice tutorial!
    One question: How do you get the drop shadow on top of the other rope so the rope „pops out“? When I apply drop shadow the shadow always appears in the background, hence the ropes crossing points look completely flat…
    Thanks in advance!

  25. Hi there, I’m having the same trouble someone else did, with the outline step, and the answer you gave to them didn’t really help me.

    I know very little about AI, but I’ve been able to follow you up to this point. I have tried EVERYTHING I can think of, and I can’t seem to get JUST the outline of the shape to be selected in the box, like you have in your picture. I’ve managed to get JUST the main outline and the curved lines separating each of the colors by using the ‚Merge‘ option, but I can’t get just the outline of the whole shape to select.

    Please help me figure this out, because I have no idea what I’m doing wrong…

  26. It worked out fine, but now i am I’m having big trouble with the endings of the stroke. :(

  27. Cannot divide to get the cutout to make the pattern. Whats wrong?
    thanx in advance

  28. Pingback: Gina Carvallo (ginacarvallo) | Pearltrees

  29. cool tutorial

  30. for those of you having issues dividing, try the „knife“ tool instead.

  31. This is a good article. I have learned a lot of things, thanks to you.

  32. THANK YOU VERY MUCH!!!!!! It’s my first time doing a tutorial and it was great!! Love my new ropes :)