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The Mighty AI Scatter Brush

May 31, 2012

One of the most powerful and versatile types of brush in Adobe illustrator is the scatter brush. Lets look at three examples that all use different aspects of the scatter brush. (a randomized pattern, a uniform repeating patterns and a true scattered element) Then take a look at what makes the scatter brush tick.

With this garland brush I used multiple layers of scatter brushes in the appearance window and saved them out as several unique graphic styles.

The scatter brush gave me the ability to repeat the pine sprig in a nice random way that doesn’t repeat. It also gives great control of the frequency and rotation of the items. The real ‘secret’ trick is how to spread the pine bows away from the source path by moving the rotation point away from the center of the object. To get extra depth I used two layers of pine. The front is lighter. notice how the pine cone layer is between them, making them poke out nicely. Similarly there are two layers of lights; one on top and one between the pine. Same with the berries. Each of these layers of the Graphic Style is it’s own scatter brush and can be tweaked independently in the appearance window. I needed the ‘rotation trick’ with the lights, berries and pine cones too. I’ll leave that a teaser for now.

This Bubble brush is more of a traditional example of how to use a scatter brush. I’ve varied the size, scatter and spacing to turn a path into a string of bubbles.

OK, Now let’s take a look at the steps to creating a scatter brush. First take the item that you wish to ‘scatter’. In the last example it was a bubble; here let’s use a simple star. Select the object and click the new brush button at the bottom of the brushes window. Select ‘scatter’ from the pop-up window.

Now apply the ‘new brush’ to a test path; then double click on the new brush. This way we can tweek the settings and watch the changes preview live. (be sure to have the preview box checked). In this case i want to vary some elements.

I change the elements that i want to vary from fixed to random. By altering the minimum and maximum points i can experiment until I feel satisfied with the results. It’s also important to note the rotation relative to selection ( you can orient to the page or to the path. In this case i want the stars to stay relative to the page. Once happy with the changes, click ok and paint some paths with your new brush with the brush tool. this will give you a better sense of how the brush will behave. You might want to apply it to a box, a circle or some text. more fine tuning will probably be needed.

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