How to Make, Use, and Manipulate a Calligraphic Brush in Adobe Illustrator

Final product image
What You’ll Be Creating

The Calligraphic brush in Adobe Illustrator mimics the look and feel of a calligraphy pen nib. Let’s take its options for a spin to get everything you can from this brush type.

1. How to Make a Calligraphic Brush

Step 1

To start, create a New Document, select the Paintbrush Tool (B) and open the Brushes panel in Illustrator. Select options and hit New Brush to do just that: create a new brush.

how to create a new brush

Step 2

Select Calligraphic Brush (chances are it’s already selected) and hit OK.

choosing the right brush type

Step 3

Let’s start with a very simple default-style brush. Name it whatever you want. Set the Angle to , Roundness to 100%, and the Size to whatever you feel like using (in this case 5 pt). Keep the drop-down boxes of each option at Fixed for now. Hit OK and check out your very simple round brush with the Paintbrush Tool (B).

example of creating a 5 pt calligraphic brush

Step 4

Hit Enter with the Paintbrush Tool (B) selected and you can check out the options of the tool that have some effect on the brush you’ve created as well. In this case, I’ve kept the Fidelity to Smooth so my paths are as fluid and clean as possible.

adjusting the brush using the paintbrush tool options

2. How to Use the Round Brush Options

Step 1

Now that we’ve done the super simple task of making a new brush, let’s play with the options within it. In the event that you’d like for every path drawn to change in size, select Random from the drop-down menu next to Size and move the Variation up to 12 pt. Each line will be a different size from 1 pt to 12 pt.

setting the brush size to random

Step 2

Much of the options are only useful if you’re using a pressure-sensitive graphics tablet. If you switch from Random to Tilt, you’ll find that the angle at which you hold your tablet’s stylus effects the size of the brush’s line. This variation, unlike Random, changes throughout a single path, rather than each new one.

setting the brush size to tilt

Step 3

If you change the drop-down menu to Pressure, the size will vary according to how much pressure you apply to your stylus’s nib when drawing. Again, the variation exists within a single path rather than with each new path. Using the pressure option for your Calligraphic Brush is perfect for creating clean line art with thick and thin line work that remains scalable (unlike making it in Adobe Photoshop).

setting the brush size to pressure

3. How to Create Flat Brushes

Step 1

To create a flat brush reduce the Roundness when creating or editing the brush you’re using. In the example below, I’ve set the Roundness to 20%. the initial doodle below keeps all options as Fixed.

flat brush example with fixed settings

The second example is with Pressure enabled for size variance. I find that although you can play with variations for the roundness too, a flat brush style is most useful when size of the nib is the only variable of the work. This does depend on what you’re creating, however, so take that opinion with a grain of salt.

flat brush example with size set to pressure

Step 2

As means of an example, lower the opacity of your brush either in the Transparency panel or at the top of Illustrator’s window when you have the Paintbrush Tool selected. The flat brush is a wonderful tool for sketching and painting with vectors. And as you can see from the Outline view below, it’s done with a series of editable paths.

example of adjusting the paintbrush opacity

3. How to Create Angled Flat Brushes

Step 1

The last brush style we’ll go over is an Angled Flat Brush. You can change the angle to whatever you want your brush to be. In the case below, I’ve set it to 45°. I also changed the Roundness to 11%, am keeping both Angle and Roundness Fixed, and have Size set to 11 pt, Pressure, and with an 11 pt Variation. As you can see below, I find this Calligraphic Brush to be excellent for mimicking real-life calligraphy, perfect for hand-lettering, fancy party invitations, or all of your elegantly written needs.

example of creating an angled flat brush

Step 2

I find creating calligraphic lettering in vector form allows for easy manipulation to the letters and flourishes as well as being ready to print any time at any size without loss to the quality of the image. You’re also able to change the stroke size itself when you resize the letter without expanding the stroke (Object > Expand) by selecting a larger stroke weight in the Strokes panel.

example of adjusting the weight of a brush stroke

Step 3

Finally, let’s take a look at selecting Pressure for all three options for the Angled Flat Brush. In the example below I have the Angle set to 45° and the Variation at 180°, the Roundness set at 11% and the Variation at 11%, and Size at 31 pt and the Variation all the way up to 31 pt. Below the options, the first line shows the angled brush clicked with a mouse versus pressing down in one place with a tablet’s stylus. The second and third line show all three options at work with two paths and various levels of pressure.

using pressure settings with an angled flat brush


The Calligraphic Brush is the most basic and often quite useful of the five brush options within Adobe Illustrator. Playing with its options and creating a library of brushes not only allows for more customization within your work, but it also emphasizes the use of Illustrator as a drawing program versus being a tool for pure design.

Don’t forget that you can always expand your brush library by heading over to Envato Elements, where you’ll find a great selection of vector brushes such as these ones.

Marker Illustrator Brushes

This professional Illustrator brush pack contains 25 high-quality digital marker brushes intended for professional designers, illustrators, and artists.

marker illustrator brushes
Marker Illustrator Brushes by Envato Elements

Pastels Brush Pack

In this set you will get 43 realistic pastel brushes and 25 pastel colors in 5 swatch groups for authentic pastel colors. You will love to use these brushes in Illustrator on any kind of project, from illustrations for kids to grunge-style illustrations, comics, and realistic projects.

pastels brush pack
Pastels Brush Pack by Envato Elements

Stipple Brushes Pack

Inside you’ll find a huge collection of brushes to suit your every need—for example, create vintage logos, illustrations, or backgrounds!

stipple brushes pack
Stipple Brushes Pack by Envato Elements

Vintage Brush Pack

Using these brushes is simple—just lay down the strokes and select a suitable brush from the brushes panel. Save time by using multi-lined brushes to create your vintage shading and textures to give it that old-school engraving look!

vintage brush pack
Vintage Brush Pack by Envato Elements

Japan Brush Pack

This professional Illustrator brush pack contains 39 high-quality Asian calligraphy brushes intended for professional designers, illustrators, and artists.

japan brush pack
Japan Brush Pack by Envato Elements

1950s Artist Brush Pack

Inspired by 1950s illustration, these brushes were made by using ink, old brushes, and the artist’s fingers. You can use these brushes for vector paintings and line art too. Scanned in high resolution, cleaned, and turned to vector.

1950s artist brush pack
1950s Artist Brush Pack by Envato Elements

Or you can use some of these free Illustrator brushes:

Further Develop Your Creative Skills

Just finished going through this little article, and feel like learning more? Well, if that’s the case, you’re in luck, since I took the time to put together this list that should keep you going for the following days!

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