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How to Include a Gradient Within a Brush in Adobe Illustrator

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I've never hidden that I'm a vector purist. I like my vector art without raster elements, without blurs, without drop shadows, without Photoshop effects. So when Adobe Illustrator CC was announced, the feature of Image Brushes - brushes which can be made from raster objects (such as PNGs, JPGs etc...), I felt a little let down. The war on raster is being fought on the vector battleground! However, it wasn't until I decided to play with this new feature, I found a very interesting and incredibly useful quirk.

Ever wanted to create a custom brush but then you're presented with a pop up saying that you can't do it because... you've got a gradient in there! Ugh. After all those detailed elements you've created, a gradient is getting in the way. You could however replace the gradient with a blend and clipping mask (after the brush, as clipping masks can't be used inside of a brush), but aha... there is another way!


1. Create a Brush Containing a Gradient

Step 1

I've created a quick example here of an instance where you'd like to use a brush which may include a gradient. This is a quick illustration of a leaf. Within the graphic is a stem - which includes a stroke with a Width Profile, two halves of a leaf and a shape which covers the whole shape underneath, with a Drop Shadow.

The theory is, I could create a pile of leaves of varying lengths and the subtle drop shadow will help make each leaf stand out. I wouldn't usually use a drop shadow (as it's a raster effect and I'm a purist), but this is purely to demonstrate something.

Gradients in Brushes

Step 2

Ah ha! The two halves of the leaf contain a gradient as shown below. It's a simple gradient with three stops. Nothing complex right?

Gradients in Brushes

Step 3

When you go to create a brush using these shapes, you'll be presented with the following pop up. Now surprisingly, you can include a Drop Shadow in a brush, you can include a Width Profile on a stroke, however the problem in group of shapes is that it contains a gradient. How do you get around this?

Gradients in Brushes

2. How to Get Around the Problem

Step 1

How we get around this problem is a sneaky little trick, which thankfully Adobe Illustrator CC has made possible. Select the shape, or shapes in this instance, which contains the gradient. Go to Effect > Rasterize and this will turn the shape into a raster object. However this is just a Live Effect in the Appearance panel and can be removed and even modify your gradient while the effect is still applied.

Gradients in Brushes

Step 2

So, I've Rasterized my two gradient shapes, now you can select your shapes and go ahead and create your brush! No pop ups advising you can't do this... BAM! Gradients within a brush!

Gradients in Brushes

Whoa, Serious? That's How Easy It Is?

So the elements you create in your new vector illustration will still contain raster elements. If you expand the strokes you'll find images within the groups you're left with, however it will be a quick solution to your gradient in brush problem... and who doesn't love to save time! You have to weigh out which works best for you in this instance... but it's a tip definitely worth remembering!

Gradients in Brushes
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