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How to Create a Detailed Bullet Chain Pattern Brush in Adobe Illustrator

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Difficulty:IntermediateLength:LongLanguages:
Final product image
What You'll Be Creating

In the following steps you will learn how to create a detailed bullet chain pattern brush and how to create a nice illustration using it in Adobe Illustrator. 

For starters you will learn how to set up a simple grid. Next, using simple tools and effects along with some basic blending and vector shape building techniques, you will learn how to create the main bullet shapes. Using several blends and some warp effects, you will learn how to create the bullet tip and how to add a bit more depth for your entire bullet. 

Moving on, you will learn how to create your bullet pattern brush and how to easily multiply it. Finally, you will learn how to save and use a simple graphic style and how to create a nice illustration using your set of pattern brushes.

1. Create a New Document and Set Up a Grid

Hit Control-N to create a new document. Select Pixels from the Units drop-down menu, enter 600 in the width and height boxes and then click on the Advanced button. Select RGB, Screen (72 ppi) and make sure that the Align New Objects to Pixel Grid box is unchecked before you click OK.

Enable the Grid (View > Show Grid) and the Snap to Grid (View > Snap to Grid). You will need a grid every 1px, so simply go to Edit > Preferences > Guides > Grid, enter 1 in the Gridline every box and 1 in the Subdivisions box. Try not to get discouraged by all that grid—it will make your work easier, and keep in mind that you can easily enable or disable it using the Control-" keyboard shortcut.

You should also open the Info panel (Window > Info) for a live preview with the size and position of your shapes. Do not forget to set the unit of measurement to pixels from Edit > Preferences > Units > General. All these options will significantly increase your work speed.

setup grid

2. Create the Base of Your Bullet

Step 1

Pick the Rectangle Tool (M) and focus on your Toolbar. Remove the color from the stroke, and then select the fill and set its color at R=147 G=93 B=23. Move to your artboard and simply create a 8 x 1px rectangle. Make sure that this new shape stays selected and go to Effect > Stylize > Rounded Corners. Enter a 0.5 px Radius, click the OK button and then go to Object > Expand Appearance.

rounded rectangle

Step 2

Return to your Toolbar and replace the existing fill color with R=253 G=212 B=117. Using the Rectangle Tool (M), create a 2 x 1 px shape and place it exactly as shown in the first image. Get back to your Toolbar and double click on the Blend Tool to open the Blend Options window. Select Specified Steps from the Spacing drop-down menu and enter 15 in that white box.

Reselect the two shapes made so far and simply hit Alt-Control-B to create a new blend. In the end things should look like in the third image.

first blend

Step 3

Using the Rectangle Tool (M), create a 1 px square and place it as shown in the first image. Make sure that this new shape stays selected and focus on the Appearance panel (Window > Appearance).

Replace the existing fill color with R=255 G=240 B=165 and then click that "Opacity" piece of text to open the Transparency fly-out panel and change the Blending mode to Overlay.

tiny square

Step 4

Make sure that Rectangle Tool (M) is still active, create a 6 x 1 px shape, place it as shown in the first image and set the fill color to R=127 G=73 B=3.

Using the same tool, create a 2 x 1 px shape, place it as shown in the second image and set the fill color to R=233 G=192 B=97.

two rectangles

Step 5

Make sure that the two rectangles made in the previous step are still selected and create a new blend using that same Alt-Control-B keyboard shortcut. In the end things should look like in the second image.

Reselect the Rectangle Tool (M), create a 1 px square, place it as shown in the third image and focus on the Appearance panel. Replace the existing fill color with R=255 G=240 B=165, change the Blending Mode to Overlay and lower the Opacity to 60%.

second blend

3. Create the Body of Your Bullet

Step 1

Using the Rectangle Tool (M), create an 8 x 22 px shape, place it exactly as shown in the first image, and set the fill color to R=147 G=93 B=23. Focus on the bottom side of this new rectangle and switch to the Direct Selection Tool (A). Select both anchor points, move to the top bar and simply enter 1 px in that Corners box. In the end your dark brown shape should look like in the second image.

This feature is only available for CC users. The best solution to replace this effect would be the Round Any Corner script that can found in this article: 20 Free and Useful Adobe Illustrator Scripts. Save it to your hard drive, return to Illustrator and grab the Direct Selection Tool (A). Select both anchor points and go to File > Scripts > Other Script. Open the Round Any Corner Script, enter a 1 px radius and click OK. In some cases you will have to increase/decrease the value mentioned in that Corners box. This shouldn't be one of those cases.

live corners

Step 2

Disable the Snap to Grid (Shift-Control-') and then go to Edit > Preferences > General and make sure that the Keyboard Increment is set to 1 px.

Make sure that your dark, brown shape is still selected and make two copies in front (Control-C > Control-F > Control-F). Select only the top copy and move it 1 px up using the up arrow button from your keyboard. Reselect both copies made in this step, open the Pathfinder panel (Window > Pathfinder) and simply click the Minus Front button.

Make sure that the resulting shape stays selected and focus on the Appearance panel. Replace the existing fill color with a simple black (R=0 G=0 B=0), lower the Opacity to 30% and change the Blending Mode to Soft Light.

shading

Step 3

Enable the Snap to Grid (Shift-Control-').

Using the Rectangle Tool (M), create a 2 x 22 px shape, place it as shown in the first image and set the fill color to R=253 G=212 B=117. Select this new rectangle along with the dark brown shape that lies in the back, and create a new blend using that same Alt-Control-B keyboard shortcut. Make sure that this new blend is still selected and send it backward using the Control-[ keyboard shortcut.

new blend

Step 4

Using the Rectangle Tool (M), create a 1 x 22 px shape, place it as shown below and focus on the Appearance panel. Replace the existing fill color with R=255 G=240 B=165 and change the Blending Mode to Overlay.

highlight

Step 5

Using the Rectangle Tool (M), create an 8 x 1 px shape, place it as shown in the first image and focus on the Appearance panel. Replace the existing fill color with black, lower the Opacity to 10% and change the Blending Mode to Overlay.

Using the same tool, create second 8 x 1 px shape, place it as shown in the second image and return to the Appearance panel. Replace the existing fill color with a simple white (R=255 G=255 B=255), lower the Opacity to 30% and change the Blending Mode to Overlay.

shading and highlight

Step 6

Using the Rectangle Tool (M), create an 8 x 2 px shape, place it as shown in the first image and set the fill color to R=147 G=93 B=23. Focus on the top side of this new rectangle and switch to the Direct Selection Tool (A).

Select the left anchor point and drag it 1 px to the right, and then select the right anchor point and drag it 1 px to the left. In the end this should turn your rectangle into a simple trapezoid as shown in the second image.

trapezoid

Step 7

Disable the Snap to Grid (Shift-Control-').

Make sure that your trapezoid is still selected and make two copies in front (Control-C > Control-F > Control-F). Select the top copy and move it 1 px up using that same up arrow button from your keyboard. Reselect both copies made in this step and click the Minus Front button from the Pathfinder panel.

Make sure that the resulting shape stays selected and focus on the Appearance panel. Replace the existing fill color with white, lower the Opacity to 20% and change the Blending Mode to Overlay.

minus front

Step 8

Enable the Snap to Grid (Shift-Control-').

Using the Rectangle Tool (M), create a 2 px square, place it as shown in the first image and set the fill color to R=255 G=240 B=165. Select this new shape along with the trapezoid that lies in the back, create a new blend (Alt-Control-B) and send it backward (Control-[).

Make sure that the Rectangle Tool (M) is still active, create a 1 x 2 px shape, place it as shown in the fourth image and focus on the Appearance panel. Replace the existing fill color with R=255 G=240 B=165, lower the Opacity to 80% and change the Blending Mode to Overlay.

new blend

Step 9

Using the Rectangle Tool (M), create a 6 px square, place it as shown in the first image and set the fill color to R=147 G=93 B=23. Focus on the top side of this new shape and switch to the Direct Selection Tool (A). Select the left anchor point and drag it 1 px to the right, and then select the right anchor point and drag it 1 px to the left.

trapezoid

Step 10

Using the Rectangle Tool (M), create a 2 x 6 px shape, place it as shown in the first image and set the fill color to R=253 G=212 B=117. Focus on the top side of this new rectangle and switch to the Direct Selection Tool (A). Select the right anchor point and drag it 1 px to the left.

direct selection tool

Step 11

Disable the Snap to Grid (Shift-Control-').

Reselect your newest brown trapezoid and make two copies in front (Control-C > Control-F > Control-F). Select the top copy and move it 1 px up. Reselect both copies made in this step and click the Minus Front button from the Pathfinder panel.

Make sure that the resulting shape stays selected, bring it to front (Shift-Control-]) and then focus on the Appearance panel. Replace the existing fill color with black, lower the Opacity to 10% and change the Blending Mode to Overlay.

shading

Step 12

Reselect your newest brown trapezoid and make two copies in front (Control-C > Control-F > Control-F). Select the top copy and move it 5 px up. Reselect both copies made in this step and click the Minus Front button from the Pathfinder panel.

Make sure that the resulting shape stays selected, bring it to front (Shift-Control-]) and then focus on the Appearance panel. Replace the existing fill color with white, lower the Opacity to 20% and change the Blending Mode to Overlay.

highlight

Step 13

Select the two shapes highlighted in the following image, create a new blend (Alt-Control-B) and send it backward (Control-[).

blend

Step 14

Enable the Snap to Grid (Shift-Control-').

Using the Rectangle Tool (M), create a 1 x 6 px shape, place it as shown in the fourth image and focus on the Appearance panel. Replace the existing fill color with R=255 G=240 B=165, lower the Opacity to 60% and change the Blending Mode to Overlay.

highlight

4. Create the Bullet Tip

Step 1

Using the Rectangle Tool (M), create a 2 x 19 px shape, place it as shown in the first image and pick a random red for the fill color. Focus on the top side of this new rectangle, pick the Delete Anchor Point Tool (-) and simply click on the left anchor point to remove it. In the end things should look like in the second image.

red triangle

Step 2

Make sure that your red shape is still selected and go to Effect > Warp > Arc Upper. Enter the attributes shown in the following image, click the OK button and then go to Object > Expand Appearance.

arc upper

Step 3

Using the Rectangle Tool (M), create a 2 x 19 px shape, place it as shown in the first image and pick a random blue for the fill color. Focus on the top side of this new rectangle, pick the Delete Anchor Point Tool (-) and remove the right anchor point. In the end things should look like in the second image.

blue triangle

Step 4

Make sure that your blue shape is still selected and go to Effect > Warp > Arc Lower. Enter the attributes shown in the following image, click the OK button and then go to Object > Expand Appearance.

arc lower

Step 5

Reselect your red and blue shapes and click the Unite button from the Pathfinder panel. Make sure that the resulting shape stays selected and pick the Direct Selection Tool (A). Select the top anchor point and simply enter 0.43 px in that Corners box. In the end your blue shape should look like in the third image.

blue shape

Step 6

Disable the Snap to Grid (Shift-Control-').

Make sure that your blue shape is selected and make two copies in front (Control-F > Control-F > Control-F). Select the top copy and move it 1 px to the right. Reselect both copies made in this step and click the Intersect button from the Pathfinder panel. Make sure that the resulting shape is selected and replace the existing fill color with a simple green (R=138 G=195 B=63).

green shape

Step 7

Make sure that your green shape is selected and make two copies in front (Control-F > Control-F > Control-F). Select the top copy and move it 1 px to the left. Reselect both copies made in this step and click the Minus Front button from the Pathfinder panel. Make sure that the resulting shape is selected and replace the existing fill color with R=195 G=146 B=65.

minus front

Step 8

Make sure that your green shape is selected and make two copies in front (Control-F > Control-F > Control-F). Select the top copy and move it 2 px to the left. Reselect both copies made in this step and click the Minus Front button from the Pathfinder panel. Make sure that the resulting shape is selected and replace the existing fill color with R=253 G=212 B=117.

minus front

Step 9

Reselect your green shape, focus on the Appearance panel and replace the existing fill color with R=254 G=135 B=137.

change color

Step 10

Enable the Snap to Grid (Shift-Control-').

Using the Rectangle Tool (M), create a 4 x 1 px shape, place it as shown in the following image, make sure that it stays selected and move to the Appearance panel. Set the fill color to black, lower the Opacity to 50% and change the Blending Mode to Soft Light.

shading

Step 11

Make sure that your blue shape is selected and make a copy in front (Control-F > Control-F). Using the Rectangle Tool (M), create a 2 x 15 px shape, place it as shown in the first image and use a random red for the fill color. Select this new rectangle along with the copy of the blue shape, and click the Intersect button from the Pathfinder panel.

Make sure that the resulting shape stays selected and move to the Appearance panel. Replace the existing fill color with white and change the Blending Mode to Soft Light.

shading

Step 12

Reselect your blue shape, make a copy in front (Control-C > Control-F) and bring it to front (Shift-Control-]). Make sure that this copy stays selected and focus on the Appearance panel. Replace the existing fill color with black and change the Blending Mode to Soft Light.

soft light

Step 13

Reselect your blue shape, focus on the Appearance panel and replace the existing fill color with R=172 G=121 B=45.

change color

5. Create the Metallic Bullet Holders

Step 1

Using the Rectangle Tool (M), create an 8 x 15 px shape, place it as shown in the following image, make sure that it stays selected and focus on the Appearance panel. Set the fill color to black, lower the Opacity to 40% and change the Blending Mode to Soft Light.

shading

Step 2

Using the Rectangle Tool (M), create an 8 x 9 px shape, place it as shown in the following image, make sure that it stays selected and focus on the Appearance panel. Set the fill color to black, lower the Opacity to 20% and change the Blending Mode to Multiply.

multiply

Step 3

Using the Rectangle Tool (M), create two 10 x 3 px shapes and one 10 x 5 px shape, and then place them exactly as shown in the first image. Make sure that these three shapes remain selected and focus on the Appearance panel.

Set the fill color to R=39 G=167 B=222 and then go to Effect > Stylize > Rounded Corners. Enter a 1.5 px Radius, click the OK button and then go to Object > Expand Appearance. Select the three resulting shapes and turn them into a simple compound path using the Control-8 keyboard shortcut.

blue compound path

Step 4

Using the Rectangle Tool (M), create two 2 x 3 px shapes and one 2 x 5 px shape, and then place them exactly as shown in the first image. Make sure that these three shapes remain selected, turn them into a compound path (Control-8) and set the fill color to R=87 G=89 B=72.

dark rectangles

Step 5

Disable the Snap to Grid (Shift-Control-').

Select your blue compound path and make two copies in front (Control-C > Control-F > Control-F). Select the top copy and move it 1 px down using the down arrow button from your keyboard. Reselect both copies made in this step and click the Minus Front button from the Pathfinder panel.

Turn the resulting group of shapes into a new compound path (Control-8), bring it to front (Shift-Control-]) and then focus on the Appearance panel. Replace the existing fill color with white, lower the Opacity to 30% and change the Blending Mode to Overlay.

highlight

Step 6

Select your blue compound path and make two copies in front (Control-C > Control-F > Control-F). Select the top copy and move it 1 px up using the up arrow button from your keyboard. Reselect both copies made in this step and click the Minus Front button from the Pathfinder panel.

Turn the resulting group of shapes into a new compound path (Control-8), bring it to front (Shift-Control-]) and then focus on the Appearance panel. Replace the existing fill color with black, lower the Opacity to 30% and change the Blending Mode to Overlay.

shading

Step 7

Make sure that your blue compound path is still selected, focus on the Appearance panel and replace the existing fill color with R=37 G=39 B=22.

change color

Step 8

Select the two compound paths highlighted in the following image and create a new blend (Alt-Control-B).

new blend

Step 9

Enable the Snap to Grid (Shift-Control-').

Using the Rectangle Tool (M), create two 1 x 3 px shapes and one 1 x 5 px shape and then place them exactly as shown in the first image. Make sure that these three shapes remain selected and focus on the Appearance panel. Set the fill color to white, lower the Opacity to 30% and change the Blending Mode to Overlay.

highlights

Step 10

Using the Ellipse Tool (L), create three 1 px circles, place them as shown in the following image and set the fill color to R=37 G=39 B=22.

tiny circles

6. Create Your Pattern Brushes

Step 1

Select all the shapes made so far, open the Brushes panel (Window > Brushes) and click the New Brush button. Check the Pattern Brush box and then click the OK button to open the Pattern Brush Options window.

Name your new brush "Pattern Brush 100", enter all the attributes shown in the following image, make sure that the Scale slider is set to 100% and then click the OK button.

new pattern brush

Step 2

Keep focusing on the Brushes panel, make sure that your pattern bush is still selected and simply drag it above that same New Brush button to duplicate it. Focus on the copy and simply double click on it to open the Pattern Brush Options window. Drag the Scale slider to 80%, change the name to "Pattern Brush 80" and then click the OK button.

Use the same technique to add another two brush copies. For the first copy, drag the Scale slider to 120% and for the second one drag the slider to 150%. In the end you should have a set of four pattern brushes.

multiply pattern brush

7. Use Your Pattern Brushes to Create a Simple Illustration

Step 1

Using the Rectangle Tool (M), create a 610 px square, make sure that it covers your entire artboard and set the fill color to R=255 G=244 B=225. Make sure that this new shape stays selected, focus on the Appearance panel and add a second fill using the Add New Fill button.

Select this new fill, set the color to black, lower its Opacity to 50%, change the Blending Mode to Soft Light and then go to Effect > Artistic > Film Grain. Enter the attributes shown in the following image and then click the OK button.

background

Step 2

Using the Pen Tool (P) or the Line Tool (\), create a set of oblique paths roughly as shown in the first image. Select these paths one by one and add your pattern brushes. Use "Pattern Brush 100" for the top and bottom paths, "Pattern Brush 150" for the middle one and "Pattern Brush 120" for the remaining two.

oblique paths

Step 3

Select one of those oblique paths and make a copy in front (Control-C > Control-F). Select this copy and go to Object > Expand Appearance. Make sure that the resulting group of shapes is selected, click the Unite button from the Pathfinder panel, and then turn that new set of shapes into a simple compound path (Control-8). Fill it with black.

black compound path

Step 4

Focus on the Layers panel and drag your black compound path below the paths with the pattern brushes. Select the black compound path, move to the Appearance panel and simply add the five Drop Shadow effects (Effect > Stylize > Drop Shadow) shown in the following image.

Once you're done, open the Graphic Styles panel (Window > Graphic Styles). Make sure that your black compound path is still selected and simply click the New Graphic Style button.

graphic style

Step 5

Move to the other oblique paths and repeat the techniques used for the first one. Once you make the black compound path, simply add your graphic style from the Graphic Styles panel.

graphic style

Step 6

Using the Rectangle Tool (M), create a 450 px square, place it as shown in the following image, make sure that it stays selected, and focus on the Appearance panel. Remove the fill color, add your "Pattern Brush 80" pattern brush, and then go to Effect > Stylize > Rounded Corners. Enter a 100 px Radius and then click the OK button.

rounded square

Step 7

Make sure that your 450 px square is still selected and make a copy in front (Control-C > Control-F). Select it and go to Object > Expand Appearance

Make sure that the resulting group of shapes is selected, click the Unite button from the Pathfinder panel and then turn all those shapes into a compound path (Control-8). Select it, add your graphic style, and then focus on the Layers panel and drag this new compound path below the original 450 px square.

graphic style

Step 8

Finally, select your 610 px square, make a copy in front (Control-F > Control-F) and bring it to front (Shift-Control-]).

Make sure that this copy stays selected and focus on the Appearance panel. Remove the top fill and then select the remaining one. Change its Blending Mode to Soft Light and replace the existing fill color with the radial gradient shown in the following image. Keep in mind that the yellow zero from the Gradient image stands for Opacity percentage.

radial gradient

Congratulations! You're Done!

Here is how it should look. I hope you've enjoyed this tutorial and can apply these techniques in your future projects.

final product
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