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  1. Design & Illustration
  2. Adobe Illustrator

How to Set the Brush Pressure in Illustrator

Read Time: 7 mins
Final product imageFinal product imageFinal product image
What You'll Be Creating

If you have a pressure-sensitive graphics tablet, it's possible to use pen pressure in Illustrator brushes. However, because Illustrator has five types of brushes with different settings for each, creating a pressure-sensitive brush can be quite tricky. So in this tutorial I'll show you how to choose the pressure for brush options in Adobe Illustrator!

What You'll Learn in This Adobe Illustrator Brush Pen Pressure Tutorial

  • How to set the pressure sensitivity in Illustrator
  • How to choose the pressure for brush options in Adobe Illustrator
  • How to create a pressure-sensitive brush in Illustrator
  • How to adjust the Adobe Illustrator brush pressure settings

1. How to Set the Brush Pressure for Calligraphic Brushes

Step 1

Let's start with Adobe Illustrator pressure brushes for calligraphy. Open Illustrator, and then go to Window > Brushes to open the panel with the default brushes. Take the Paintbrush Tool (B) and select the first brush from the list—a simple Calligraphic Brush.

select calligraphic brushselect calligraphic brushselect calligraphic brush

Step 2

If you draw a line with it, you'll notice it doesn't matter whether you use a graphics tablet or a mouse—the line looks exactly the same.

draw a straight linedraw a straight linedraw a straight line

Step 3

To set the pressure sensitivity for this brush, double-click its icon on the list. Calligraphic Brushes have only three settings: Angle, Roundness, and Size. All of them can be linked to the pressure of your pen. To give your lines tapered tips, you just need to set Size to Pressure, and increase the Variation.

add pressure sentitivity to calligraphic brushadd pressure sentitivity to calligraphic brushadd pressure sentitivity to calligraphic brush

Step 4

Press OK and draw another line, pressing lightly at the beginning and strongly at the end. Now the line looks exactly as you would expect!

pressure sentitivity demonstrationpressure sentitivity demonstrationpressure sentitivity demonstration

2. How to Set the Brush Pressure for Art Brushes

Step 1

Now let's see some Adobe Illustrator pressure brushes for artistic designs. Select the brush in the third row now—"Charcoal - Pencil", an example of an Art Brush.

select art brushselect art brushselect art brush

Step 2

If you draw a line with it, you'll notice it actually has a tapered end, but only because it's a part of the shape of the brush—it's not actually linked to the pressure of your pen.

art brush stroke exampleart brush stroke exampleart brush stroke example

Step 3

To set the pressure sensitivity for this brush, double-click it to open its settings. Art Brushes are more complex, but for now we're only interested in the Width property. If you open the drop-down menu next to it, you'll be able to pick Pressure. Then, by dragging the markers on the left and right, you can set the Minimum width (low pressure) and the Maximum width (high pressure).

add pressure to art brushadd pressure to art brushadd pressure to art brush

Step 4

Press OK and draw another line just like before—starting lightly and ending strongly. The width of the line will be adjusted to your pressure!

art brush pressure exampleart brush pressure exampleart brush pressure example

3. How to Set the Brush Pressure for Bristle Brushes

Step 1

Another brush on the list is "Cat's Tongue", and it's an example of a Bristle Brush.

select bristle brushselect bristle brushselect bristle brush

Step 2

If you open its settings, you'll notice it doesn't really have any drop-down menu that you could set to Pressure. This is because Bristle Brushes are pressure-sensitive by default!

bristle brush pressure settingsbristle brush pressure settingsbristle brush pressure settings

Step 3

If you don't believe me, just draw a line with your mouse, and another one with your pen. The difference is pretty clear!

bristle brush pressure demonstrationbristle brush pressure demonstrationbristle brush pressure demonstration

Step 4

Bristle Brushes are supposed to imitate traditional brushes, and in traditional brushes things are more complicated than "low pressure = small; high pressure = big". That's why you can find a lot of different settings in the Bristle Brush options, and finding the correct configuration may require some experimenting. However, both Size and Bristle Length are a good place to start if you want to control the general variation in size.

how to adjust pressure settings in bristle brushhow to adjust pressure settings in bristle brushhow to adjust pressure settings in bristle brush

4. How to Set the Brush Pressure for Pattern Brushes

Step 1

Another brush on the list is "Leather Seam", an example of a Pattern Brush.

pattern brush examplepattern brush examplepattern brush example

Step 2

If you draw a line with it, it doesn't react to pressure:

pattern brush no pressurepattern brush no pressurepattern brush no pressure

Step 3

Open its settings. They look quite complicated, but again, we're interested just in one—Scale. Open its drop-down menu, and set it to Pressure. Just like in the Art Brushes, define the Minimum and Maximum size.

add pressure to pattern brushadd pressure to pattern brushadd pressure to pattern brush

Step 4

Not all Pattern Brushes work nicely with Illustrator brush pen pressure. This one, for example, doesn't have its beginning and end defined, which works for the mouse—but makes the line go crazy when pressure is involved.

pattern brush pressure demonstrationpattern brush pressure demonstrationpattern brush pressure demonstration

Step 5

However, if you open the menu in the upper right corner of the panel and go to Open Brush Library > Arrows > Pattern Arrows, you'll have a chance to experiment with brushes that don't have this problem. So if you want to create your own pressure-sensitive Pattern Brush, it's good to learn from those!

pattern brush fixedpattern brush fixedpattern brush fixed

5. How to Set the Brush Pressure for Scatter Brushes

Step 1

The last type is a Scatter Brush. You won't find it on the default list, so open the menu and go to Open Brush Library > Decorative > Decorative Scatter. Select one of these brushes and draw a line.

scatter brush examplescatter brush examplescatter brush example

Step 2

Scatter Brushes have four main settings: Size, Spacing, Scatter, and Rotation. All of them can be set to Pressure, although Size and Spacing are best suited for it.

scatter brush pressure settingsscatter brush pressure settingsscatter brush pressure settings

Step 3

Let's compare our pressure-sensitive Scatter Brush to a default one:

scatter brush pressure demonstrationscatter brush pressure demonstrationscatter brush pressure demonstration

6. How to Create a Pressure-Sensitive Brush in Illustrator

OK, now you know how to set the brush pressure in Illustrator in the brushes that already exist. Let's now go through the process of creating a new brush from scratch!

Step 1

Create the image that you want to turn into a brush. A Scatter Brush can be made out of multiple elements, or just one. When you're done, select all the parts and press Control-G to turn them into a group.

scatter brush basescatter brush basescatter brush base

Step 2

Select the whole group and click the plus icon in the Brushes panel.

create a new brushcreate a new brushcreate a new brush

Step 3

Select Scatter Brush.

create scatter brushcreate scatter brushcreate scatter brush

Step 4

Now you can configure your brush using the same settings as before. To make the process more visual, you can use random settings at first, and press OK. Then draw a line using this brush, double-click it to edit it, and change the settings again with the Preview option checked.

scatter brush examplescatter brush examplescatter brush example

Step 5

And that's all! Here you can see the difference between the same brush used with a mouse and a tablet pen. The settings didn't change—only the pressure!

glowing stars scatter brushglowing stars scatter brushglowing stars scatter brush

7. Pressure Sensitivity in Other Tools

The Blob Brush Tool (Shift-B)

The Blob Brush Tool draws shapes instead of lines. Because this tool uses brushes from the Brushes panel, it will have whatever settings you've set for your brushes. So in order to apply pressure sensitivity to your Blob Brush, just create a brush with pressure sensitivity.

how to set pen pressure in blob brushhow to set pen pressure in blob brushhow to set pen pressure in blob brush

The Eraser Tool (Shift-E)

The Eraser Tool works like an anti-brush—its "lines" remove everything they cross. To change the settings of this "brush", double-click its icon in the toolbar. Then set its Size to Pressure, just as we did before with other brushes.

how to make eraser pressure sensitive in illustratorhow to make eraser pressure sensitive in illustratorhow to make eraser pressure sensitive in illustrator
brush pressure eraser examplebrush pressure eraser examplebrush pressure eraser example

The Pencil Tool (N)

The Pencil Tool draws lines in their most basic form. Making it react to pressure would work against this purpose—so if you need a very basic brush that does react to pressure, use the Paintbrush Tool with a very simple Calligraphic Brush.

how to set pren pressure in pencilhow to set pren pressure in pencilhow to set pren pressure in pencil

Good Job!

Now you know how to set the brush pressure in Illustrator, regardless of the brush type!

illustrator scatter brush exampleillustrator scatter brush exampleillustrator scatter brush example

If you want to learn more about the basics of Illustrator, check out these tutorials as well:

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