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How to Create a Set of Highlighter Brushes for Illustrator

A few months ago at Vandelay Premier we recently released a set of highlighter brushes for Adobe Illustrator,and in this tutorial we’ll show how you can accomplish the same thing on your own. We’ll scan some lines made by a highlighter and that will give us a nice brush for using whenever highlighter or marker effects are needed.

Highlighter Brushes

What you will need to complete this tutorial:

  • Highlighter
  • Paper
  • Scanner
  • Adobe Illustrator

Step 1: Draw Strokes with a Highlighter

Take your highlighter and paper and create some lines or strokes.

Step 2: Scan It

After you have some strokes on paper you are ready to scan them. This is what my scan looks like.

Highlighter Brushes

Step 3: Live Trace in Illustrator

We’ll be working with just one of the strokes for this tutorial.

Highlighter Brushes

Select the image and click on the arrow next to the Live Trace button.

Highlighter Brushes

This will open a drop down menu. Click on “Tracing Options” at the bottom of the list. You will then see a window that looks like this:

Highlighter Brushes

Now we’ll change some of the settings. You may need to experiment here, as your own scan will not be the same as the one we’re using for this tutorial. For this example we’ll change the threshold to 200. Threshold control how light or dark a color must be to be picked up by the trace. In this case our green highlighter is fairly light, so we’ll increase the threshold. If your scan is darker you may be able to leave this at the default setting.

We’ll also change the path fitting to 1, minimum area to 5, the corner angle to 10, and most importantly we’ll check the box for “ignore white”. By doing this, and white areas in the scan will be transparent instead of white.

Highlighter Brushes

If you plan to use the same setting for several different scans (which is likely if you are creating a set of brushes with the same style), click on “save preset” so you can run the same scan again without making the changes.

Highlighter Brushes

When you’re ready to run the trace, click the “Trace” button. After the trace is run it should look something like this:

Highlighter Brushes

Then you’ll need to click on the “Expand” button to complete the process of converting the image into a usable vector.

Highlighter Brushes

Step 4: Turn it into a Brush

Next, use the selection tool to select the highlighter stroke and tilt it so that the stroke is as straight as possible. If your scan is already straight, you can skip this.

Highlighter Brushes

Click on the brushes icon.

Highlighter Brushes

Click on the down arrow.

Highlighter Brushes

Then select “New Brush” and “Art Brush”. That will open up the Art Brush Options.

Highlighter Brushes

Give your brush a name, select “Scale Proportionately”, and change the colorization method to “Tints”. (Changing the colorization method to “tints” allows you to use the brush in any color).

Highlighter Brushes

After you’re done, click “Ok”. Your brush is now ready!

Highlighter Brushes

You can now try using the brush. Select the brush tool, select your new brush, and create a stroke.

Highlighter Brushes

You can change the color by selecting the path and changing the color of the stroke.

Highlighter Brushes

Highlighter Brushes

Step 5: Creating the Brush Set

If you want to continue and create a set of brushes you can repeat the process with the other strokes that you created. In this example we have a set of 3 brushes:

Highlighter Brushes

Then, save the file that includes all of your custom brushes as a .ai file. When you want to use your custom brushes on another file, click on the down arrow:

Highlighter Brushes

Then select “Open Brush Library” and “Other Library”.

Highlighter Brushes

Then browse to find the file on your computer. When you open the brushes file your see a window that allows you to select any of the brushes in that set.

Highlighter Brushes

You now have a set of custom highlighter brushes that you can use at any time.


Vandelay Design Blog

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