Creating a scatter brush

Ever spent hours copying, pasting, and repositioning shapes to create a pattern? No more! In this tutorial, we’re going to add a trail of sparkles to our fairy’s wand using a custom brush.

We’ve drawn ourselves a cute fairy floating through the air, holding up a star shaped wand. But it seems to be missing something:


Here, we’ve drawn in some swooshy shapes behind her, but it still doesn’t work. We need some sparkles trailing off the wand!


Starting Our Brush

Now we could go in, draw a star using the star tool, and copy and paste them every which way. But that’ll take forever, and quite frankly, it’s a waste of time. We can make a random scattered trail of sparkles in seconds using our brush palette (Window > Brushes). Here’s what it looks like in CS4:


First, we’ll draw a star using the star tool (which is under the ‘shapes’ drop down menu). With the star selected, go to Window > Brushes and from the drop down menu select ‘New Brush’:


We want a Scatter Brush for this tutorial. Select it and hit OK:


Here is the Scatter Brush palette:


As you can see, you’ve got a LOT of options to tinker with! You can have the stars closer or further together, sized differently, scattered about, and rotated. Let’s start by setting all fields to random, then we’ll apply our brush to a stroke and see how it looks:


You’ll see our little star is showing in our brushes palette now:


Applying Our Brush to a Stroke

We’ll draw a stroke that matches up with our swooshy line:


While the stroke is selected, click on the star brush in the brushes palette. Here’s what happens:


Fine Tuning Our Brush

Nothing much is happening here, but never fear: Now we’ll edit our brush. That’s the beauty of a brush: you can edit it at any time if you’re not happy with your results! Double click on the star brush to reopen your Scatter Brush Options. Click on the ‘Preview’ button so you can see what your edits are doing to the shapes:


You’ll notice that for each option (size, spacing, scatter and rotation), you will get 2 sliders. By tweaking each one, you are adjusting the maximums of each effect. Here are some examples of what happens when we adjust each effect:









We’ll play with our sliders until we’re happy with the effect. Click ‘OK’, and you will get another dialogue box that informs you that the brush is in use. Click ‘Apply to Strokes’ and this will apply your newly updated brush:


Now the dark blue star on the light blue background isn’t looking so hot. There are 2 ways to change the color of the brush: Double click on the brush in the brushes palette and edit it using the Scatter Brush Options, or, expand the stroke and color it manually. In this case, since this file has a lot of gradients in it, we’re going to expand and color manually so that we can add gradients to our stars.

Expanding a Brush

Click on the strokes and hit ‘Object > Expand Appearance’:


This converts our strokes into editable vector shapes again:


We’ll add a subtle white-to-pale-blue gradient to add some depth, and add a few random stars around the wand to beef up our sparkles. Voila!


© 2009 Jennifer Borton


8 thoughts on “Creating a scatter brush

  1. Amos says:

    thanx so much…….always had headsches when it came to applying new brushes through copy n paste option……really saves time.

  2. gweem_fairy says:

    OH my gosh, all this time I was wasting hours copying and pasting. Thank you for this tutorial!

  3. Allan says:

    A very detailed tutorial !! Thanks a lot !!

  4. This is wonderful, thank you!

  5. […] Creating a Custom Scatter Brush […]

  6. dalia says:

    I must repeat what Diane555 said – never played with the Brush options, even more, never new they existed, but hey, i am an Illustrator newbie. But anyways, thanks a lot. This tutorial opened so many new options for new creations!

  7. Diane555 says:

    I Use brushes but never seem to spend time playing with all the settings. This is so much nicer than my thrown together scatter brushes. I am going to try this next time.

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