Botanical Brushes: grow a plant illustration and pattern with art brushes in Adobe Illustrator® | Sue Gibbins | Skillshare

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Botanical Brushes: grow a plant illustration and pattern with art brushes in Adobe Illustrator®

teacher avatar Sue Gibbins, Designer at Rocket & Indigo

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Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

13 Lessons (1h 18m)
    • 1. Welcome

    • 2. Research & Drawing

    • 3. Colour Palette

    • 4. Building Motifs

    • 5. Creating Brushes

    • 6. Botanical Brush Set

    • 7. Growing an Illustration

    • 8. Adding Depth

    • 9. Repeat Pattern

    • 10. Re-Colouring

    • 11. Expanding Brush Strokes

    • 12. Your Project

    • 13. Thank you

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About This Class

Hi! In this class I’ll show you how to use the power of Adobe Illustrator custom brushes. We’ll make leaves, petals and stems that can be painted on and curled into position. Using botanical brushes in layers, we’ll see the design literally grow and flourish into a beautiful plant. Plus I’ll show this for both a placement illustration and then for a repeat pattern.

This Botanical Brushes class is geared towards designers with some knowledge of Adobe Illustrator already who want to learn additional techniques. For those wanting introductory lessons or a refresher first, please check out my earlier class called ‘Making Motifs in Adobe Illustrator – find your unique vector style’.

For class you will need the Illustrator software. If like me you wish to start your project by drawing traditionally, then you’ll also need some very basic materials like plain paper, pencil and black pen, plus smart phone, scanner or other method of getting your work into the computer.

I’m excited to show you how to grow plant designs with botanical brushes, so let’s get started!

Meet Your Teacher

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Sue Gibbins

Designer at Rocket & Indigo


Hi, I’m Sue Gibbins (aka Rocket & Indigo), a British surface pattern designer inspired by my surroundings, travel and nature. My artwork style mixes graphic shape with hand-drawn line, often using bold colour palettes. I especially enjoy drawing animals and plants. To see more of my art and to chat, let's meet on Instagram @rocketandindigo. 

In addition to designing, I have also been a teacher and instructor in one form or another for many years. I'm passionate about sharing what I know and seeing how others take that forward with their own projects. I hope you enjoy my classes and share what you make with us in the project galleries. Have fun!


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1. Welcome: Hi, I'm Sue, a surface pattern designer and illustrator from the UK working under my studio name Rocket & Indigo. In this class, I will show you the power of Adobe Illustrator custom brushes. We'll make leaves, petals and stems that can be painted on and curled into position. Using botanical brushes in layers we'll see the design literally grow and flourish into a beautiful plant. Plus, I'll show you this for both a placement illustration and then for a repeat pattern. This botanical brushes class is geared towards designers with some knowledge of Adobe Illustrator already who would like to learn additional techniques. For those wanting introductory lessons or a refresher first, please check out my earlier class called "Making Motifs in Adobe Illustrator: find your unique vector style". For class you will need Adobe Illustrator software. If like me, you'd like to start your project by drawing traditionally, then you'll also need some very basic materials like plain paper, pencil and black pen, plus smartphone, scanner or other method of getting your work into the computer. I'm excited to show you how to grow plant designs with botanical brushes. So let's get started. 2. Research & Drawing: Hello again. For this project, we'll be choosing a plant as our subject matter. It's great to get outside and find inspiration. I also have hundreds of photos of plants that I've taken over the years. So I often browse through those to help me choose. In this case, I have chosen hot chili pepper plants as my subject. These are a few photos taken in our greenhouse. With your subject chosen it's time to roughly sketch out some ideas. You can do this digitally using Illustrator or on plain paper. I still prefer paper for sketching. This stage is about coming up with a pleasing layout and identifying any special features you want to include, like the decoration on a pot. I normally do a few iterations and work on the positioning of main flowers and fruits on branches to check the distribution looks balanced. Here, I might use some color in my sketch to help check the balance. I usually go freestyle with the positioning of leaves, so I don't tend to include those on the concept sketch. Concept sketches don't have to be polished, and you can see mine certainly aren't! From these concept sketches, I make a list of elements I need to draw out in full. For example, chilis, flowers, leaves, stems, pot, decoration design on the pot, and so on. My method sometimes includes pulling apart the sections of the motifs and drawing them separately, so I might identify this in my list. For the organic elements I usually draw at least three of each motif to add the sort of variety we see in nature, I prefer to use a brush pen and micron fine line pens, plus a white gel pen to add highlights and remove sections of black if needed. You can use whatever drawing equipment and methods you like best so long as you can turn them into vector artwork. For botanical brushes, it is best to create motifs that follow a straight line. These first three chilis already have a curve in them, which could look strange and over-curved when applied along a curved stroke line. So I also drew some chilis that follow generally a straight line. They don't have to be drawn with a ruler or anything like that. You still want to have the organic feel to the lines, but just try to get the overall direction straight. If some of the motifs for your project aren't the sort of shape that follow a line, round fruits for example, then you don't have to make those into brushes; just create them as regular motifs. Then you can make the stems and leaves as brushes, so you can mix and match. And I often do that for these projects. I was very enthusiastic about my drawings and I've gone a bit over the top with the number of motifs I've drawn. But you don't have to do so many. You can just draw one of each motif if you like. For leaves and petals, three of each works well if you want a naturalistic look to your plant. When I draw any elements I normally have in mind how I will use them in Illustrator. For example, I may separate petals on the flower if I now I wish to move them independently in the computer or turn them into their own brushes. For these leaves, I want to enclose the veins exactly inside the leaf shape. And I'm going to show you a technique for that in Illustrator later. I find it easiest to trace the vein separately, so I have only inked in the veins here. I'm actually going to leave the outlines in pencil and draw those digitally so you can see that method as well. I'll use a similar technique for the pot. So I've just inked the decoration and left the pot outline in pencil. So those are my motif drawings for this chilli plant project. Either photograph your drawings or scan them into the computer. I've use regular A4 paper, and my scanner supports auto feed, so I'm going to switch from the flatbed to the feeder to speed things up. I don't recommend using the feeder of a scanner for any precious artworks though, as paper can occasionally get jammed. I have positioned my sheets of paper carefully in the feed tray and I'll set the scan off using the default setting of 300 dpi. I have a folder called Sketches for my scanned items to go into. Your setup will likely differ from mine. Just use whatever tools you have to get the drawings into your computer at a reasonable resolution, making sure that they are focused and the lighting is even. Alternatively, you can do all of your drawings directly into Illustrator. 3. Colour Palette: Welcome back. We're now ready to head over to Adobe Illustrator. I'll be using CC 2018. To help you see what I'm doing, I'll generally use the menus and select the tool with the mouse at least the first time I used them. But a faster way is to use shortcut keys for tools and actions you use a lot in the software. In the Resources section of the project tab I will provide links to the website where you can find Illustrator shortcuts lists. To start, create a new file. Since vector graphics are fully scalable, the exact size is not critical. I commonly work on 300 mm squares for patterns and I set up the document as CMYK. I'll save that to my projects artwork folder as an AI file. Before building up my vector motifs, I first like to have a working color palette. I'll likely change it before completing the design, but having a working palette makes it easier for me to see how my motifs and designs are shaping up. I have the Swatches panel open and docked here. But if you can't see it, go to the Window menu and select Swatches to open it up. Remember you can do that with any panels you need but are not visible in your workspace. I'll go to the Swatches panel menu to select all unused swatches and drag them to the trash icon. I also like to delete the black, white, and gray color swatches because I prefer to mix my own, but you could leave them if you wish. I like to keep things organized in color groups because it makes re-coloring and bringing in swatches from libraries easier. So I'll create a color group now and give it a name. Choosing colors for artwork is down to the individual, and I don't believe there's any magic formula, but I will provide some suggestions for developing a working palette. One way to get a starting point on colors is to use your own photos that have a pleasing palette and extract colors from the image. There are several apps available to help with this process. You basically upload your own photos and the app makes a pallet suggestion. Within Illustrator you can pick out your own colors, so I'll use File, Place and bring in my example photo. I'll select the Eyedropper tool, which is shortcup key I. That allows me to pick up color from the photo and it appears in the Swatches area. When I have the color that I like, I can create a new swatch. To make palette modifications easier later I setup my colors as global with this checkbox so that I can make changes across the whole document if needed. I used CMYK as standard. I usually set the percentages to whole numbers, but that's totally optional. The new color appears as a swatch and you can drag it into your color group. You could pick multiple colors from your photos like this if you want to, but I find it doesn't always make for the best palettes. You can also start with one color and use the harmonies list in Illustrator's Color Guide panel to provide accompanying colors. There are lots of options if you scroll down. I quite like the magenta and teal combination going on here in this complement palette. You can select and drop these sets into the Swatches panel using this icon here, then play around with the swatches you especially like. I'll just add this one to my color group and delete the unwanted ones. Notice that the magenta swatch has a white triangle in the corner, and that indicates it's a global swatch. The new one isn't yet, so I'm going to go in by double-clicking and turn it into a global swatch. While I'm here, I might as well make these numbers a bit more readable. You may, like me, have palettes created already that form part of your style. I often open one of my existing pallets as a starting point. To open an existing palette, go to the Swatches panel menu and choose Open Swatch Library, user-defined. I'm going to open my Monsters Library. It will open in its own panel and I can click the group to have it moved to my main Swatches panel. I want to put these lighter colors, including a nice neutral cream, into my color group, then I can remove the others that I don't need. These ones are already global swatches, as indicated by the little white triangle in the corner. You can also make your own colors from scratch. Click the new swatch icon. I'm going to make a dark color for my palate. A navy color would be good. If you have percentages already, you can type them in or drag the sliders to get the mixture you like. We don't need this photo now, so I'll delete it. Often you'll want to tweak colors once you have them. I like to see a larger swatch on the artboard so I sometimes make some boxes. A quick and easy way to copy objects on the artboard is to hold down Option on Mac or Alt on Windows while dragging the object. I like to line up the colors in an order roughly from lights to darks. Adjusting colors as super easy if you set them up as global, just double-click, adjust the numbers or sliders, checking preview on and off to compare the original and the new color on the artboard. When you say OK, every instance of that color in the file is changed. I'm going to give each of these colors a little tweak. You'll see that I'm speeding up the video here because I'm repeating something I've shown you before. Since this is an intermediate class, I'll do that a few times along the way. And if you need more time to take in the details, then use the navigation bar at the bottom of the video to pause or slow it down to half speed. To save this new set of swatches, use the menu and save library. Be sure to save to the default location for swatches so it will appear in the user-defined menu, and choose a helpful name so you can find it again. I'll also saved the main AI file as well. 4. Building Motifs: Hello again. We have our colors up in Swatches panel now and we are ready to build motifs. As we grow our plant in Illustrator layers will be very helpful. I have my Layers panel docked over here, but if you can't see yours, go to the Window menu and select Layers to open it up. Let's start by organizing and naming our layers. I like to create at least one layer for each type of element. chilis, flowers, leaves, stems, pot and background. Note that the stems should go below the pot so that they grow out from behind it. So drag that layer down in the stacking order. Later we may add additional layers to help us create further depth to the design. While I'm preparing motifs, I'll keep any layers I'm not using locked with this padlock so I don't accidentally move items on other layers. Just click again on the padlock to unlock a layer for editing. On the background layer, I'm going to create a box that is the size of my artboard and give it a lighter color. Align it exactly to the artboard using the Align panel and then lock that layer. I will now show you my way of creating motifs, but you can create your artwork in your usual way for your project. Just note that artwork for brushes cannot contain certain complex elements, such as gradients, blends, other brushstrokes, placed files or live type. First, my chili motifs. Unlock the layer for chilies. I'll bring in the drawing using the File Place command. I'll open the Image Trace panel, which I have docked here. You can access it via the Window menu. For settings, I'll choose Sketched Art from the image trace presets. With the Preview box checked it will show you how the trace will look. Notice that the white paper has totally vanished. That is because I have Ignore White checked in the advanced settings. If you don't have this checked, you'll have to select all the white later to remove it from the trace. I'm going to go to look at the preview to see if all the lines are solid enough. If I have any unwanted gaps then I can increase this threshold slider to get the gaps filled. But this drawing is okay. So I'll click on Expand to commit that trace. After tracing all the black areas are grouped, so I can use Object, Ungroup to split them apart so I can work on them further. With image trace, files can sometimes get large, especially when duplicating motifs many times for patterns. So I like to simplify the paths just enough to reduce the file size but without it being noticeable. This is an optional step but recommended. Go to Object, Path, Simplify, check the preview box. At 50% of the motif quality is no good so I change the percentage to around 95 to 99% until there isn't a noticeable change in motif quality. Note the reduction in points that will reduce file size. You can toggle preview on and off to compare before and after. For my style, I don't usually have any outlines. So one technique is to remove the inner parts with the white arrow Direct Selection tool (shortcut key A). So you can see I'll zoom in. By the way, the fastest way to zoom is with the shortcut keys. Use Command + and Command - on Mac or Control + and Control - on Windows to zoom in and out. To move around the artboard, the hand tool is useful as well. Holding down the spacebar while using the mouse allows you to navigate around the artboard. I'm going to grab the inner part of the shape with the white arrow. Can you see it's only the inner part this is selected? I'll now press the delete key once then twice to remove all the anchor points. I'll now get the regular selection tool, the black arrow (or shortcut key V), and then recolor the main elements so you can see the other shape inside again. Now, I repeat that process for the stalk as well. I sometimes use the smooth tool a little to finesse the shapes. By the way, if you want to swap to a different shape without deselecting the smooth tool, just press Command on Mac or Control on Windows and click. For my highlight and shadow textures, I like to color them using the same color as the main shape and apply blending modes. This makes re-coloring motifs a lot easier and more consistent. The blending modes and opacity settings are found in the Transparency panel. Once again mine is docked but it can be found via the Window menu as well. For a highlight, I use Screen blending mode. To make a shadow on this chili, I'm going to duplicate the shape using Edit, Copy and Edit, Place In Front. For shadow, I use multiply blending. With the top copy selected, I'll use the eraser to remove the non-shadow areas of the chili. I'll group those together with Object, Group. I'm going to use multiply blending to make the shadow on the stalk as well and then group those together. Position the stalk over the chili. If you need to change the order front-to-back, use Object, Arrange. Once finished I'll group the entire motif using the shortcut Command G on Mac or Control G on Windows. I'm not going to repeat that procedure to create the other chili motifs. For me, the stalk shadows are too dark, so I am going to reduce the blending percentage. For my first motif where the elements are already grouped, I can go into edit groups without ungrouping by entering isolation mode. To do this, double-click to enter each group of objects. Double-click away from the motif to exit. Once all the motifs are ready I'll move them to the side and lock the layer. I will make the stems in the same way by placing my drawing on the stems layer and image tracing. This time I noticed that my outline is not complete, so I need to bump up the Threshold to fix that before I expand. Now nngroup and simplify to reduce the points and file size. Now I can remove outlines. I'll color them. And use blending to create a subtle shadows. I'll just extend the length of the shadow areas and little. Finally group each stem into a complete motif. They can go off to the side and lock the stems layer. Remember to save your work regularly. Now onto the leaves. Begin by placing the sketch on the leaves layer. In this case, I've left the outlines in pencil so I can show you this optional extra technique. I'll use Object, Lock, Selection to lock this sketch and use it as a guide to draw the leaf outlines digitally with Illustrator's pencil tool, which can also be accessed with shortcut key N. Although I'm using a tablet stylus here, the mouse will also work with Illustrator's pencil tool. It's just easier to control the pencil with a stylus versus a mouse. Note that you can adjust sections of pencil lines by going over the drawing. I'm aiming to have the veins go right the way to the edge of the leaf. Pencil lines can also be smoothed. You can also change the setting of the digital pencil tool by double-clicking and adjusting the Fidelity slider. I recommend to use less smoothing if creating serrated edges for your leaves. I'll draw the outlines in for all my leaves. Now go to Object, Unlock All to unlock the drawing. I'll bring that to the front with Object, Arrange, Bring To Front. Now image trace my scanned drawing. Let's get in a bit closer. That looks fine. So Expand and ungroup the trace. I'll simplify that slightly to keep the file size down. Now color the leaves and veins. Let's have a closer look. You can see that the veins go slightly outside the leaf. I wanted to keep them inside, so I'll use a clipping mask. Select the leaf shape to use as a mask. Copy and paste a duplicate in front. Now bring that second copy right to the very front by using Object, Arrange, Bring To Front. Make that duplicate shape totally clear with no fill and no stroke by selecting the diagonal red line options at the bottom of the Tools panel. Keeping that clear shape selected, hold Shift and also select the leaf veins. Now do Object, Clipping Mask, Make or use the shortcut Command 7 on Mac or Control 7 on Windows. The clipping mask has chopped off the stalk, but we can edit the mask shape. Double-click on the edge and go into isolation mode to edit the shape. Use the pencil to edit the shape so that the stalk is included. Then exit isolation mode. I'll now do the clipping mask on all leaves, but this time I'll use the shortcut keys. To make the clipping permanent, go to Object, Expand, then open up the Pathfinder panel and use the Crop icon, which is this one here. I'll do that for all leaves as it will remove access points and keep the file size down. Now group the elements of each leaf together. I'll move those to the side and lock the layer. The patterned pot is a similar story to the leaves. Begin by placing the sketch on the pot layer. I'll turn that around using the corner rotate while holding Shift to ensure it turns exactly 90 degrees. Again, I have pencil to draw in digitally so I will lock the drawing. Because the pot is not an organic shape, the vector plotting pen is my preferred tool for this main shape. This is an optional extra technique. Lay points down at the extremes and drag to make curves. The points and curves can be adjusted afterwards so there's no need to be too precise. You can swap the fill and stroke color to make it easier to see the drawing. After completing the shape, I will use the direct selection white arrow to move individual points and change the handles to alter the curves. Now I can unlock the drawing and bring it to the front. I'll image trace it as before, expand, ungroup, then simplify the trace. I'll color the pot. I'm going to take the opportunity now to finesse my decorative pattern a little bit by smoothing some ragged edges and re-positioning a few parts of the design. I don't want to do too much because I'd like to keep the hand-painted look to the pot decoration. Now we'll enclose the decoration inside the pot shape using the clipping mask technique. Again. make a copy of the pot, bring it to the front, making it clear, then select everything and make the mask. Group the motif elements together and move those off the artboard. Finally, I'll prepare the flower parts. Begin by placing the sketch on the flowers layer. There's no pencil this time so I'll go directly to image trace, expand, ungroup and simplify. I will remove the outlines, then color and group the parts as before. We have two options with these. The first is just to construct various flowers from different arrangements of these elements. The other option is to make brushes from the petals, stamen and so on, and use those brushes to quickly make more varied versions. In the next lesson, we will learn how to create brushes and select the right settings for our needs. 5. Creating Brushes: Welcome back. In this lesson, we'll make brushes that allow us to shape our motifs using brush strokes. There are a few guidelines and settings to run through to help choose the right brush settings for your needs. I've included two PDFs for you to download from the Resources section. An important guideline for brushes is to start with a fairly straight motif. If you are using hand-drawn elements, rotate them into horizontal or vertical orientation and use a ruler guide to check it. If there are any big bends like in a few of my chilis, use the Puppet Warp tool to correct it first before making a brush. I'll place some puppet warp pins and drag into a straight position. If the brushes aren't made with a straight motif it will still create a brush stroke, but might not behave as expected. For example, it might be positioned off from the stroke line. To make these into brushes, we will first open the Brushes panel. Mine is docked, but if you can't see yours go to the Window menu to open it. I'll use the panel menu to select all the unused brushes and delete them so we don't have any clutter in the panel. When making custom brushes there are lots of options. In fact, so many that I think it often puts people off using them. For our botanical brushes we'll choose a few suitable options and keep things fairly simple. Select the artwork to convert to a brush, and then click the New Brush icon. You'll get a choice of brush types. We'll select Art brush and click OK. First name your brush so it's easier to identify and the Brushes panel. The width is fixed by default. If you have a pressure-sensitive drawing tablet, then you can set a variable width here by choosing pressure and adjusting the two sliders at the top to give a range of widths. I'll leave that as fixed for this project. One key decision to make is how the brush will scale along your stroke line. On the PDF in Resources you will find this visual showing how the different brush scale options would affect the simple chili shape. For most botanical brush applications, I will choose to scale proportionately. This means that as the stroke line gets longer, the brush motif applied gets larger but stays the same shape. You can still adjust thickness and therefore change the shape a bit using the stroke weight. Alternatively, you can choose stretch, which will elongate to fit along the stroke length or squash up to fit within a shorter stroke length. This can look quite distorted. The third option is similar, but allows more control. You can use guides to allow stretching only part of the stroke. And the guides can be dragged to your desired points on the motif. I don't want any stretching for this project, so I'll go with the first option. For the Direction option, choose one of the four arrow buttons so that the big arrow shown on your motif indicates the direction that you will be using the brush. So here with the chili, I want to paint in my chili from the stalk to the tip, so I have my arrow set in that direction. You can also choose how the brush is colorized. This is probably the most complex part of the brush settings. But don't worry, because I've chosen two settings to recommend to start with. Plus you can alter the settings of your brushes anytime and experiment until the desired effect is achieved. First thing to realize is that the behavior of the colors in bushes depends on the combination of the colors in your original artwork, the settings here, and the stroke color you paint with. For brushes containing multiple colors like my chilis, you can also indicate which is the key color by using this eyedropper on the motif. The choice of key color has the most impact when using the hue shift colorization method, which isn't one of the ones I usually opt for. So I suggest you just leave the key color on default. The reference chart in Resources shows how brush colorization settings would affect a black and white motif, a grayscale motif, and a full color motif when a specific stroke color is applied to the brush (in my example it's a magenta color). For my project here, I want all my chilies to be the same two colors throughout. So I'm setting up in full color and having colorization set and none. If you want to be able to change a brush to various colors, you might be best to set it up as a black version and use the Tints colorisation method. These are the two options I most commonly use and recommend that as a starting point for you. I've put a star next to those options on the PDF. There's also these flip options on the settings that allow you to reflect the motif along the brush stroke. I use this only very occasionally. The overlap option can be useful with some motif brushes. I suggest to leave the setting a default, but if you get an unwanted overlap effects at corners then you can try switching this option. Click OK to apply the settings to the brush. Brush options can be changed after the brushes created. Note that if you go back into a brush that is in use by double-clicking and changing its options, you'll be asked whether to apply the changes to all its existing brushstrokes or only apply to new brush strokes created after the changes. Now that we have brushes, I'd like to mention that how the brushstroke is created may also have an impact on the look. Unintended little corners on the stroke line will add jaggedness and possibly overlaps to the details of the brush. Using the pencil or paintbrush tools with little or no smoothing often gives a jagged appearance. You can adjust this by double-clicking in the Tools Panel and using the slider. I like to increase smoothness from my usual 50% to near a 100% when using my botanical brushes. If I forget to change the setting or need more smoothness, I can use the smooth tool. 6. Botanical Brush Set: Hello again. Now that you know how to make brushes and you have the settings charts to refer to, let's do a whole botanical brush set for this project. I'll simply click the New Brush icon for each motif and use my chosen settings. Remember, you don't need as many brushes is me. I have gone a bit overboard with my motifs! About three of each is good to add some subtle variation like we see in nature. I recommend that before making brushes, you rotate your motifs around so that they match the direction you will draw them in from left to right. Hold Shift when rotating to make sure you turn by precisely 90 degrees. Remember to use the rulers and guides to get them perfectly on a straight line. I'll speed this up for making stems, leaves, and flower brushes then slow it back down to explain how to make the whole flowers from the brushes towards the end of this lesson. Once the brushes are added to the Brushes panel, move them off to the side. I like to create a layer on which to keep all my brush artwork, then lock it and hide it. You can save your brush set to a brush library so that it can be easily imported into other documents and used there too. The option to do this is in the Brushes panel menu. For the flowers, I've got my petals, stamen and stalk and flower center brushes plus some simple circular shapes for fixed centers on my artboard. I can now create a range of flowers easily using brushes. I'll select the paintbrush tool and a petal brush and simply brush it on. I can make my brush stroke straight or curved to vary the petals. I can also use different petal brushes to add a bit of extra variety too. I'll also be making some side view flowers and buds, so I'll paint some petals for those too. For the side views I'll paint some stalks with my brushes. I'll add some stamen, painting a mixture of straight and curved ones and creating lots of variety just like in nature. I can also add some centers to the flowers - I'm using brushes for the side-on centers and circular shapes for the top view flowers. I'll rearranged the flower parts in the stacking order as needed using Object, Arrange. An easy way to get lots of different flowers is to duplicate the first one then go in and repaint the curves here and there to alter the shape. Brushes can also be swapped to alter the shape subtly. I may do a few more before the next lesson because I do like a lot of variation in my designs. One is made, the flowers themselves will be used as regular motifs placed in my design. 7. Growing an Illustration: Welcome back. Let's grow a plant illustration. The first design I'm going to show you is a potted plant placement design. I will keep the square artboard for a repeat pattern later, and create a new space for the illustration. I'm going to set it up in portrait format, on an eight by ten inches background, which is fairly usual for illustrations. I work mainly in metric and my document is setup in millimeters, but I can still input inches in my rectangle measurements and it will be converted for me. And that's a useful trick to know: let Illustrator do the maths. With the rectangle selected, I can open the Artboard tool make a second artboard and size it to the selection here. If you're in an older version of Illustrator that doesn't support multiple artboards then simply open a new file. My technique for growing plant designs is to place main motifs and stem structure first, then fill in leaves in the gaps. If you remember, I sketched out the rough positioning for my main motifs and stems, so I'll use that as a guide now. Create a layer on top for the sketch and place it centrally. I'll use the Transparency panel to change the blending mode of the sketch to Multiply and reduce its opacity. I'll be able to see the layers below while still having a guide from the sketch layer. I'll first get the pot in position and scale it for the illustration. Now we are at the exciting state where we can really go wild with the botanical brush set. I'll paint in my chilis. I'll bring across the flowers I already made from brushes earlier. Now for the stems. Because I've chosen to scale my brushes proportionately, I'll adjust the weight of the strokes when I want to alter the width of the stems. I'm going to go in and tidy up places where motifs join. Sometimes it's best to directly select anchor points and tweak them precisely. It might still look a little untidy in places, but remember the leaves will be on top of the stems and hide many of the joins. And I can make further tweaks later if needed. The leaves are where brushes really come into play. You can get each leaf to fit exactly where you want it in a perfect shape for the space, which is awesome. I usually rough in some leaves to start, then go in and tweak the shapes and switch the brushes for variety. I want to make my plant look a bit more lush, so I'll enlarge leaves a bit in places and perhaps add a few extra in here and there. Now it's just a case of tweaking everything. I'll zoom out now and then to check the balance and make more little tweaks. Okay, so that's our chili plant structure. In the next lesson, we'll add extra depth to complete the illustration. 8. Adding Depth: Hello again. To finish this plant I'll bring a few elements forwards and backwards to give depth, and add some tonal variation to the leaves. Create a new layer on top of the key motifs and call it top leaves. Identify a few leaves scattered around that will be right to bring forward and curve a little in front of the chilis. Try them by selecting them, pulling up to the top layer via the selection square in the Layers panel. If it doesn't work, drag it back down. Just a few would be enough to add depth, so don't overdo it. Now create a new layer at the bottom of the stack called lower leaves. Identify leaves that look furthest in the background, move them down. These leaves will be recolored. One option is to make a duplicate leaf on top and use multiply blending. Another option is to use a different color for the brush. How you do this will depend on how you set up your motif colors and the colorization settings. Refer to the overview document in Resources for handy reference chart. In this project though, I'm going to make a new version of one of these leaves so I can show you how to alter artwork from the Brushes panel. I'll choose one of the leaf brushes and drag the artwork itself out of the panel and onto the document. I can just go in and edit this and it won't affect my original brush. For my project. I'll swap the leaf vein colors. However, I don't want to change the color of the section that joins to the stem. So I'm going to use the knife tool to separate a section that will remain the green color. Because I want to do this alteration, making a new brushes the right option. I can create a new brush in the usual way. Now I can select leaves on my lower layer on swap them to this new brush. I'll add a surface just with a simple rectangle on a new layer below the pot. The Align panel is helpful for getting a rectangle exactly in position along the bottom of the artboard. I'll keep my table surface plain for this demonstration, but you could add a patterned cloth or even a wallpaper pattern behind - it's up to you. 9. Repeat Pattern: Welcome back. Earlier we created a placement print. Now let's apply the same plant motifs to make a layered repeating pattern. In case you're new to pattern layout, there are a couple of common ways to set up a repeat. It could be a regular spot repeat, or it could be a staggered repeat where the next tile is moved either across or down, commonly by half the distance. I prefer staggered repeats for my plant patterns because the layout feels more organic. In an earlier lesson, I showed you a layout sketch that I did for my pattern, and we'll use that in this lesson. I'm going to do a half-drop repeat of this rectangle. That means that everything in this top left zone will repeat over here in the bottom right. And everything here in the lower left will repeat top right. Let's go to our pattern artboard, which is the 300 mm square created earlier. I'll separate the background square onto its own layer now. And I'm going to paste one of our flowers on another layer to show you a few principles before we start. You likely know that Illustrator has a pattern-maker tool which can be accessed by Objects, Pattern, Make. You can see changes you make to a repeat as you move the motifs around. However, it can get a bit cramped with repeats showing, and layers aren't quite as intuitive to use. I find that pattern-maker is great for simple designs and coordinates, but I still prefer the manual repeat tile method for complex multi-layered patterns. Creating a manual half-drop repeat is a useful technique to know anyway. For those of you completely new to creating repeats, the principle is that anything that falls off one side of the pattern tile must reappear at the other side in the same position. This applies for the top and bottom edges too. If you know the tile size then it's easy in Illustrator just to move and copy any elements across to the opposite edge by the exact measurements. Square tiles are slightly easier to work with because the horizontal and vertical measurements are the same, but rectangular tiles also work fine. Set up the artboard in Illustrator to your desired tile size. I like to semi-automate the moving around of elements, so I'll create some actions for the moves I'll use a lot. This is an optional time-saving technique you can use if you wish, but it's not essential. Open the Actions panel via this Play button or via the Window menu. Create a new action set and name it. Select one motif on the artboard ready to move. Click the New action icon in the panel and name it, for example, 300 mm Right, then begin recording. Go to Object, Transform, Move, and select 300 mm horizontal and 0 mm vertical. Press Copy rather than OK, then press the Stop icon in the Actions panel to cease recording immediately after the copying is complete. Now whenever you want to copy move a motif by that same amount, just select it, click the action and press Play. Viola! I'll make actions for the other directions for 300 mm. Note that when going left or up the number should be negative, so put a minus sign in there. Remember from my sketch that for my half drop, I'll get everything in the top left zone to repeat in the bottom right. And to make that happen, I'll be working with a 150 mm movements. I want to go diagonally, so the move will be both horizontal and vertical at the same time. So I'll also record a 150 mm horizontal combined with a 150 mm vertical in various directions from my half-drop repeat. To keep the actions list compact and make them even faster to use, go to the Actions panel menu and select the Button Mode option. Set up the same type of layer system as before, but without the decorated plant pot. I'm calling my layers PAT chilis, PAT flowers, et cetera. I'll copy my flower motifs to the side here and my botanical brushes are ready to go. As with the illustration, I'll bring in my layout sketch as a guide. I'll start with a chilies as they are the most key elements. For this half-drop, remember that my unique artwork is in the rectangle, which will be copied across diagonally. After getting the chili positions correct in the rectangle, I'll made the copies and fill the other side. Any motifs completely off the artboard can be removed, but any overhanging need to remain. I'll also check my edges and copy any that should overhang on the opposite side. Before proceeding to the next layer, I will get the half-drop repeat layout spacing for chilies just right. I'm going to do exactly the same for the flowers, stems and leaves, checking the repeat each time before moving on. I'm basically going to make a repeating pattern on each layer, which does take a while in real time. You don't have to make your pattern is complex as mine though. If making any changes after copying into repeat, be sure to make the change on each copy. To alter the positioning of copies at the same time, for example rotating them, the Transform Each option in the Object, Transform menu is a very useful tool. Once you have the layout, make a pattern swatch. To make the swatch I'll create a no fill no stroke box of the exact tile size aligned exactly to the artbaord. It has to go at the very bottom of the stack of elements, so I usually give it a special layer at the bottom I call 'Swatchbox'. Now makes sure all layers with pattern artwork are unlocked, select all the artwork and drag everything to the Swatches panel. I then create a new layer with a large test shape and fill it with the pattern. It is important to zoom in to inspect the pattern for any problems. I can see here that I have a leaf tip missing. So that means I didn't copy one of my overhanging leaves to the opposite edge. I'll go in and find that to fix it. I can delete the faulty swatch, make a new one, fill the shape with the new version and inspect it again. As well as fixing faults, viewing the repeat on a big area and zoomed out is a good way to identify any little positioning alterations that will improve the pattern. I'll make changes, create new swatches and test them until satisfied. So that's how to grow a complex layered plant pattern with botanical brushes. You can use the same principles to make your own designs, which can be as simple or complex as you wish. 10. Re-Colouring: Hello again. I mentioned earlier that I often make alterations to colors after completing the design. So let's look at re-coloring. You can re-color artwork on the artboard if you wish. But for patterns I prefer to re-color on swatches. I'll make a square and fill it with the pattern swatch I already made, then make a copy of that box. First I'll do a different combination of this palette. With the copy selected, I'll highlight my color group by clicking on the folder. Now the re-color icon, which is like a wheel, appears at the bottom of the Swatches panel, and I'll click the wheel. This Recolor Tool is powerful with lots of features, but I'll just focus on basic re-coloring here. You could use the random order button to see if any interesting combinations pop up. For reordering colors. I prefer to swap the colors manually by dragging these boxes between the rows. Once I have a nice combination I'll say OK, but I'm not going to save changes to my color group. I think I'll do one more. The Recolor Tool can also be used with a different color group to get a totally new look. I'm going to duplicate this color group and instead of the pale peach I'll create a new swatch to go in it's place, say a powder blue. On another copy of the swatch I'll use the Recolor Tool, but this time with the new color group selected. You can have lots of fun exploring the other options in the Recolor Tool as well. And as I showed you earlier, it's also quite simple to re-color manually by tweaking global swatches. 11. Expanding Brush Strokes: Welcome back. As you have seen in this class, custom brushes are very exciting, and I'm sure you're already imagining lots of different ways to use them in your projects. At some point, you may find that you wish to work further on the botanical elements after they have been applied, maybe altering shapes or adding more texture here and there. To turn brushstrokes into filled shapes for this kind of editing, you'll need to use Object, Expand Appearance. Before you go ahead, know that once you expand appearance, it is no longer editable as a brush stroke. Removing editable brush strokes may actually be exactly what you want if you are sending the file onto somebody else and don't want to give them the option to edit your brushstrokes directly. I recommend that you save a copy with the brushstrokes in case you want to make changes to them, and make a new version with the appearance expanded. Name the files accordingly. Once expand appearance is applied, the brush stroke becomes a solid shape. For example, I can now edit the outside of the leaf shape with the Eraser. One other thing to note is that Illustrator automatically expands the appearance of brushes in pattern swatches. This means that if you ever extract the artwork back out of a swatch, such as this one created in the re-coloring lesson, like so, it won't have the editable brushstrokes anymore. It's just something to be aware of and will only really be of importance if your workflow uses artwork pulled back out pf Illustrator pattern swatches. 12. Your Project: Hi folks. Okay, so it's time for your project. I want you to make a plant design with custom brushes. It can be a placement illustration or a repeat pattern, or you could make both if you wish. You can choose any type of plant. In fact, you don't have to make your plant realistic if you don't want to. So you could create a magical mythical plant perhaps in wild colors! You can keep it simple with just a couple of elements or make a complex, multi-layered organic design - it's up to you. Just have fun with it and try the botanical brushes technique. I'd love to see your creations, so please do share in the Project tab. Also feel free to post your work in progress, such as your inspiration, sketches, or the individual brush elements you create. It's wonderful to see how you're getting on. Remember I've included some useful resources in the project area for you as well. So happy designing. 13. Thank you: Thank you very much for joining me in this class. I do hope you've enjoyed it and picked up some new ideas. If you have questions, you are very welcome to email me directly via [email protected] If posting your class project on social media, remember to tag me @ocketandindigo so I can see your fabulous botanical brush designs. And if you like, you can also use the hashtag #rocketskillshare. To be notified of my feature classes as they launch, please be sure to follow me here on Skillshare. And if you enjoyed this class, it would be lovely to receive your review. Many thanks and see you next time.