Want to add some visual interest to your digital illustrations? Stroke pattern brushes make it easy to add texture to your designs and speed up the illustration process. Whether you want to create a geometric pattern or a more organic paint brush stroke pattern, you can use digital illustration programs, such as Procreate for iPad, to create a custom brush. Here’s how—plus a look at 10 examples of pattern strokes and brushes to inspire you. 

How to Make Stroke Patterns in Procreate

You can create custom pattern brushes, including brush stroke pattern brushes, in several digital platforms, including Adobe Photoshop and Adobe Illustrator. However, in this tutorial, we will guide you through the steps to create pattern stroke brushes in Procreate. 

Step 1: Create the Initial Illustration

First, create a new custom canvas. Typically a square (like 12”x12”) works best, and make sure it’s set at 300 DPI. To create the pattern, you will start by filling in the center of the canvas with your desired shapes, whether it’s something abstract like brush strokes or physical objects, like strawberries. These first shapes you draw should not touch the edge of the canvas. 

strawberry drawing on ipad
The first step in creating a pattern is to fill the middle of a square canvas with your design—but be careful to avoid the edges of the canvas. 

Step 2: Create the Repeat

Now that you have the middle portion of the pattern, you will modify it so it repeats seamlessly.

First, open the layers toolbar and duplicate the layer with your drawing. Next, tap the selection tool and make sure you have magnetics enabled. Now, slide the drawing to the left until exactly half of it is off the canvas. (You should see a blue guide line appear, which will help you determine that the drawing is centered.) Then, repeat with the other layer to create the right side of the pattern. 

When you’re satisfied that both sides of the pattern are positioned correctly, merge the two layers. At this point, you will have some empty space in the middle of the canvas. Fill in the space with additional brush strokes or shapes without touching the top or bottom edge of the canvas. 

Using the magnetics and snapping features of Procreate, you can create a pattern that repeats seamlessly. 

Then, repeat this process, but for the top and bottom portions of the illustration. Again, fill in the middle portion with additional graphics or brush strokes to complete the pattern. Make adjustments until the pattern seems balanced and you’re happy with the overall design. Finally, save it as a PNG. 

First Time Creating a Pattern? 

Introduction to Designing Repeat Patterns in Illustrator With Elizabeth Olwen 

Step 3: Create the Brush

Go to the brushes panel, select the plus sign in the upper right hand corner, and name your brush (e.g., “flower print” or “short stroke pattern”). Under shape source, select “swap from pro library” and choose the solid black square. Under grain source, select “insert photo” and select the pattern image that you just created. 

Under the grain tab, you can make additional modifications to make your brush perform the way you want it to. For example, try sliding the zoom all the way to the right, until it says “follow size.” With this setting enabled, when you use a large brush, the pattern will also appear large. When you switch to a smaller brush, the pattern will be smaller. Essentially, the pattern will scale based on the size of the brush you use. 

pattern brushes on procreate
With the zoom feature, you can make your pattern scale with the size of your brush. 

Step 4: Troubleshoot

If your pattern brush stroke doesn’t join together seamlessly, make sure you’re not lifting your stylus from the screen—this will cause the pattern to start over each time you begin a new line. 

Step 5: Use the Brush

When using a pattern stroke brush in an illustration, it can be helpful to have each color of the illustration on a different layer. Now, you can select individual layers to add the pattern to. 

For example, if you want to create a background, add a blank layer behind your existing layers. Then, choose your pattern brush and paint it across the entire canvas. 

To apply a pattern to a smaller shape within the illustration, first swipe to the right on the layer that contains the shape you want to fill. This will create an alpha lock, which means you will only be able to paint inside what already exists on that layer. Then select your brush, and paint across the shape. 

pattern brush
With a pattern brush, it becomes quick and easy to add texture to any shape within your digital illustration. 

10 Example Pattern Strokes and Brushes

You can create custom pattern brushes in nearly any shape or texture imaginable—from an abstract, geometric pattern to an organic, free brush stroke butterfly pattern. Below, explore some unique examples of Photoshop brush stroke patterns, as well as patterns and custom brushes created in Illustrator and Procreate. 

1. Lace Pattern Stroke 

lace brush
This lace pattern brush, created in Adobe Illustrator, combines lace pattern tiles and custom inside and outside corner tiles. 

2. Watercolor Brush

watercolor brush
This watercolor brush, created in Adobe Illustrator, can be used in a few different ways, as displayed here. You can use a white font on top of a watercolor splash, or you can fill text with the watercolor pattern. 

3. Bunting Brush

arrow brush
A different type of pattern brush, this allows you to paint geometric shapes in a line, creating the look of bunting. 

4. Zentangle-Inspired Brush 

heart chain pattern
With this geometric, line-based brush, you can create organic shapes like flowers or seaweed. You could also use it to create a unique font within your design. 

5. Tissue Paper Texture Brush 

This image of a pear highlights a faux tissue paper texture brush. Including texture, rather than just a flat wash of color, adds depth and visual interest to the shape of the fruit. 

6. Mosaic Pattern Brush 

This image highlights a set of mosaic-style brushes. This set of brushes accounts for tile patterns, grout, and textures—everything you need to create a convincing mosaic illustration. 

7. Brush Stroke Pattern 

What seems like a random brush stroke pattern can create an interesting and visually appealing background for your illustrations. 

8. Rain-Inspired Stroke Pattern 

This brush stroke pattern isn’t only useful for creating a rainy backdrop for an illustration. It’s simplicity makes it ideal to add texture and visual interest to nearly any shape within a design. 

9. Hatching Stroke Patterns 

different brush strokes
These brushes use short stroke patterns to create the look of hatching and crosshatching. These are particularly useful in adding texture to hair, fur, or even feathers. 

10. Abstract Grunge Pattern Stroke 

abstract texture
Abstract shapes can create interesting texture for natural elements like water or grass. 

Brush strokes and patterns can be powerful tools for your digital illustrations. By using these custom brushes to add textures and backgrounds, you can push your designs to the next level. 

Design Your First Pattern Brush 

Create Patterns and Pattern Brushes in Procreate® With Sandra Bowers

Written by:

Katie Wolf