Building upon the last post where I created an Illustrator brush from a simple illustration of a Cosmos flower, I think I’d like to make the image a little nicer. So I’m going to add some gradients to my petals to give them a little extra dimension and some separation from each other. I’m using a simple linear gradient that goes from deep pink to nearly white in the center.¬† I adjusted the colors until I like them, then added some stroked lines over the top in a deeper pink. As before, I expanded the strokes to make them solid shapes. I also changed the stem from three colors to a gradient of green tones. You can see the progression in the images below.

Original flower, lines showing direction of gradients for the petals, final version.

Choices to Make

Because you can’t make a brush directly from an image with gradients, we’ll need to convert the cosmos illustration into another format. I’ve found two ways to do this, each with pros and cons.

Choice 1. Rasterize the image:

Daisy from photograph – made into a brush.

Illustrator comes with various brush packs already installed. One of these is called Image Brush Library. (From the Brushes Panel, click the hamburger menu at the top right, then go to Open Brush Library > Image Brush > Image Brush Library.) Inside the Image Brush Library is a brush that has been created from a photograph of a white daisy. The daisy has been cut out from it’s background and saved as a .png file with a transparent background. Then it has been dragged into the brushes panel and has been made into an Illustrator brush¬† using the same techniques and settings as my last post.

This makes a very nice brush overall, and is a useful technique for turning photos into brushes. And if your photograph is high-quality/high-res, it can be very attractive.

To do this with our newly created Cosmos flower image, we would begin by rasterizing.



Select the entire image, then from the top menu choose Object > Rasterize…..

A dialog box will pop up: Be sure to checkmark “transparent background” and do not add any space around the object. Click “OK.”

A brief dialog box will pop up saying the art is being rasterized (too fast for me to get a screenshot). And then your artwork is ready to pull into the brushes panel. Use the same settings as in my last post, Creating Floral Brushes in Illustrator.

Pros of Rasterized Image Brushes:

  • Easy to make
  • You can use gradient mesh to draw your images because you’re going to rasterize them anyway.
  • Smaller brush file size than vector/expanded gradient brushes

Cons of Rasterized Image Brushes:

  • The edges of the brush are not perfectly smooth and they’re slightly fuzzy. The result is that there is sometimes a white halo around the edge of the image. Depending upon usage, this could be ok from a distance or could be annoying up close.
  • The image contained in the brush can no longer be edited (more about how to do this in my next post).
  • The colors of the brush cannot be as easily and precisely changed (more about this in my next post).

Choice 2. Expand the gradient (into bands of color).

My personal preference is to expand the gradient because it gives me the most creative options when using the brush, and still has nice, crisp edges. The expanded artwork has more anchor points than the original vector artwork, because of the bands of color, making the file size larger. One way to keep file size down is to create as few bands as possible while still maintaining the visual appearance of a smooth gradient. Here’s how it goes:

Begin by selecting your artwork, in this case our Cosmos flower with it’s gradient petals and stem. I like to group everything before expanding, but it’s not necessary. From the top menu choose: Object > Expand. (If you have not yet expanded your strokes, you will have to choose Object > Expand Appearance, and then Object > Expand.)

Next you’ll be asked to specify how many “objects” you want. Essentially the question is “how many bands of color in your gradation?” The range is 0 – 256. The goal is to have the least number of bands while still maintaining a smooth look for your image — the more objects you create, the more anchor points there are to your brush, and the larger the file size. I typically end up in the 25 – 100 objects range. It takes a little trial and error to decide what works best for each image. For this image, somewhere between 50 and 75 seems good (see the comparison picture).

When the image is expanded, you’re ready to drag it into the brushes panel, choose Art Brush, then choose “Scale Proportionately”, arrow pointing downward, colorization “none” — and your brush is ready to use.

In my next post, I’ll discuss ways to change colors and manipulate the “expanded” brushes to give more variety to the resulting images.