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The 36 best Illustrator brushes: Premium and free

Illustrator brushes: Lighthouse
(Image credit: Pixelbuddha)

Invoking the best Illustrator brushes will completely transform your designs. They will help you add brilliant texture, character and depth to your vector work by stylising the appearance of paths. However, genuinely top-quality Illustrator brushes can be difficult to find – especially ones that are free. Here, we've handpicked the absolute best of the premium and free options out there.

Stick to the first page to find the best Illustrator brushes you have to pay for. They're so good it's worth paying for them. But if you're on a budget (or have no budget), jump straight to page two for our pick of the best free Illustrator brushes. The free ones are also a way of testing out a style you're interested in before you pay for the whole set. 

Want to further extend your Adobe brush journey? Check out this selection of the best Photoshop brushes. And if you don't yet have the software, see how to download Adobe Illustrator or check out the free trial below.

Download a free trial of Illustrator for PC or Mac now

Download a free trial of Illustrator for PC or Mac now
You can try the latest release of Illustrator for free – and get access to all the newest features and updates – with a seven-day trial from Adobe. There’s no obligation to buy the software afterwards, but if you like it you can convert to a paid Creative Cloud membership either during the trial or after it’s expired.

First, some basics: there are five different types of brush in Illustrator. They’re all used with the Brush tool, and each has a different purpose.

  • Art brushes: stretch a brush or object shape evenly along a path. 
  • Bristle brushes: create brush strokes that look as though they were made using a natural brush with bristles.
  • Scatter brushes: disperse copies of an object (such as a butterfly or leaf) along a path. Rather than stretching art – like Art brushes – they scatter it.
  • Pattern brushes: create seamlessly repeating patterns along a path. They can be used to create the same effect as Scatter brushes, but Pattern brushes follow the path exactly, whereas Scatter brushes don’t.
  • Calligraphic brushes: create strokes that look as though they were drawn with the angled point of a calligraphic pen.

Happily, managing your Illustrator brushes is more straightforward than ever before. With Illustrator CC, you can save them to your Creative Cloud library for easy access, no matter which machine you're using. Don't yet have it? Find out how to sign up to Illustrator below.

Now, here are the best Illustrator brushes around...

01. Stitching

Illustrator brushes: Stitch

(Image credit: Envato)
  • Price: Included with an Envato subscription (from €14.50/m)
  • Compatible with: CS1 to CC
  • Download here

Add a craft feel to your design with these 19 detailed brush patterns. The set includes Christmas and Valentines Day themed brushes, as well as general and traditional stitches. These are totally charming so be sure to take a look.

02. Inky Goodness

Illustrator brushes: Inky Goodness

(Image credit: jasonheglund on Envato)
  • Price: Included with an Envato subscription (from €14.50/m)
  • Compatible with: CS4 and above
  • Download here

This bundle 'started with loud music, a garage, paper and india ink'. With every ink texture you could imagine, this pack contains both Photoshop and Illustrator brushes – a massive 61 altogether. In terms of Illustrator-specific brushes, you get five scatter and five art brushes so this bundle is mostly worth it if you want to create inky goodness across both programs.

03. Lighthouse Liner

Illustrator brushes: Lighthouse

(Image credit: Pixelbuddha)

Comprised of ink brushes, dot brushes and pat brushes, these doodle-style pattern sets will have you creating drawing lines, waves, dashes, hatches, asterisks, dots, squares, zigzags, crosses, and more. These are clean, detailed lines that will add intricacy to your designs.

04. Frosted & Frozen Creative Kit

Illustrator brushes: Frozen

(Image credit: Design Cuts)

We all know that the ice-y aesthetic has skyrocketed in popular culture since the advent of a certain Disney film. If you want to make your own homage (or you've got a less specific frozen project in mind), this brush set is perfect. This bundle has 65 seamless raster pattern swatches and a colour swatch set, too. You won't want to let this one go.

05. The Retro Comic Book Tool Kit

Illustrator brushes: The Retro Comic Book Tool Kit logo

[IMage: Artifex Forge] (Image credit: The Artifex Forge)

While we take a look at other retro themed brushes later in this list, we thought we'd kick things off with this mega bundle of comic book-themed brushes. If you've always wanted to recreate that graphic novel look, this is the brush bundle for you.

In the Retro Comic Book Tool Kit, you'll find 84 vector cartoonist brushes based on real ink strokes. With less distortion than real life ink brushes, this pack is the ideal way to capture the look and feel of a comic book without sacrificing your legibility in the process. What's more, when you pick it up for the bargain price of $20, you'll also get lots of overlays and layer styles.

06. The Hand-Drawn Illustrator bundle

Illustrator brushes: The Hand-Drawn Illustrator bundle

[Image: Retro Supply co]
  • Price: $49 (individually $116)
  • Compatible with: CS4 and above
  • Download here

This huge bundle of premium Illustrator brushes squeezes 321 best-selling RetroSupply brushes into one killer pack. Inside, you get all the company’s Grave Etcher (also see #12) vector engraving brushes, The Dead Pen hand-drawn vector brushes, Drunk Sailor vector stippling brushes and Black Magic vector halftone brushes. 

Buying those packs individually would set you back $116, making The Hand-Drawn Illustrator bundle a good investment for anyone looking to bulk out their vector brush collection with some quality resources.

07. Finest Vintage - Illustrator Brushes

Illustrator brushes: Finest Vintage

[Image: The Artifex Forge]

Create vintage artwork with this set of cross-hatch pen and ink Illustrator brushes from The Artifex Forge, aka designer Jeremy Child. They’re anti-stretch pattern brushes, so they seamlessly repeat a tile along the stroke – rather than stretching one image along the line – and you can draw multiple lines with just one stroke to save time. (Although you’ll find some single line outline brushes in the pack, too.) Happily, tablet users are catered for as well – a version of the brushes with pressure sensitivity enabled is included.

08. Vector brush toolbox

Illustrator brushes: Vector brush toolbox

[Image: Retro Supply co]
  • Price: $49 (usually $79)
  • Compatible with: CS4 and above
  • Download here

This mega-bundle of Illustrator brushes will set you up for almost any kind of digital painting. It includes six of RetroSupply's best-selling brush packs, and includes sponge and ink scatter brushes, halftone brushes, pencil and charcoal brushes. 

There are also Ai reference sheets to help you get the most from your vector brushes. This pack is usually $79, but right now you can pick it up for a bargain $49. 

09. Grain Shader Brushes For Illustrator

Illustrator brushes: Grain Shader Brushes For Illustrator

[Image: True Grit Texture Supply]

This pack of 25 Illustrator brushes from True Grit Texture Supply enables you to add depth, grain, shadow and form to your artwork. Perfect for adding grainy drop shadows, blended gradients, gritty accents and subtle grain overlay effects, the brushes have been handmade from a diverse selection of authentic source-materials – including vintage paper samples, concrete, toner, ink spray and sponged paint. The pack also comes with some bonus grainy overlay textures – and if you don’t like it, you’ll get your money back.

10. Essential vector brushes collection

Illustrator brushes: Essential vector brushes collection

[Image: Anna Ivanir]

This collection of 150 hand-drawn Illustrator brushes is suitable for use with Illustrator CS3 and later. The bundle focuses on traditional art effects, and includes brushes that mimic watercolour, paintbrushes, pencil, charcoal and markers. High-res and low-res versions are included – use the high-res versions for separate design elements, or go low-res for complex designs to keep the file size down.

11. Liquid Style Brushes

Illustrator brushes: Liquid Style Brushes

[Image: The Artifex Forge]

Another great pack of Illustrator brushes from Artifex Forge, these Liquid Style vector brushes let you quickly and easily create a retro liquid style in your artwork. There are over 80 brushes in the pack, covering a wide range of shapes, sizes and varieties. And thanks to a handy reference guide, instructions and example files, it’s easy to learn how to achieve the liquid style look.

12. Multicolour mixed paint

Illustrator brushes: Multicolour mixed paint

[Image: The Artifex Forge]

Mix multiple colours in one digital stoke with this collection of Illustrator brushes. The painting system is the result of two years of planning and experimentation, and the results are impressive. 

This pack works differently to your typical brushes – it includes 21 brush styles and 24 colour swatches (you can also pick your own colours, if you prefer), and you can see how to use them in the video here

13. Artistic Illustrator brushes

Illustrator brushes: Artistic Illustrator brushes

[Image: Envato Elements]
  • Price: Free with Envato subscription (from $29/mo)
  • Compatible with: CC (or from CS2 in legacy format)
  • Download here

This brush pack aims to help you create natural-looking artistic textures in Illustrator. It includes 28 brushes, which work with CC or in legacy format from CS2. Envato offers a big collection of Illustrator brushes for you to download for free if you're a paying member; a subscription will set you back from $29 a month. 

14. Garage grime

Illustrator brushes: Garage grime

[Image: Retro Supply co]

Give your artwork a distressed look with this great bundle of grunge Illustrator brushes. It comprises four best-selling vector brush packs, each containing approximately 20 brushes, and is compatible with Illustrator CS6 and CC. Each vector brush was made from authentic source material – like wax oil crayons and motor oil – and is ideal for adding a grubby, textured look to your designs.

15. Light effect vector brushes

Illustrator brushes: Light effect vector brushes

[Image: Transfuchsian]

Light up your digital designs with this pack of 36 vector light effect brushes, which create a realistic glowing effect using transparency and blend effects. There are three different brush styles to choose from – one comet-shaped, one with a pointed end, and a circular scatter brush for extra sparkle – and they work best on a dark background. These vector brushes are suitable for use with CS5 and up.

16. The Dead Pen Illustrator brushes

Illustrator brushes: The Dead Pen Illustrator brushes

[Image: Retro Supply co]

This "wicked-cool" bundle of Illustrator brushes will give your digital artwork a hand-drawn ink illustration look. It includes no-stretch line brushes, pattern brushes (including stippling brushes and zig-zags), and scatter brushes (such as dots, stars and crosses). The brushes are based on the work of illustrator Jordan Kabalka.  

17. Grave Etcher engraving vector brushes

Illustrator brushes: Grave Etcher engraving vector brushes

[Image: Retro Supply co]

Create authentic looking vintage illustrations with this etching Illustrator brush pack. It includes 118 brushes, which should cater for every situation you can think of – and you get free updates for life. In addition, these vector brushes work well with a mouse or a graphics tablet, making them flexible for creating designs on the go. 

18. Scribble and scrawl vector brushes

Illustrator brushes: Scribble and scrawl vector brushes

[Image: Envato Elements]
  • Price: Free with Envato subscription ($29/mo)
  • Compatible with: CS1 and above
  • Download here

This versatile Illustrator brush pack is ideal for occasions where you need to represent children's drawings or scribbly text. It includes 44 scribble vector brushes in varying levels of messiness. This pack is compatible with CS1 and up, but if you're using CS5 or newer you can use the pressure-sensitive versions for an extra-realistic effect. 

Global: Buy Illustrator CC from $20.99 per month

Global: Buy Illustrator CC from $20.99 per month
Buy Illustrator CC from £19.97 per month
Buy Illustrator from AU$29.99 per month
Adobe’s industry-leading vector graphics editor enables you to create scalable graphics and illustrations for print and digital. You’ll need a Creative Cloud subscription to be able to download Illustrator to your PC or Mac, which starts from $20.99 / £19.97 per month. Click the link above or the View Deal button.

Next page: The best free vector brushes

Rosie Hilder

Rosie Hilder is the deputy editor of Creative Bloq. Before joining the CB team in 2018, she worked on a range of print titles, including Time Out Buenos Aires, Computer Arts, 3D World, Paint & Draw and Mac|Life. Her interests lie in branding and illustration, tech and sexism, and plenty more in-between.