The best premium and free Illustrator brushes

Brushes are a great way to beef up your Adobe Illustrator work. You can go a long way with Illustrator's basic tools, but with the right set of Illustrator brushes, you can quickly and easily add texture and character to any piece of design or illustration. 

In this article, we've rounded up the best vector brushes around. If you're on a budget, jump to page two for the best free Illustrator brushes; or stay right here for premium options (it's worth shelling out a bit for these).

Happily, managing your 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 at the time. 

So without further ado, let's take a look at the best Illustrator brushes around...

01. Vector brush toolbox

  • Price: $49 (usually $79)
  • Suitable for: CS6 and above

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 splatter brushes, halftone brushes, pencil and charcoal brushes. 

There are also Ai reference sheets to help you get the most from your brushes. This pack is usually $79 (which is already a good deal for so many brushes) but right now you can pick it up for a bargain $49. 

02. Essential vector brushes collection

  • Price: $12
  • Suitable for: CS3 and above

A collection of 150 hand-drawn Illustrator brushes, suitable for use with Illustrator CS3 and later. This 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.

03. Multicolour mixed paint

  • Price: $22.80
  • Suitable for: CS5 and above

Mix multiple colours in one digital stoke with this innovative 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. Suitable for use in Illustrator CS5 to CC.

04. Artistic Illustrator brushes

  • Price: Free with Envato subscription ($29/mo)
  • Suitable for: CC (or from CS2 in legacy format)

The 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. Subscriptions will set you back from $29 a month, so this is a good option if you need to download new resources regularly. 

05. Garage grime

  • Price: $39
  • Suitable for: CS6 and above

Give your artwork a distressed look with this pack of grunge Illustrator brushes. It comprises four packs, each containing approximately 20 brushes, and is compatible with Illustrator CS6 and CC. The vector brushes in this pack are based on things like wax oil crayons and motor oil, and are ideal for adding a grubby look to your designs.

06. Light effect brushes

  • Price: $14
  • Suitable for: CS5 and above

Light up your digital designs with this pack of 36 vector light effect brushes. The designer has created a realistic glowing effect using transparency and blend effects, and they work best on a dark background. 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. Suitable for use with CS5 and up.

07. The dead pen

  • Price: $29

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.  

08. Grave etcher

  • Price: $22.80
  • Suitable for: CS5 and above

Create authentic looking vintage illustrations with this etching Illustrator brush pack. It includes 118 brushes, which should cater for ever situation you can think of – and you get free updates for life. The creators also say these brushes work great with a mouse or a graphics tablet, making them nice and flexible for creating designs on the go. This pack is compatible with CS5, 6, and CC. 

09. Scribble and scrawl brushes

  • Price: Free with Envato subscription ($29/mo)
  • Suitable for: CS1 and above

This versatile Illustrator brush pack is ideal for occasions where you need to represent children's drawings or scribbly text. It includes 44 scribble 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. 

Next page: The best free vector brushes