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The 36 best Illustrator brushes: Premium and free

Illustrator brushes - The logo for Adobe Illustrator and Apple's brush emoji
(Image credit: Adobe/Apple)

The best Illustrator brushes are sure to lift any of your creative projects and enhance your designs. Not only will they add a range of textures, but they will also add depth and character to your works. We know how tough it can be scouring every corner of the internet trying to find the best Illustrator brushes though (especially ones that are free), which is why we've done the hard work for you. That's right, we've gathered up the very best brushes (free and premium) right here in one nifty list (you're welcome). 

We've spent some time dividing up the brushes into sections so it's easy for you to find what you're looking for. On this page, we've rounded up the best premium Illustrator brushes for those of you with a bit of a bigger budget. However, if you're on a tighter budget and are looking for some brushes that won't break the bank, then jump straight to page two to find the best free Illustrator brushes. More often than not, the free brushes are the perfect way to test a brush before committing to a whole set. 

If you were hoping to delve deeper into brush hunting, then make sure you have a look at our roundup of the best Photoshop brushes. And if you haven't got Adobe Illustrator yet, then make sure you check out our guide on how to download Adobe Illustrator, or at least sign up for the free trial below. 

Download a free trial of Illustrator for PC or Mac now (opens in new tab)
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.

If you're new to the Adobe Illustrator game, then we'll recap on the basics of the brush menu. There are five different types of brush in Illustrator and each of them 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.

If you wanted to keep your Illustrator software nicely managed, then you're in luck . Now with Illustrator CC you can save all your brushes to your Creative Cloud (opens in new tab) library, meaning that you have easy access to your entire collection no matter what device you're using. 

Enough talking, here's the best brushes around...

01. Stitching

Illustrator brushes: Stitch

(Image credit: Envato)

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)

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]

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 (opens in new tab) (also see #12) vector engraving brushes, The Dead Pen (opens in new tab) hand-drawn vector brushes, Drunk Sailor (opens in new tab) vector stippling brushes and Black Magic (opens in new tab) 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]

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 (opens in new tab)

13. Artistic Illustrator brushes

Illustrator brushes: Artistic Illustrator brushes

[Image: Envato Elements]

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 (opens in new tab).  

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]

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 (opens in new tab)
Buy Illustrator CC from £19.97 per month (opens in new tab)
Buy Illustrator from AU$29.99 per month (opens in new tab)
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

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Rosie Hilder is Creative Bloq's Acting Editor. After beginning her career in journalism in Argentina – where her blogging prowess led her to become Deputy Editor of Time Out Buenos Aires – she moved back to the UK and joined Future Plc in 2016. Since then, she's worked as Operations Editor on art and design magazines, including Computer Arts, 3D World and Paint & Draw, and got the 'Apple bug' when working on US title, Mac|Life. In 2018, she left the world of print behind and moved to Creative Bloq, where she now takes care of the daily management of the site, including growing the site's reach through trying to please the Google Gods, getting involved in events, such as judging the Brand Impact Awards, and helping make sure our content serves ours readers as best it can. Her interests lie in branding and illustration, tech and sexism, and plenty more in-between.