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Rainbow Ribbons and Strokes in Adobe Illustrator

Updated: Jun 22, 2021

Create and save multi-colored Brushes.

Rainbow Strokes and Brushes in Illustrator. In this tutorial you'll learn a quick way to make and save a multi-colored Brush that can be used as a stroke and can be customized using Illustrator's tools.

This is a great size to use for a Facebook banner

Create your document, any size is fine, let’s do a banner size of 1700 x 620 px, RGB color and a resolution of 72. Decide ahead of time how many colors you want to use for your Brush, for this example I'm going to use four colors. Make sure your Stroke is off.

Make a Square

For four colors we need to make four squares. Start creating the first square. Grab your rectangle tool and double click on the Art Board to bring up the Rectangle Options menu and type in 50 px for Height and Width to create a 50 x 50 px square.

Make sure your square is Selected before going to Effect

Grab your Selection tool, (the shortcut key is the v key) go to Effect click on it, then go to Distort & Transform from the drop down menu. Then select Transform to bring up it’s pop up Menu.

Use the settings in the image above to get these results.

Make sure Preview is on to see your changes. Type in the number of Copies you want. I put three to get four squares, including the original square. Since the square is 50 px, type 50 px in Move Vertical option and click OK. Now you have what looks like a straight up and down rectangle, it’s really four squares tight up against one another. When you Select this ‘rectangle’ only the top square will look selected. We’ll need to separate these squares by Expanding and Ungrouping them in order to color them.

Expand your Transformed square first

To Expand your square keep your square selected and go to Object then select Expand Appearance. The rectangle turns into four squares.

Expanded and Ungrouped squares

Ungroup the squares by keeping them selected and going up to Object then to click on Ungroup. The shortcut key is Shift + Command + G. Now the squares are ready to color.

Color and make your squares smaller

Select each square one at a time and apply a color to each one. I used four colors available from the Swatches panel. We need to make these squares smaller otherwise you'll get big complicated brush. Select all the squares and while using the Selection tool, click and drag the squares while holding down the Shift key to re-size smaller. I made the squares bigger at the beginning for easier handling.

Drag your Squares into Brush Panel to create a new brush

Open your Brushes panel, make sure all of the squares are selected, then click and drag them into the Brushes panel. When the Brush Type pop-up menu comes up choose Art Brush then OK. If you don't want to use Art Brush try out Pattern Brush. The Scatter Brush might be interesting.

Art Brush Options Panel

The Art Brush Options pop-up menu opens up to give you control over how the Brush works. Name your Brush leave the Key Color as is (it looks like it doesn't have all the colors but it will when the Brush is used) and use the settings in the above image to get the same results as in this tutorial.

In the future you can change how your new Brush works by double clicking on your Brush in the Brushes Panel to open up the Brush Options pop-up menu.

The Brush tool, Ellipse, Spiral, and Arc tool

Grab your Brush tool and click your new colored Brush in the Brushes panel. Click and drag to create ribbons of color. Experiment with the Ellipse tool and create a circle then click on your new colored Brush or create spirals with the Spiral tool . Wonderful! Treat your Brush strokes as you would any other type of Stroke, change the pt. Size, vary the Profile or keep it Uniform. As a Stroke you can even use the Width tool to stretch its limits. The shortcut key for the Width tool is Shift + W.

Save Your New Brush for Future Use

You can save your new Brush to use in any Illustrator document. Make sure your new Brush is selected in the Brushes panel. Go up to the hamburger menu on the top right of the Brushes panel and click on the menu, in the drop down menu select Save Brush Library...

The pop-up Save dialogue box opens, Name your brush and select Save.

Access Your New Brush

To get your Saved Brush, create a New Document then open the Brush panel, click on the hamburger menu and hover your cursor over Open Brush Library, hover on User Defined and you’ll see the name of your brush, select your brush and it’s automatically loaded into the Brushes panel. You can also load your Brush into a custom Preset Document, then it will be available without needing to retrieve it from the Brush Library. For instructions on how to do this, see my tutorial called Design Faster, Speed up your Workflow.

Written by Wendy Wittner | Illustrator, Graphic Designer | June 2020

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