Mastering Brush Tools in Sketch: A Beginner's Guide
Written by  Daisie Team
Published on 9 min read


  1. Getting to know the Brush tools
  2. How to select and use the Basic Brush tool
  3. Working with the Paintbrush tool
  4. Tricks with the Vector Brush tool
  5. Using the Eraser tool effectively
  6. How to adjust brush settings
  7. Creating custom brushes
  8. Practicing brush strokes and techniques
  9. Applying Brush tools to your sketch

Have you ever marveled at the stunning digital art and wondered, "How can I create such magic?" It's all about mastering the right tools. Welcome to the world of Sketch, a digital design playground with a treasure trove of tools to help you create your artistic vision. A key player among these tools is the humble brush. Whether you’re a seasoned pro or just starting, the question on your mind might be, "how to use brush in Sketch for illustration?" Let's explore the answer together in this beginners guide to mastering brush tools in Sketch.

Getting to Know the Brush Tools

There's a saying in the art world—know your tools, and they'll never let you down. So, let's get acquainted with the Brush tool set in Sketch:

  • Basic Brush: This is your best buddy when you start. It's simple, straightforward, and doesn't come with any frills. It's great for sketching quick ideas and outlines.
  • Paintbrush: When you yearn for a bit more texture and depth in your strokes, turn to the Paintbrush. It simulates the feeling of painting with a real brush, complete with variations in stroke width and opacity. It’s a great tool for adding fine details.
  • Vector Brush: Want to create crisp, clean lines that scale perfectly? Say hello to the Vector Brush. This tool is perfect for creating scalable illustrations or logo designs.
  • Eraser: Every artist makes mistakes, and that's where the Eraser comes in. It can also be a creative tool, helping you create interesting effects by removing parts of your sketch.

Now that we've got the introductions out of the way, it's time to roll up our sleeves and see these brushes in action. We'll learn how to select them, tweak their settings, and even create custom brushes. But let's not get ahead of ourselves. First things first—how to use the Basic Brush tool in Sketch for illustration. Stay tuned for the next section!

How to Select and Use the Basic Brush Tool

Ready to make your first stroke? Let's start with the Basic Brush. Here's how you can select and use it:

  1. First, open up Sketch and select a blank canvas. Feel the excitement? That's the thrill of creating something new!
  2. Now, look for the toolbar on the left side of your screen. See the icon that looks like a paintbrush? That's the Basic Brush. Click on it, and you're ready to draw.
  3. Try making a few strokes on the canvas. Go ahead, don't be shy! Notice how the Basic Brush creates smooth, solid lines? It's just like drawing with a regular pen.
  4. Remember, the Basic Brush responds to pressure sensitivity. If you're using a graphic tablet, press harder for thicker lines and lighter for thinner lines. If you're using a mouse, don't worry—you can adjust the line thickness in the brush settings. We'll get to that later.
  5. Finally, play around with colors. See the color palette at the bottom of the screen? Click on it, choose a color that catches your eye, and watch your strokes come to life!

And voila! You've just learned how to use the Basic Brush tool in Sketch for illustration. Pretty straightforward, right? But don't stop here—remember, practice makes perfect. The more you play around with the Basic Brush, the more comfortable you'll get. So go on, let your creativity run wild!

Working with the Paintbrush Tool

Now that you've mastered the Basic Brush, let's step up your game with the Paintbrush tool. This tool adds texture and depth to your lines, making your illustrations look more realistic. So, how to use the Paintbrush tool in Sketch for illustration? Let's find out:

  1. First, select the Paintbrush tool from the toolbar on the left. It's the icon right next to the Basic Brush, and it looks like a regular paintbrush.
  2. Now, try making a few strokes on your canvas. Notice the difference? Unlike the Basic Brush, the Paintbrush tool creates lines with texture, just like a real paintbrush would.
  3. Play around with the pressure sensitivity. The harder you press, the more texture you'll see in your lines. It's all about finding the right balance between pressure and texture.
  4. Don't forget to experiment with colors. Remember that color palette at the bottom of the screen? Go ahead and choose a color that complements your illustration. You'll see how the Paintbrush tool brings your strokes to life!

See, working with the Paintbrush tool isn't that hard, right? Now, you know how to add texture and depth to your illustrations in Sketch. But remember, just like with the Basic Brush, practice is key. So don't be afraid to experiment and make mistakes—that's how you'll find your own unique style.

Tricks with the Vector Brush Tool

Alright, you've got the Basic Brush and Paintbrush tools under your belt. Now, let's dive into using the Vector Brush tool in Sketch for illustration. The Vector Brush tool is a bit of a game changer—it allows you to create clean, scalable lines. Here's how you can make the most of it:

  1. Look for the Vector Brush tool in the toolbar. It's usually right next to the Paintbrush tool. The icon looks like a pen with a squiggly line.
  2. Try drawing a line. Notice anything different? The Vector Brush tool creates lines that are smooth and clean, no matter how much you zoom in or out. That's the magic of vectors!
  3. Take advantage of the fact that vector lines are adjustable. After you draw a line, you can edit its shape and position. Just click on the line and drag the anchor points. It's like molding clay—you can reshape it however you want.
  4. Experiment with line thickness. The Vector Brush tool lets you adjust the thickness of your lines, which can add depth to your illustrations. Try making some lines thicker for a bold effect, and others thinner for a subtle touch.

Mastering the Vector Brush tool can take some time. But once you get the hang of it, you'll see how it can add a whole new level of detail and precision to your sketches. So keep practicing, and don't be afraid to try new things. After all, every great artist was once a beginner, right?

Using the Eraser Tool Effectively

Now that we've covered the various brush tools, it's time to add the Eraser tool to your toolbox. You might think, "It's just an eraser, what's there to know?" Well, the Eraser tool in Sketch is surprisingly versatile and can do more than just undo mistakes. So, let's see how we can put it to good use in our illustrations.

  1. First, find the Eraser tool in the toolbar. It typically has an icon that looks like a classic pink eraser you might find at the end of a pencil.
  2. Start by using the Eraser tool to clean up your sketches. Go over your lines and remove any unwanted strokes. Remember, less is often more in design. So, don't be afraid to erase excess details that might clutter your illustration.
  3. Did you know that the Eraser tool can also act as a Brush tool? That's right! You can adjust the size of the eraser just like a brush to create interesting effects. For example, you can create a distressed texture by lightly erasing certain parts of your sketch.
  4. Finally, use the Eraser tool to create highlights. Yes, you heard it right! By erasing certain parts of a colored area, you can create an illusion of light hitting the surface. It's a handy trick to make your illustrations pop!

So there you have it. The Eraser tool is indeed more than just a tool for correcting mistakes. With these tips, you can now use it as a powerful ally in creating stunning sketches. Remember, the key to mastering any tool is practice, so don't hesitate to experiment and see what works best for your style.

How to Adjust Brush Settings

Now that we've learned how to use the brush and eraser tools effectively, let's dive into how to adjust brush settings for optimal sketching. Adjusting brush settings can seem a bit daunting at first, but once you understand the basics, it can truly enhance your illustration work.

  1. The first thing you'll want to adjust is the brush size. Depending on the level of detail you're aiming for, you might need a larger brush for broad strokes or a smaller one for delicate details. Don't worry about getting it perfect right off the bat — feel free to adjust it as you go along.
  2. Next, look at the opacity and flow settings. These can dramatically affect how your brush interacts with the canvas. A lower opacity will make your brush strokes lighter, almost transparent, while adjusting the flow can help you achieve a smooth or textured look.
  3. The hardness setting is another one to keep an eye on. A harder brush will produce sharp, well-defined lines, while a softer brush will give you a more blurred, faded effect. Again, this depends on what you're trying to achieve with your sketch.
  4. Finally, don't overlook the spacing setting. This controls the distance between the individual 'dabs' that make up a brush stroke. By playing around with this setting, you can create a variety of different textures and effects.

And there you have it! You're now equipped with the knowledge to adjust brush settings in Sketch to fit your unique illustration style. Remember, there's no right or wrong setting — it's all about what helps you bring your artistic vision to life. So, why not give it a go and see what you can create?

Creating Custom Brushes

Another great feature in Sketch is the ability to create custom brushes. Yes, you heard it right! You can make your very own brushes tailored to your needs for your illustrations. Let's take a look at how to do this.

  1. Let's start with creating a new brush. Just click on the brush library, and then select the option to create a new brush. You'll see a dialog box pop up, asking for details about your new brush.
  2. Now, it’s time to set the Diameter, Angle, and Roundness of your brush. These will define the shape and size of your brush tip. Feel free to experiment and see what suits your style the best.
  3. Next, you need to adjust the hardness and spacing of your brush. Remember, a harder brush will give you solid, well-defined lines, whereas a softer brush will provide you with more diffused, softer lines. The spacing setting, on the other hand, will determine how close together or far apart the 'dabs' of your brush stroke are.
  4. Once you've defined these settings, go ahead and give your brush a name. Make it something descriptive so you can easily find it again in the brush library.
  5. Finally, hit the 'OK' button, and voila! You've just created your very own custom brush in Sketch.

Creating custom brushes can open up a whole new world of possibilities for your illustrations. It allows you to add a personal touch, and can even save you time by having the perfect brush ready for specific tasks. So, go ahead and experiment, and see where your creativity takes you!

Practicing Brush Strokes and Techniques

Now that you know how to create a custom brush, let's put it to good use. Practicing brush strokes and techniques is the next vital step in mastering how to use a brush in Sketch for illustration. Here's how:

  1. Start with simple strokes. Try drawing straight lines, curves, circles, and squares. These basic shapes will help you get a feel for how your brush behaves. Hint: don't stress about perfection here, this is all about practice!
  2. Once you're comfortable with simple shapes, start practicing shading. Try to create a gradient effect by applying different pressure levels as you draw. This will give your illustrations a more realistic, three-dimensional look.
  3. Next, practice combining different brush strokes to create more complex shapes and patterns. For instance, you can use short, choppy strokes for texture, or long, smooth strokes for sleek lines.
  4. Finally, remember to experiment with different brushes. Each brush has its own unique feel and can add a different touch to your illustrations. So don't be afraid to mix and match!

Remember, practice makes perfect, so don't be discouraged if your first few attempts don't turn out as you hoped. Just keep at it, and soon enough, you'll see improvement. After all, every expert was once a beginner, right?

Applying Brush tools to your sketch

Okay, you've got the basics down, you've practiced your techniques, and you're ready to put those skills to work. So, how do you apply the brush tools to your sketches in a way that brings your illustrations to life? Let's get into it.

  1. First, choose the right brush for your sketch. Remember, different brushes create different effects. The Basic Brush tool is great for clean, smooth lines, while the Paintbrush tool is ideal for a more textured look.
  2. Next, think about the size of your brush. A larger brush can cover a lot of ground quickly, but it might lack detail. A smaller brush, on the other hand, is perfect for those intricate details, but it can take more time to complete larger areas.
  3. Don't forget about brush settings! Adjusting the opacity, flow, and hardness of your brush can drastically change the look of your sketch. Play around with these settings until you achieve the desired effect.
  4. Finally, think about how the brush strokes themselves can add to your sketch. Can the direction of the stroke add a sense of movement? Can the pressure you apply to the brush create a sense of depth? Keep these things in mind as you're sketching.

Applying brush tools to your sketch effectively is largely about experimentation. Don't be afraid to try new things and see what works best for your unique style. Remember, in the world of digital illustration, there's no such thing as a mistake—just happy little accidents.

If you've enjoyed learning about brush tools in Sketch and want to take your digital art skills to the next level, check out Rachelle Meyer's workshop, 'Top Tips For Sketchbook Studies.' This workshop will provide you with valuable tips and techniques to improve your sketchbook practice and make the most of your digital art journey.