How to Use The Pencil Tool and The Paintbrush Tool to Pimp Your Picture

How to Use The Pencil Tool and The Paintbrush Tool to Pimp Your Picture

In this tutorial, I will use a treasure chest for a quick Adobe Illustrator CS4 tutorial to show you how to polish a simple picture with mostly the Pencil Tool (N) and the Paintbrush Tool (B). I won’t focus here on the aspects of perspective or drawing skills. The tricks and techniques can be used in any other pictures, that later can be put on a colorful website or blog.

How to Use The Pencil Tool and The Paintbrush Tool to Pimp Your Picture

Drawing the Treasure Chest

This time I started without any sketch, but drew the picture freehand with the Pen tool (P). To start with I use no colors at all, only a 1px stroke. Here’s how it looks in the beginning.

Drawing the Treasure Chest

While drawing the chest I used similar techniques as in first tutorial – How to draw a 20’s chick. For example Pathfinder (Window > Pathfinder) to draw details of the chest.

First I drew outlines of the desired shape [1], then used the Divide option in the Pathfinder menu[2]. After division all the elements are grouped. Right click on them and choose the Ungroup option from the menu. Next step is to delete the useless pieces (just select it with Section Tool (V) and press Delete)[3]. Lastly, select and join everything with the Unite option[4].

Outlines of the Desired Shape

Filling in the Colours

Now it’s time to rearrange the pieces a little bit and apply colors. Again I used simple bold colors from the AI swatches. The Default Swatches > Web tones. It’s also at this point that I filled the chest with a pile of gold. To do this I chose the Pencil Tool (N) and freely drew the shape of the pile. It is important to cover almost the whole area of the chest opening.

Filling in the Colours

To adjust the shape of the treasure I used a similar technique to that mentioned earlier. I selected the dark area of the opening and treasure together with the Section Tool (V), copied them and pasted them next to the picture. Then, having them selected use the Divide option, ungroup the elements, delete the unnecessary ones and Unite the rest of the pieces. Now you can put the pile in the chest previously deleting the first sketch.

Shape of the Treasure

And now we have the basic picture done. Now it’s time for details and pimping. I now switched to the Paintbrush Tool (B) (7 pt. Round with 1px stroke). Draw the coins (small strokes) or a piece of the padlock. Also some highlights and blinks on the golden parts of chest.

Draw the Coins

Adding in The Details

Adding the highlights is also very easy. With lighter tones of the basic colors I drew rounded shapes on the wooden parts. Thanks to this the picture becomes more detailed and cartoonish. Drawing the shadows on the pile and making the shining effect is more tricky. With the Pencil Tool (N) (1px stroke) draw the roughly edged shadow on the pile and using the Pathfinder cut it to the desired shape. The same goes for the shine. To get the transparency effect use the white color and set its transparency to 14-17%.

Adding in The Details

Let’s go further. The gold should shine brighter, and there should be some more treasure in the chest too. Adding sparkles is very easy. Draw simple, four-arm stars twice, add a round shape. All in white, then toggle their transparency. Group the objects (select with the Section Tool (V), right click on those objects and choose Group from the menu). Now copy and paste the new object in a few places making the pile shine. You can resize it and rotate a bit to make them differ.

Adding Sparkles

Now you can add the crown that will complete the treasure. I drew mine by hand with the Pencil Tool (N) and the Paintbrush Tool (B) using the same techniques as for the whole chest. Don’t forget to add some shadows below the chest, otherwise it will be floating. Draw them with the Pencil Tool (N) in a shade of grey and toggle the visibility. It’s easier then to choose right colors from the palette.

Add the Crown


That is it. I hope this tutorial will be helpful for both beginners and more advanced AI users. Below you can see the final image.

Final Piece

You can also play around with it in Photoshop, add some texture, put it on the treasure map or even do a fancy party invitation. It’s your choice!

Treasure Map

If you’re looking to add finer details or realistic brush strokes, you can purchase a graphics tablet for more freehand control.

Kasia Przybyt is a biotechnology student based in Poland. Besides science she loves art and illustration design. Her drawing adventure started when she was a little kid. She used to try out crayons on the wall. Now she is using digital and traditional tools to capture reality and dreams.


    • Ryan,
    • October 7, 2010
    / Reply

    Very simple with a great end result. Thanks for sharing!

  1. / Reply

    Nice tut, thanks for sharing!

    • Luke,
    • October 8, 2010
    / Reply

    NICE! Great article, simple but effective me thinks!

  2. / Reply

    Nice work. It’s nice to see other designers work process.

    • Eko,
    • October 10, 2010
    / Reply

    Simple tutorial but very useful…thanks for share

  3. / Reply

    really beautiful result. thanks

  4. / Reply

    Very simple and beautiful.Thanks
    Atlanta Web Design

  5. / Reply

    i printed some party invitations on my high resolution inkjet printer just to invite some friends ‘`”

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