Drawing Fashion Flats in Illustrator:
Tips & Tricks

In process of compiling here a collection of Tutorials
on Adobe Illustrator Drawing Tools & Techniques. 
More to Come.

Chain Brush

How to Make a Chain Link Pattern Brush


Select Ellipse drawing Tool in Tool Bar. Click once on Artboard to bring up the Made to Measure dialog box. Input width 1.2 in, height .8 in. Can scale brush later.


Add/Increase Stroke on ring to 8 pts. Empty out fill.

OUTLINE STROKE. Select object with Black Arrow, go to Object>Path>Outline Stroke. Outline Stroke changes the stroke of an object to a shape with fill. To use Outline Stroke properly, the object should have only a stroke – with NO fill – be sure and empty fill before applying Outline Stroke.

MR.CLEAN. After outlining stroke, apply the Default Style. With object selected, go to the Tool Bar and find underneath or on top of fill & stroke (depending how you have your document set up), a miniature-sized tool with a white fill on top of a black stroke. This is the Default Style short-cut I call Mr. Clean. It applies a white fill and 1 pt black stroke to any object. I call it Mr. Clean because whatever appearances – dashes, brushes, effects, etc – may be on an object initially, Mr Clean will with one click clean it all off and return the object to Default Style. Very Handy!

METAL COLOR FILL. Fill object with a Metal color. (If you want the metal to “shine” see Add Gradient section at bottom.) You can access Color Libraries from Menu Bar under Window>Swatch Libraries>Metal or by clicking on Options Bar on Swatches Panel to access Open Swatch Library>Metal.


WIDTH OF REPEAT. Select ring with Black Arrow and holding down ALT, pull off a copy of the ring. Move copy to where want next link to begin. With second copy selected, double click on Black Arrow on tool bar to bring up Move Tool. You will see recorded the last distance moved. Illustrator remembers inside the Move Tool (also available under Object>Transform>Move Tool) the distance of last object just moved. We can use this to our advantage to determine Width of Repeat.


We will be using this measurement later to create the Placement Box for our repeat – what I call the Secret Square. Knowing we will be using later, I always round up the width to a measurement that is no more than two digits in, so it is easy to use, and will often record it on layer in layer panel to keep for later.

ROUND UP. After determining basic measurement, in this case .9391 – Delete the 2nd ring. Reselect first ring with Black Arrow, double click on Black Arrow to bring up Move Tool. Input Horizontal – your rounded up measurement, in this case .94. Input under Vertical – ZERO. Click on COPY. We want to make a copy and move it the exact Width of the Repeat. We want our Vertical to be 0 – directly in line with the original.

SAVE MEASUREMENT. Go to Layer Panel, and on the layer with the artwork, Double Click on Layer Name, this will allow you to edit it. Record the width moved between the two links – in my case .94. This is known as the Width of the Repeat and it will be used later when creating our overlapping Pattern Brush – several times.


Now we need to create an interlocking Chain Link from ring. We will be using two instances of the repeat to create our brush. Both instances of the repeat – must be the same, must be an Exact Copy. This takes a little doing. It requires we cut out an area on the 1st ring where it overlaps with the second, delete 2nd, copy & move first – to ensure we are working on exact duplicates. Then we cut out an area on the 2nd ring where overlaps the first. Delete first and copy 2nd. We can cut out an area fairly simply with the Knife Tool.

Select 1st ring with Black Arrow. Zoom in on object – so you can cut with precision using Knife Tool. Select Knife Tool in Tool Bar under the Eraser Tool.

CUT 1st RING. Using Knife carefully cut out section on first ring on the bottom where second ring crosses it. Knife is a precision tool. YOU MUST ZOOM IN. For each side of the cut you will need to begin OUTSIDE of object you are cutting and end OUTSIDE of object you are cutting. This means the cut must start above the stroke and end below the stroke of the first ring. If the cut is a little off, lines don’t match up perfectly, go back in with White Arrow and fix until correct.

CUT SECOND RING. After cutting 1st ring, you must, delete 2nd ring, delete cut out, copy 1st ring AGAIN Width of the Repeat, using the Move Tool. And we need to do the same now with the top of the 2nd ring – we need to cut out area where crosses the 1st ring at the top.

And after making the cut out, at top of the 2nd ring, delete 1st ring, delete cut out, select both top and bottom of the interlocking motif – which has now been cut into two separate pieces, and GROUP – Command/Control G. This Group is the Interlocking ring. If we did one ring then other ring, without deleting and recopying, one side would have a bottom cut and the other a top cut. This DOES NOT work. In the Final Motif both instances of a brush – must be exactly the same, which is why we have to cut, delete, recopy, cut, delete, group, recopy. Here again, last two steps, produces final artwork for brush. 


At the outset of making Pattern Brush I always ensure motif is on its own layer. And then create a layer underneath – which I name the Secret Square.

GET HEIGHT. Before making the Secret Square Placeholder for the repeat itself, we will also need the actual height of the motif. Height of Secret Square Placeholder needn’t be exact, but it must clear top and bottom of the motif. Select the motif. Height can be found in one of two places – on the Control Bar where it says H: for Horizontal or in the Transform Panel, Window>Transform. In my case Height is .925. So will make height of Secret Square 1.1″ – in order to ensure full height of motif is easily covered.

SELECT PLACEHOLDER LAYER. Select layer in the Layer Panel that we previously added underneath Motif. What I called the Secret Square. Layer fills in when selected.

MAKE SECRET SQUARE, NO FILL NO STROKE. The Secret Square is actually a Rectangle that has NO fill and NO stroke and is used by Illustrator as Placeholder to determine brush overlapsping at the true Width of the Repeat (width of repeat is NOT the same as the width of the motif, it’s smaller). Select Rectangle Tool. Holding down ALT to create from Center Out, click once (do not drag) at center of the two instances of the motif to bring up the Made to Measure box. Using Alt will create the Secret Square Placement Rectangle at midpoint between the two motifs, and at center top and bottom. Input the Width of your Repeat, in my case .94″ and height plus clearance, in my case 1.1″. Click OK. With Secret Square selected, go to Menu Bar or the Control Bar and empty fill and empty stroke.

MAKE BRUSH. Select the Secret Square and the Artwork for the brush, drag all 3 objects into middle of the Brushes Panel – release when little green dot with plus sign pops up. If Brushes Panel is not open, open under Window>Brushes. When dialog brush pops up choose Pattern Brush.

CHANGE SPACING TO 100%. Pattern Brush Options box will open up. An overlapping Brush actually doubles the instance of the repeat on top of itself in the background. This sometimes will show thru. To correct this you must change spacing to 100%. Click OK.

APPLY BRUSH TO LINE. Draw a line with the Line drawing Tool, and with line selected click on your new brush in the Brushes Panel to apply it.

EDIT/SCALE BRUSH. To scale size of brush, Double Click on Brush itself inside the Brushes Panel to edit it. The Brush Options box will open up. Enter new scale size. Click OK. Another dialog box will pop up asking to Apply or Leave Strokes – click on Leave Strokes. Reselect line your Chain Brush is on, reclick on Brush in Brushes Panel to apply new size.


If you want the metallic look of your chain to “shine” you could use a Gradient for the fill, but it requires some extra steps.

APPLY GRADIENT TO FILL. First open the Gradients>Metals Color Library under Window>Swatch Libraries or Swatches>Open Swatch Libraries. Apply Gradient to Fill.

EXPAND GRADIENT. After applying Gradient to fill, with object(s) selected, go to Object>Expand, select Fill only – deselect Stroke. Under Expand Gradient To, enter under Specify 15-20. This will break down Gradient inside a Clipping Mask to 15-20 objects. Click OK.

MAKE BRUSH. As before, copy 2nd instance of motif Width of the Repeat using the Move Tool, if necessary. Create Secret Square UNDERNEATH both instances of motif, inputting width as Width of the Repeat, and a Height that clears both top and bottom. Make the Secret Square INVISIBLE, emptying both Fill & Stroke. Drag Artwork along with Secret Square into Brushes Panel to make the Brush. Change Spacing to 100%, adjust Scale as required.