I recently received an email from a reader who asked for advice on how to create ropes and knots in Illustrator, which are particularly common with nautical themed designs. A custom Illustrator brush immediately sprung to mind, so I played around and perfected a technique that can be used to make any path look like a twisted, knotted and entangled length of rope.

Knot illustration

Follow this step by step tutorial to create a knotted length of rope using brushes in Illustrator. We’ll learn how to build a custom pattern brush, then overcome some problems that prevent the rope from weaving under and over itself. We’ll then take things a step further and use the very same technique to create some cool typographic art.

Let’s begin by creating the basic pattern that will form our rope. Open Adobe Illustrator and draw an ellipse on the artboard. Turn on Smart Guides (CMD+U), then ALT+Drag a duplicate of the shape and align it perfectly next to the original.

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  1. Brilliant! This looks like a really cool technique that could work for lots of things. Great idea using it for lettering. Looks great!

  2. Hy Chris Spooner Absoletly Brilliant! Very nice tutorial and wonderful news about Illustrator Brushes.I’ve been following your blog for some time now and I must say it’s quite awesome. I have learned new things and I haven’t even finished the post, but wanted to let you know how much I appreciate your sharing your knowledge. Carry on really nice and imperative optimize post :) Great Work :)

  3. I’ve been trying to figure out how to create a convincing rope frame with overlaps, but I was getting nowhere. Using two brushes is brilliant. Thanks!

  4. LOVE IT! Perfect timing as I was working on a boy’s pajama bottoms pattern with whales and ships. Thanks!

  5. Thanks Chris – I’ve never really understood the brush tool so this is an awesome demonstration in how it can be used. Love your work :)

  6. I was just looking for an rope illustrator brush! LOL, it was staring right at me. THANK YOU in advance :)

  7. Chris,

    Very ambitious. I’ve done some of my own rope border effects but nothing that compares to this. Will try this ASAP.

    Great job!


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