Longleaf Pine and the Scatter Brush


I recently had a logo project where one of the elements needed to be pine tree, and not just any pine tree, a longleaf pine—a type common to Florida and the Southern US. Here's how I created my tree(s) from scratch with help from Illustrator's scatter brush.


  1. Open a blank document in Illustrator. Using varying stroke widths, create your branches and tree trunk (I used a longleaf pine photo for reference.)
  2. Draw the pine needles and apply a very thin stroke weight. I used a .3 pt stroke with round joins and round caps. Save this grouping off to the side of the page.
  3. With your pine needles selected, go to the Brushes flyout menu, choose Create new brush and then New scatter brush.
  4. Name your brush and change all the drop down menus for size, spacing, scatter and rotation to random. Pull apart the sliders to choose how much your brush will be varied. My values were Size: 85% to 115%, Spacing: 102% to 97%, Scatter: -35% to  13%, Rotation: -21 to 93. You can also vary color but I chose not to do that this time.
  5. Choose the paintbrush tool and click on your new scatter brush. Draw a curving line over the branches. Continue to draw other randomly shaped lines until the tree looks full (you can also speed this up by copying and pasting full sections of pine needles). 
  6. In any areas that need a fix (ends of branches, etc.) copy and rotate your original pine tree needle grouping (the one you put to the side of the page earlier). You can consider your pine tree finished (tree on left). 
  7. For the tree on the right, select all of your scatter brush strokes and choose Object > Expand Appearance. Click on a green needle and choose Select > Same > Stroke Color. Change the strokes to 3pt. 
  8. Choose Object > Expand and then choose Stroke. In the Pathfinder menu, Opt-click on "Add to Shape area" to get your final shape. The path will most likely need some smoothing so apply Object > Path > Simplify at around 90%. Delete cutout sections as desired to get your simplified tree. 

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