Why Does Your Brush Keep Changing in Illustrator?

Adobe Illustrator lets you create beautiful artwork through its various tools and brushes. However, it can get finicky at times. For instance, if you try to change your brush settings, they might not always stick. Illustrator may revert them to the previous configuration for no apparent reason.

Illustrator will change your brush for numerous reasons, though most of them are configuration issues. Some are easy mistakes common among new Illustrator users. Others derive from the cryptic nature of Illustrator’s menu system. Either way, you must know why the application rejects your changes to fix the problem.  

Fortunately, most brush configuration issues have simple fixes. By reading further, you will learn how to troubleshoot and fix these problems so you can get back to work.

The Many Reasons Illustrator Will Change Your Brush Settings

Adobe Illustrator lets you create professional-quality graphics that scale seamlessly without losing resolution.  Its main drawing feature is brush tools that let you draw and change various objects on the canvas. These brushes come with numerous configuration options that let you change the color, style, and appearance of your strokes.

However, these settings do not always work. Seemingly out of nowhere, Illustrator will just stop listening to your commands and reverts any brush changes you make. Fortunately, there are only a few possible reasons why Illustrator would change your settings without asking. Most of the time, it just requires understanding how Illustrator works and configuring the right settings.

These reasons should help you troubleshoot your situation. If something works, you should be good to go. If not, feel free to ask for help on one of the many Illustrator community forums.

You Are Using the Pencil Tool and not the Brush Tool

Using the wrong tool is a common mistake among new users. Illustrator has two types of brush tools: pencil and paintbrush. These brush types have different purposes and thus work differently.

For instance, you cannot change the settings for the pencil tool and expect to retain those setting between strokes. This is because the tool is designed to work with “flat” brushes like a real pencil. Real pencils only have one consistently shaped tip. You must use a “different” pencil if you want a different stroke style. If you need something permanent, you need to use the dedicated brush tool.

You Did Not Select a Brush Type

When selecting the brush tool, you must choose a brush library type. If you do not do this, Illustrator will default to the basic type. However, the basic brush is not a brush type. It is just an internal Illustrator default. As such, you can only use the most basic settings with it.

You can fix the issue just by choosing an actual brush. That will enable the stroke, width, and color settings.

You Never Selected a Stroke Color

If selecting a brush type does not fix the issue, then you must check if you selected a stroke color. This is because Illustrator demands all brushes have a stroke color. It does not matter if you have a fill color as Illustrator sees fill color as a separate setting.

However, you can often fail to set stroke color even if you thought you selected one due to how Illustrator lets you select a color. The brush options have two entries for color. There is a dropdown menu and a color box. The problem is that the dropdown menu does not select the color, at least not on its own.

This is because the dropdown menu is for finding a color after you click the color box to activate it. You then click the color box again to lock in the color. Otherwise, the menu will just cancel your changes and close the Brush window. You must do this for both the stroke and fill color options.

You Never Enabled “Scale Strokes and Effects”

If you are having problems selecting the stroke size for the brush tool, you might not have the “Scale Strokes and Effects” option enabled. The option functions as a switch that turns on the other stroke size and effect options.

Please note that toggling the stroke scaling switch is not an immediate effect. You might have to close and reopen the brush options before you can make changes.


Adobe Illustrator is a great professional-quality graphics application. However, it has many cryptic menus. One such menu is the paintbrush options. If you do not configure it properly, the menu will reset to its defaults. Fortunately, there are easy fixes. Though, you may want to use some stock assets from Placeit.net to avoid the headaches.