I don't frequently use either - I'm a pen tool guy. (which may explain my lack of knowledge in them), but what is the actual functional difference between them?

Paintbrush Tool B
brush tool

Pencil Tool N
pencil tool


Not a whole lot other than the brush automatically applying a brush appearance.

  • You can't use the Brush Tool unless you first choose a brush to apply to the path.

  • You can't apply a brush appearance to a Pencil Tool path until after it's been drawn.

I can't remember exactly, but I believe the Brush tool came first. Then Adobe merely removed the auto-brush application and there's the Pencil Tool. Other than this functionality, there's really no difference. In fact, double-click them in the tool bar... same options.

Adobe often does this to make it seem as if there's some new feature, when really it's only a different presentation for existing functionality options. I.E.:

  • The Blob Brush Tool - Just a Brush with a calligraphic appearance set then expanded.
  • The Bounding Box - Just the Free Transform tool with a few options removed.
  • The Scissor Tool - Just the Knife Tool with only a click rather than a drag
  • The Shape Builder Tool - Just Pathfinder operations

It's these features that may make working faster or easier, but they don't offer anything unique in themselves.

  • 1
    Brushtool is pressure sensitive. Anyway Shape Builder does things pathfinder does not do.
    – joojaa
    Jan 29 '18 at 7:58
  • The pressure sensitivity of the Brush tool would be part of the brush appearance in my opinion. Not an inherent ability of the tool. And Shape Builder is pathfinder math.. just localized.
    – Scott
    Jan 29 '18 at 15:40
  • yeah but the pen tool does not record pressure curves. And shape builder while localized does know how to delete paths that are open ended. But yeah i agree theres no inherent reason why adobe needs so many different tools. Especially since most of them are botched. There's no need for rounded rectangle tool, star tool is way too specialized. Cut and knife could be options of one tool as could shape builder and live paint bucket. The arc and spiral tools are nearly useless as is the free transform tool and so on
    – joojaa
    Jan 29 '18 at 16:12
  • Gong to have to disagree about the Free Transform. It's the useful one... I constantly use the Free Transform Tool in everything I create. the Bounding box is the useless version :)
    – Scott
    Jan 29 '18 at 16:19
  • theres really no reason why the black selection arrow couldn't do what free transform does though. Either one of those is extra. I would just roll the two into one.
    – joojaa
    Jan 29 '18 at 16:23

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