Day-of-the-Dead-themed illustration of a woman in sugar-skull makeup, by Brian Yap

Big Illustrations, Small Screen: Using Adobe Mobile Apps

By Charles Purdy

Illustrator and designer Brian Yap has made Adobe mobile apps a primary part of his process—and in doing so, he is discovering new ways to create. In a recent “Create With” live session, Brian showed us the techniques behind one of his striking illustrations.

As with many artists, Brian’s typical workflow used to be drawing something by hand, scanning it, and then finishing the work digitally. But these days, he uses mobile apps not only to capture shapes, textures, and colors, but also to sketch and do detailed drawing. He utilizes techniques that build on his more traditional foundation, as well as techniques that have been shaped by the introduction of these new tools.

Using his Apple iPad Pro, Brian showed us how he created this beautiful Dia de los Muertos–themed illustration, step by step (the full one-hour recording is available at the bottom of this page):


Brian used Adobe Photoshop Mix to combine two photos, which he then saved.

Screenshot of Photoshop Mix, showing how to combine photos


Brian opened this photo collage in Adobe Photoshop Sketch, so he could use it as a rough template for the illustration’s basic shape. In Sketch, Brian drew some of the lines and basic details that guided him in creating the illustration—he says that this step is when he often makes some decisions about the form the final illustration will take. Then he hid the original photo collage and saved the file as a JPEG. 

screenshot of Photoshop Sketch, showing how to draw an outline


Adobe Illustrator Draw is where Brian did most of the illustration work. He brought in the JPEG he’d created in Sketch, adding it as a photo layer that he could draw over and eventually hide (he primarily used the tapered-line brush for this illustration). Because Draw employs vector lines, you can use it to create very fine detail.

Click to watch a very short video snippet that shows a shortcut for filling in an enclosed shape in Adobe Illustrator Draw: simply long-press your stylus within the enclosed shape. (You can change a shape’s color this way, too, and the eraser also works this way.)


You’ll notice that there are some intricate patterns in the illustration—around the woman’s eyes, for instance. Brian created this teardrop pattern via a cool multistep process: 

screenshot showing how to create a brush patern in Illustrator Draw (one of two)
screenshot showing how to create a brush patern in Illustrator Draw (two of two)

First, he opened a new Draw file. Using a large tapered-line brush, he drew a curved line (first screen). Then he duplicated that layer, flipped the duplicate shape horizontally, and positioned it (in relationship to the original shape) to create a symmetrical teardrop (second screen).

After that, he zoomed in on the teardrop and used the iPad’s screen-capture function to save a picture of it.

screenshot of Capture CC, showing the creation of a brush
A screen capture of Photoshop Sketch's circle stencil.

Next, he went into Adobe Capture CC, selected Brushes, and then selected the screen capture from his iPad’s camera roll to create a new brush. After making a few refinements, such as cropping out white space around the image, he pressed Next to see a preview (first screen). The brush-creation interface allows you to refine your new brush—for instance, to change the source image’s orientation. This is a cool way to create patterns!

After Brian had saved the brush to a library, he opened Sketch, selected the new brush, and used it, in combination with Sketch’s circle stencil, to create a circle (second screen).

Then he screen-captured an image of that circle, went back to Capture, and selected that screen capture to create a vector shape he could use in Draw (first screen). Once you drop a vector shape created this way into Draw, it’s completely editable (second screen).

You can watch this entire six-minute process in the main video; it starts at about 18:50.

Click to watch a 90-second video snippet that shows how Brian used a technique similar to his brush-creation technique to create the lace at the woman’s décolletage.


Before coloring an illustration, Brian makes sure he’s satisfied with the line drawing. He frequently uses Capture to create color palettes from pictures he has taken—saving those palettes to libraries that are accessible in Draw (and all other Adobe applications). For this illustration, he used pictures of some Mexican figurines and dioramas he had in his home. 

screenshot showing how to capture colors in Acobe Capture CC (one of two)
screenshot showing how to capture colors in Acobe Capture CC (two of two)


After he’d created a few palettes with Capture, he accessed them in Draw and began coloring his illustration. Brian prefers to layer his colors “from below”—he starts with the darkest color and paints lighter colors underneath. 

Click to watch a short video snippet that shows how Brian added a key element: the flowers in the woman’s hair. They are based on a stock photo of roses; he used Adobe Capture CC to turn them into vector shapes that he then added to his Draw illustration, where he refined them. 


Although he has been experimenting with some illustrations created solely in mobile apps, Brian finished this image in Adobe Illustrator CC—Draw has a Send To Illustrator command right in its Export menu. Illustrator retains Draw’s layers and, of course, provides the same access to all your libraries. 

Click on the image to watch the full tutorial. 

To learn more about the tools used in this project, Check out Adobe tutorials for Illustrator Draw, Photoshop Mix, and Capture. Also see more project-based tutorials on Brian’s personal website.

How are you using Adobe mobile apps? Let us know in the Comments section. If you’ve posted a mobile project on Behance, please share the link!

January 13, 2016

Layout: Nicolle Rodriguez