Make It on Mobile: Andreas Preis’s Colorful Creatures

By Charles Purdy

The work of Berlin-based designer and illustrator Andreas Preis represents a unique take on the natural world. Inspired by flora and fauna (from the Bavarian Forest in Southern Germany, where he was born, to locations around the world), he creates intricately patterned, colorful depictions of animals, such as the koi we see here. In this easy-to-follow tutorial, Preis demonstrates how he uses Adobe Illustrator Draw to create an illustration and then uses Adobe Capture CC to add a vivid color theme to it.  

Preis is known for his illustrations and murals, as well as for his work in areas of traditional communications design, such as typography, logos, and art direction. His client list includes Adobe, Atomic, Coors, DC Comics, ESPN, Ford, Microsoft, Vans, Wacom, and many other brands.

He started using Adobe mobile apps only a few months ago—when Adobe invited him to take part in our inaugural Make It on Mobile event (in April 2016)—but he says he’s already using them for client work. “Before, I wouldn’t do vector files,” he says. “My workflow was mostly scanning my drawings. But using Sketch and Draw on an iPad feels very close to my traditional way of drawing, and with Draw you have vector results, which I can offer clients now.”

Preis created this image of two koi in Adobe Illustrator Draw; the colors he used were from two color themes he made with Capture CC, from two of his vacation photos.


Follow the steps in Preis’s tutorial to make your own Illustrator Draw illustration with colors from a Capture CC theme.  


Before his introduction to Adobe mobile apps, Preis followed a fairly typical illustration process: He sketched with pencils, then did color work with markers, and then scanned his drawing into Adobe Photoshop, where he refined and finished the image with his Cintiq. He still likes to work this way, but he adds, “Now I can start on the iPad if I need to, with Adobe Sketch. There’s almost no lag time, and it feels like drawing with a pencil. I can do real work in a café or park, and [the apps are] especially useful when I travel.”

Here’s how he created his koi illustration:


Preis began by creating a sketch in Adobe Photoshop Sketch on his iPad Pro (the finished sketch is shown here); he then saved that sketch as an image file on the iPad, and he opened it in Illustrator Draw as a layer he could trace over.

For the purposes of this tutorial, you’re welcome to use Sketch in a similar way—or use any image you like as a reference—or you can go directly to Draw and start drawing there.


Preis opened Illustrator Draw and then opened his reference sketch as an image layer. To do so, tap on the plus sign to add a layer, and then select Image Layer to access your device’s saved images. You can tap on the layer to adjust its opacity or to hide the layer altogether. (If you want to learn some Illustrator Draw basics before you start, check out these tutorials.)

Then he began drawing in black, on a new layer. (Tap on any brush to set its color, opacity, and size.)

When he was finished drawing, he deleted his sketch layer.

Click on the image to watch a 20-minute time-lapse video of Preis creating his koi image in Illustrator Draw.


Preis based the colors in his fish on two beach photos he’d taken while traveling—one in Mexico and one in the Philippines.

To create a five-color theme based on an image saved in your device or your Creative Cloud Library, open Capture, tap on the square icon next to the Capture button, and select the photo you want to use.

Interactive color circles will appear on the image. Move them to select colors; when you’re happy with your choices, tap on the Capture button and save the theme.

About these photos, Preis says, “They were taken while I was on vacation. The one with the black rocks is from a trip I took last winter to the Philippines, the home country of my girlfriend’s mom. The other one is from a visit to Mexico the year before. While going through my photos, I decided to use something with very bright and vibrant, but also still natural, colors. I wanted to show the two koi as kind of opposing characters—kind of like my version of yin and yang—so I chose orange and blue/turquoise as my main colors.”


You can now use your new color theme in Draw, to color your image as Preis did. Tap on a brush, tap on Color, and then select My Library; then you’ll be able to choose the theme you created in Step 3. Preis added his colors on a separate layer, so he could work without altering his black lines. (Preis used two color themes—one for each fish—and added complementary colors, too.)

As he was adding finishing touches, Preis decided to simplify his image by removing some of the ornamentation we see in early versions. He explains, “Obviously, I really like ornamentation—like you can find in Art Nouveau, for example. But sometimes when you work on a project, you realize that something might look better if you make it a bit cleaner and strip away some unnecessary things. There’s so much going on in those koi that I decided to remove the wave shapes in the end. I actually thought about removing them earlier, but I wanted to see it finished before finally making a decision.”

Click on the image to watch a seven-minute snippet of Preis adding color to his drawing.

Pro Tips:

  • While you’re drawing in Illustrator Draw, you can darken or lighten a color by selecting it, choosing
    the color picker, and adjusting the slider beneath the color wheel.
  • You can layer and blend your colors by reducing their opacity and painting colors on top of one another.
  • Pressing and holding within an enclosed shape fills that shape with your selected color.


We invited Create readers to follow part of this tutorial and make their own nature-inspired Illustrator Draw creation—with the winner receiving an iPad Pro and Apple Pencil. And that winner, chosen by Preis, was Baz Sellers! Visit the Make It on Mobile landing page to learn more, and to stay up-to-date on the new contests we will be hosting throughout 2016.

October 20, 2016